A cylindrical scrap of metal that was purchased at a flea market in the United Kingdom for just about $25 is actually a medieval piece of weaponry worth thousands of dollars.
The hand cannon, which is believed to be from around the year 1400, was used to decorate the rock garden of the previous owner, who had no clue what it was, according to Hansons Auctioneers.
“When we came to assess it properly we were amazed,” said Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers. “It’s a heavy, bronze, triple-ring cast cannon. This type of weapon was seen in late medieval Europe around 1400-1450. It was the first true small weapon of its kind, the most mechanically simple form of metal barrel firearm.”
The artifact sold for over $2,500 at auction on Thursday — more than 100 times its flea market price.
Hanson said he has not seen such an object after working for 20 years with antiques.
“It really is a remarkable find,” said Hanson. “Originally this cannon would have been mounted on wood with a powder bag and ram rod. It evolved to become a match-lock firearm with a trigger.”
While it’s not clear exactly how the first seller came to find the object, it was covered in dirt and may have been dug up.
Hands cannons are considered one of the first true firearms and became widely used in China beginning in the 13th century, according to the auction house.
They appeared in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, with the first known use around 1330 by mounted knights in modern-day Germany.
The first mention of a hand cannon being used in England dates from the early 15th century, Hansons said.
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