WASHINGTON D.C. — Sean Rich is a modern-day treasure hunter on a mission to track down masterpieces of military history. But for him, antique weaponry is more than a passion – it’s his business. National Geographic Channel’s new, 16-part series “Lords of War” – premiering at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 23 – follows Sean and his team of arms experts as they patrol the country for rare collectibles and auction them off to the highest bidder. They get a piece of the action, and the seller gets the rest. Every auction is battle, but war is in their blood. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com/lordsofwar/.

Part historians and part detectives, the top-notch team is challenged in each episode to authenticate an item and appraise its value. It’s not always an easy task, even for these experts. Occasionally an item so rare will come across their paths with virtually no frame of reference. One seller claims a “Disney-like” doodle painted on a WWI 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. In addition to weaponry, they also come across an extremely rare sheet of printed money dated just a few months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The item is outside their normal realm of expertise and they call in a currency expert to get the full story behind the remarkable piece of history.

The “Lords of War” team guarantee each weapon they auction is in working condition … no matter how old it is. Testing an antique can be the most exciting, and dangerous, part of the job. NGC captures all the excitement both on the auction floor and at the shooting range, using slow motion, high-definition cameras to capture every detail of an antique being fired for the first time in centuries.

From historical gems to just plain junk, there is no telling what, or who will show up at each auction, and occasionally the people are stranger than the items themselves. A family of Viking re-enactors is surprised to learn the value of their family heirloom, a 1,000-year-old axe head. But sometimes a seller’s expectations are inflated, as is the case with one seller who expected to buy an island with the money he hoped to make on a German crossbow. Other items turn out to be priceless: A hand-drawn map from an infantryman at the battle of Normandy valued at over $20,000 proves to be too personal for his surviving daughter to sell.

Meet the “Lords of War” team:

Sean Rich is an expert in antique arms whose vast collection of weapons has been featured in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, among other films.

Larry “The Hammer” Harley is a third-generation knife maker who counts “sex, hunting, and making knives” among his three favorite things in life.

Jim Green from Harrington, ME is the group’s practiced gunsmith. Green said, “I can pick up an antique gun and almost feel what the person who first used it might have been thinking.”

Adrian “Shooter” Alford – well-connected in the industry – owns his own gun shop and with his vast knowledge is rarely stumped.

Premiere episodes include:

Lords of War: Da Vinci’s Killer Pistol

9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23

Sean helps a young man get out of debt by auctioning off a 500-year-old gun. The firearm’s unique wheel-lock technology is believed to have been designed by Leonardo DaVinci. If the gun still works today, buyers at the auction will push each other out of the way 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 Franklin’s 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.

Lords of War: I Love Cannons

9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23

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 WWII. The historical and personal significance of this map is so great, it has the burly, tough-guy Hammer in tears. At the shooting range, high-tech slow-motion cameras film an 1894 Winchester rifle fire a bullet through a watermelon capturing each speck of juice in full detail.

Lords of War: Blunderbuss Blowout

9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30

A WWI 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 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 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.

Lords of War: Sunken Treasure

9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30

The guys 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 of 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.

Lords of War: The Secret Flame

9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6

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 WWII aircraft searchlight – and attempts to light up the sky with it.

Lords of War: Duel to the Death

9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6

This week the appraisals get off to a promising start when a Korean War veteran brings in an M1 Carbine that could be worth $1,500. 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 WWII bombers used to make sure they hit their target precisely.

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