A couple years back on the History Channel show “Pawn Stars,” which chronicles the activities of a pawn shop in Nevada, a mysterious man stepped into the shop claiming to be in possession of the “deadliest item that’s ever walked through your door.”
However, neither Rick Harrison nor his son, Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison, whose family owns the store, were impressed when the man — identified only as “Joe” — pulled two simple titanium keys out of a gold-colored box.
“That’s just a key,” Rick complained, inspiring the man to reply, “But what is it a key to?”
“It’s a Russian ICBM launch key,” he added. “It would launch a thermonuclear weapon, which is the most powerful weapon on the Earth.”
Really? OK …
When Rick then asked him how much he wanted for the keys, he said $10,000.
Rick didn’t like the sound of that too much, especially given his belief he could produce a similar-looking key in his garage, so he decided to call in his buddy Mark Hall-Patton, an expert on artifacts and history, to get his take on these keys.
And that’s when the bad news came.
Watch what happened in the full video below:
It turns out the keys weren’t designed for launching Russian ICBMs but for launching spacecraft instead. Whoops. Mind you, the keys were still “exceedingly” rare, as well as extremely difficult to reproduce: “Titanium is really hard to work with,” Hall-Patton said.
Rick wasn’t willing to pay $10,000 for them, but considering how rare they are, he offered $1,500. The seller declined.
Here’s where the story takes a disturbing turn. Despite learning first-hand that the keys weren’t ICBM launch keys, the man apparently went ahead and marketed them that way in an online auction held in March of 2010.
“This isn’t just any piece of history, but one that is almost impossible to acquire,” a news brief for PRWeb described the keys at the time. “The ICBM launch keys brought to the West by Soviet cosmonaut and Major General Yuri Glazkov will be available for all to see but for only one to purchase.”
“Historically, these unique-looking, titanium keys have produced a phenomenal amount of interest, from generating hundreds of thousands of hits to being featured on cable’s History Channel’s super hit show Pawn Stars,” the description added added.
Yes … the same show where they were shown not to be for an ICBM launch?
And judging by this eBay entry, it looks like he continued selling Cold War relics up to 2015. Someone — presumably the same individual — flipped another set of “Authentic Cold War Doomsday Soviet ICBM Nuclear Launch Keys” for $2,700.
Unless I’m missing something, it seems pretty clear this is a fraud — but one who’s managed to fool quite a few people.
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