National Geographic Channel’s (NGC) new series Lords of War makes its debut this Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 9pm ET/PT, and follows modern-day treasure hunter Sean Rich on a mission to track down masterpieces of military history. Throughout the 16-part series, Sean and his team of arms experts patrol the country for rare collectibles and auction them off to the highest bidder.
Sean (pictured below firing a Dutch or Portuguese naval ship swivel cannon from the late 17th/early 18th century) is an expert in antique arms whose collection of weapons has been featured in films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. On Sean’s team is Larry “The Hammer” Harley, a third-generation knife maker who counts “sex, hunting and making knives” among his three favorite things in life; Jim Green, the group’s practiced gunsmith; and Adrian “Shooter” Alford, who owns his own gun shop.
In each episode, the team is challenged to authenticate an item and appraise its value. Sometimes it’s not easy, even for these experts. One seller, for example, claims a “Disney-like” doodle painted on a World War I helmet was drawn by Walt Disney himself, as a young soldier in the war. While the team knows there is some historical truth to the story, they struggle to authenticate it.
Along with weaponry, the team also comes across an extremely rare sheet of printed money dated just a few months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. With an item like this outside their normal realm of expertise, they call in a currency expert.
In Lords of War, NGC’s cameras will capture the team from the auction floor to the shooting range, using slow-motion, high-def cameras to capture every detail of an antique being fired for the first time in centuries.
Some of the upcoming episodes of Lords of War include:
“Da Vinci’s Killer Pistol” — Jan. 23 at 9pm ET/PT. Sean helps a young man get out of debt by auctioning off a 500-year-old gun. The firearm¹s unique wheel-lock technology is believed to have been designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. If the gun still works today, buyers at the auction will offer to buy it for $8,000, or more. But the real big-ticket item at this auction is a true piece of Americana memorabilia, an extremely rare uncut sheet of paper money from April 25, 1776. Dated just a couple of months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the money was printed by Ben Franklin¹s old printing press. The seller is ecstatic to learn the paper he found folded up in a dusty old Bible has turned into a $12,000 Holy Grail.
“I Love Cannons” — Jan. 23 at 9:30pm ET/PT. A 17th-century bronze cannon has Sean Rich so fired-up, he makes an uncommon deal, offering the seller $8,000 on the spot. Several of these small naval swivel cannons were mounted all over a ship, and instead of cannon balls, they used glass, rocks and nails as ammunition. The rare antique is a piece of history Sean just can’t pass up for his personal collection. Then, a female seller brings in a map her father drew describing his experience from the battle at Normandy through the end of World War II.
“Blunderbuss Blowout” — Jan. 30 at 9pm ET/PT. A World War I helmet with a mysterious doodle painted on it has the Lords of War stumped. If they can prove that Walt Disney painted it himself, there is no telling how much money the collectible could bring in. Over at the shooting range, Sean takes a huge risk, firing off an 18th century blunderbuss that was used on ships during the time of the American Revolution. The swivel gun wasn’t designed like a cannon with a fuse; so instead, Sean must pull a trigger that probably hasn’t been fired since the time of tea being dumped into the Boston Harbor. Meanwhile, Jim evaluates one of the most recognized handguns from the American West — The Colt Single Action Army Model 1873 in .45 Colt caliber, worth $6,000.
“Sunken Treasure” — Jan. 30 at 9:30pm ET/PT. The Lords of War head to Colorado for an extravaganza of military collectibles. Adrian scrutinizes an iconic “Hollywood” weapon, depicted in films such as Pulp Fiction. Sean examines a 76-pound bar of silver that might have come from one the most famous Spanish shipwreck rescues ever. And Jim goes to the shooting range with a Civil War re-enactor to see if his 1853 Enfield rifle still fires just like it did when the North was fighting the South.
“The Secret Flame” — Feb. 6 at 9pm ET/PT. Sean and the guys are in Colorado Springs on the hunt for the best military collectibles for their auction. Adrian examines his find, and then heads to the range to test it out. Sean inspects what seems to be a simple Italian flintlock, but realizes it contains a deep secret. Jim finds one of the biggest, most impressive items ever considered for the auction — a World War II aircraft searchlight — and attempts to light up the sky with it.
“Duel to the Death” — Feb. 6 at 9:30pm ET/PT. This week the appraisals get off to a promising start when a Korean War veteran brings in a M1 Carbine that could be worth $1500. But that’s pocket change compared to a pair of 18th-century dueling pistols. The guns are the same style as the ones that Vice President Aaron Burr famously used. And if these pistols still work, they could be worth over $6,000. A family of Viking re-enactors stops by to have their 1,000-year-old ax-head appraised and are pleasantly surprised to find out the value of the heirloom. However, a museum owner is disappointed he can’t get $50,000 for the Norden bombsight, a device World War II bombers used to make sure they hit their target precisely.
“Pirate’s Deadly Pistol” — Feb. 13 at 9pm ET/PT. The Lords of War head to Colorado to fire a four-barrel pistol from the 18th century, check out a World War II scooter and swing a Japanese Katana sword.
“Itchy Trigger Finger” — Feb. 13 at 9:30pm ET/PT. Sean and the guys are outside Colorado Springs, where they come across a World War I BAR rifle, evaluate what seems to be a 17th-century Spanish rapier and examine what looks like a medieval jousting lance.
“Hitler’s Buzzsaw” — Feb. 20 at 9pm ET/PT. The Lords of War head to Houston to fire a German machine gun from World War II, examine an amazing collection of Civil War letters, appraise a custom engraved Walther PPK and evaluate an 18th-century bullet mold.
“Assassin’s Gun” — Feb. 20 at 9:30pm ET/PT. (No description available at this time.)
Lords of War airs on National Geographic Channel Wednesdays at 9pm and 9:30pm ET/PT starting Jan. 23.
Credit: National Geographic Channels