Nazi Enigma machine sold at auction for $208,137

A Nazi-era Enigma cipher machine sold for a record $208,137 (£133,250) in an auction at Christie's in London on Thursday, CNN reports.

A three-way bidding war drove the price way over the upper estimate of $78,250. According to Christie's, the previous record for an Enigma machine was £67,250.

Christie's description of the machine said it included an "electric core, three aluminium rotors each stamped WaA618, raised 'QWERTZ' keyboard with crackle black painted metal case, plugboard in the front with ten patch leads, carrying case with spare bulbs, and green night-time filter." The machine was used in the 2001 film "Enigma," which starred Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott.

According to the Bletchy Park National Codes Centre in England, the Enigma cipher "was the backbone of German military and intelligence communications."

They thought it to be unbreakable, and not without good reason. Enigma's complexity was bewildering. The odds against anyone who did not know the settings being able to break Enigma were a staggering 150 million million million to one.

During World War II, the German Army changed the cipher once a day. But with the help of information passed along by Polish cryptanalysts, Enigma decrypt teams working at Bletchy Park were eventually able to decipher Enigma messages.

CNN reports that although thousands of Enigma machines were produced between the 1920s and the end of World War II, it is rare for one to come up for sale.