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The Rare Alchemy Book That Sold For A Small Fortune On Pawn Stars

In many ways, alchemy was the fool's science. Practitioners had no idea what they were doing, but they were going to do it scientifically. The results speak for themselves since, while alchemists never managed to turn lead into gold, the legacy of alchemy has made a ton of money. For example, Hiromu Arakawa used a heavily fictionalized and magical rendition of alchemy to create the beloved Fullmetal Alchemist series, and early in 2021, a man by the name of John used a real alchemy book to make a small fortune. No, he didn't use the book to make actual gold. He just sold it on Pawn Stars.

Now, you might wonder why a book detailing a process with no basis in actual science could fetch a "small fortune" of around $10,000. The Pawn Stars crew has bought items rooted in real science and history, such as fossils, for less. But don't forget, they once purchased a vampire hunting kit. An item from a less rational period of human history is still a historical artifact and still has value, even if its contents don't.

The alchemy book couldn't make gold, but it did make the Pawn Stars seller a small fortune

As seen in this clip on YouTube, John walked into the Pawn Stars store bearing a 1652 copy of Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Brittannicum, which allegedly held the secret to creating the philosopher's stone, a mythical material that could turn lead into gold. Rick Harrison knew a bit about the book, and, according to him, the Church deemed the text illegal since the ability to create gold would have made the gold stored by European governments worthless. The punishment for possessing the Theatrum Chemicum Brittannicum — or any alchemy book for that matter — was being hanged from gilded gallows. Talk about irony.

John wanted to sell his book for $23,000, so Harrison brought in an expert, Rebecca Romney, to discern its true value. According to Romney, the Theatrum Chemicum Brittannicum was a contradiction simply because it was printed. Alchemical books were rarely if ever printed out of fear of the public learning the secret to creating gold. Despite its checkered history, the text was influential to later actual scientists, including Isaac Newton.

Unfortunately, John's copy sported some repair jobs and wasn't 100% complete — it didn't include a full-page engraved plate. While a pristine version could have sold for over $30,000, Romney placed the value of John's at $15,000, so John and Harrison shook hands on $10,300.