You never know what fascinating and intriguing finds are lying in the depths of the nearest pawn shop. The fact that some treasure is waiting to be discovered is what makes shows like Antiques Roadshow so fascinating. Often these items are undervalued, however.
Paul Wisken, a retired engineer, was watching the Antiques Roadshow he saw the crew appraise an item that was supposedly covered in an “unbreakable” code. Paul decided that he would uncover the secretes the appraisers couldn’t. However, it wouldn’t be easy.
It might not look like much but this wooden box was one of the most special items ever found on the show. It might seem like any other box that one might use to store pins or soap or other simple knickknacks.
The box in question has a much longer history than you would expect, however. Small enough to fit into your palm, the wooden box is easy to date. This is because the year 1785 is engraved on it making this box 235 years old.
More Than Meets The Eye
What makes the box special isn’t the age, however. The numbers engraved around the lid, while making for an interesting and appealing design, would turn out to be much more than mere decoration.
Paul thought that the episode he was watching that day would be just like any other but the second that box appeared on camera, Paul knew things would be different. He immediately spotted the numbers and knew something was different.
The box’s owner answered various questions about the box and the show’s experts gave their opinions. They stated that it was a Gregorian cosmetics box which would most likely have been given to a woman by her suitor.
According to the current owner, the box was bought for about £20 by their father. Sadly, this was all that they knew about the history of the box. Next, they examined the romantic engraving on the outside of the box,
“The ring is round and hath no end, so unto my love, now my friend,” the engraving said. There was, however, a weird assortment of numbers engraved on the lid of the box which seemed to be meaningless.
The said, Antiques Roadshow expert Jon Baddeley was able to give some insight as to the box’s centuries-old origin. He knew it once held rouge or makeup patches, and Jon was even able to confirm the name of the original gift-giver.
The name was J Jones. As for the numbers, Jon was as flummoxed as everyone else. “You’ve brought in this tiny little box and many many questions,” Jon told the owner. He was forced to say something no historian ever wants to say.
“I think with this one I’m going to be at a bit of a loss,” he said. He estimated the box’s value at $1,500, adding that it had “sentimental value.” Everyone wondered if cracking the code would add to the monetary value, but there was no Rosetta Stone to reveal the answers.
There was Paul, though, who, back at home, had hatched a plan. “As soon as I heard them say ‘we can’t solve it,’ I thought, ‘I bet I can,’” Paul said. As confident as he was, the retired engineer had his work cut out for him.
His natural affinity for numbers and his love of crossword puzzles made this “too much of a challenge to resist, ”as Paul said. He hoped that his lifetime of amateur code-cracking would help him solve the puzzle once and for all.
The grandfather created a system to match digits with letters, starting with double 8s he assumed represented LLs. From there, his complex number system grew. J Jones kept floating into his mind — what was he trying to conceal?