Some biscuits and crackers taste fairly decent months after their expiry date, but imagine eating a biscuit nearly 212 years past its prime. For an estimated auction price of $3,580 and a trip to the bathroom, you could try one of the oldest known biscuits in the world.
According to the Daily Express, the hardened biscuit, also known as hardtack, was once owned by Thomas Fletcher, a gunner on the HMS Defence from 1804 to 1807. A part of naval rations, hardtack kept many British sailors’ bellies full as they battled against the French and Spanish during the War of the Third Coalition. In order to bite into the rock-like biscuit, sailors added water to get it to the perfect, chewable mix of soggy and stale. Stored hardtack occasionally got infested—the more unfortunate sailors would end up munching on maggots.
Somehow, Fletcher’s five-inch-wide hardtack survived the pivotal Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, and journeyed back to England unscathed. It’s likely Fletcher kept the stale biscuit as a memento after he returned home from war. Less clear is how the biscuit blackened. It’s possible, says Dix Noonan Webb auctioneer Oliver Pepys, that it happened due to aging or carbonization.
Fletcher’s descendants kept the biscuit in the family for generations until a private collector bought it at a 2005 Sotheby’s public auction. The auction commemorated the Battle of Trafalgar’s 200th anniversary with the sale of items from that time period. Now, 13 years later, the collector has decided to put the biscuit back on the market.
“These biscuits were famously tough but this one must be even harder than most to have survived for over two centuries,” Oliver Pepys told the Daily Express.
If you’re a lover of dusty old biscuits but can’t make Dix Noonan Webb’s online auction on May 9, 2018, you can always visit the Maritime Museum of Denmark, which holds a ship biscuit dating back to 1852—or eat your expired ones at home.
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