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The Da Vinci Machine That Sold For A Surprising Amount On Pawn Stars

Rick Harrison of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is no stranger to bizarre items with high price tags attached to them. So he wasn't thrown when on an episode of "Pawn Stars," a seller named Pete introduced him to a contraption that looked at first glance like a set of enormous bat wings built from tree branches. It was a Leonardo DaVinci flying machine — which one has to imagine is relatively rare.

Right away, Rick recognized it as a model for human-powered flight based on DaVinci's drawings. He noted how the pulleys and hinges would work to make the wings flap and pivot like a bird's wings, hopefully allowing a human wearer to take flight. "There was a lot of thought that went into it, but it's completely impractical," he acknowledged (via YouTube). "The human body is not strong enough to create its own lift."

Whether it worked or not wasn't really the issue, though. Naturally, Rick's main concern was the condition of the model. And that mattered to Pete, too, who was hoping to collect some sweet cash for his estate sale find – $2,400 to be exact.

An expert's eye was required

Rick quickly spotted some damage, pointing out broken parts that would be difficult to duplicate. But that wasn't enough to put him off the item. "I'm really impressed with the quality of it," he said (via YouTube). "I mean, there's some issues. There's a lot of restoration work that needs to be done to this thing."

He decided to go the next step and bring in Mark Hall-Patton, Clark County Museum Administrator, who immediately proved his expertise by giving the thing a name. It was an ornithopter, which he explained, simply means a human-powered flying machine. He also confirmed that it wouldn't work. Overall, his impression matched Rick's. "The details are quite nice on it and it's well made, but you can see that there's some damage," Hall-Patton noted.

Another issue: Everyone wanted to know whether the model had once been displayed in a museum. But according to Hall-Patton, there was just no way of knowing without paperwork or a museum number on the item — which it didn't have.

Damage drove the price down

Damage to the item – combined with questions about it – drove the price down significantly from Pete's first idea. "I'd give you $800 bucks for it because it's gonna cost me $1,000 bucks just for someone to make it pretty again," Rick said (via YouTube).

Pete seemed to accept that on some level, but when he hesitantly asked for $1,000, Rick jumped on the opportunity to defend his original offer. Suddenly, he didn't even seem to want it anymore. Calling it a headache and a gamble, he pointed out restoring the item might not even be affordable. If it cost thousands to fix, he'd have to just throw it out. With all that in mind, $800 seemed like an awful lot of money to pay.

Pete was convinced he wouldn't be able to get any more. He took the offer, and Rick walked away the owner of a broken but incredibly unique item. "I guarantee you I'm the first person on my block with an ornithopter," he said, proudly.