Julien’s finds heated market for Cold War spy gadgets

Soviet KGB spy purse designed to hold a concealed FED model camera. Sold for $32,000. Julien’s Auctions image

LOS ANGELES – Julien’s Auctions held its Cold War Relics Auction Featuring the KGB Espionage Museum Collection on Feb. 13. The event offered nearly 500 of the rarest and most important artifacts from the U.S., Soviet Union and Cuba during the Cold War-era ever to be assembled and offered at auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.


At the centerpiece of this historic event was the sale of the entire collection from the KGB Espionage Museum in New York City featuring artifacts such as clandestine operative cameras, counter-intelligence detectors, morse code machines, airplane radars, voice recorders and official government documents. The collection was procured by world-renowned historian, collector and museum curator Julius Urbaitis, who worked as the consultant for the 2019 Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning HBO series, Chernobyl.

The top-selling item was a Soviet KGB spy purse (above) used by female operatives with a concealed FED model camera known as “The Fly” (due to its insect emblem on the side of the purse), which sold for $32,000 nearly 13 times its original estimate of $2,500.

Estimated to sell for several hundred dollars, a Soviet spy coin with hidden compartment soared to $25,600. Julien’s Auctions image

Another highlight was the sale of a Soviet spy coin with a hidden compartment which sold for an astonishing $25,600, one 128 times its original estimate of $200 and as well as a rare Soviet version of the Enigma code cipher machine (below) known as the Fialka, which sold for $22,400.

An original Soviet KGB Fialka M-125-3M (Violet) cipher machine used during the Cold War to code and decode messages. Estimate: $22,400. Julien’s Auctions image

Other highlights from the KGB Espionage Museum collection included a reproduction of the deadly syringe umbrella believed to have been used to carry out the assassination of Bulgarian author Georgie Markov, which sold for $19,200, nine times its original estimate of $2,000; a Soviet KGB spy bag containing a hidden Zaryad camera ($19,200); a Soviet KGB spy “listening” ashtray with a concealed microphone “bug” inside that sold for $12,800, 16 times its original estimate of $800; a wooden reproduction carved American Great Seal plaque with a hidden microphone listening bug which was gifted to the American ambassador to Russia in 1945 by the Soviet Boy Scouts, which sold for $19,200, six times its original estimate of $3,000.

A carved wood American Great Seal plaque that was gifted to the American ambassador to Russia in 1945 by the Soviet Boy Scouts, which contained a hidden microphone listening device. Sold for $19,200. Julien’s Auctions image

A Russian FSB spy pack of Marlboro brand cigarettes containing a hidden digital camera, sold for $11,520, 14 times its original estimate of $800; a Soviet KGB miniature camera spy ring ($15,625); a Soviet KGB spy cigarette case with a hidden Tochka camera, which sold for $15,625, nearly 16 times its original estimate of $1,000; and a Soviet KGB spy cosmetic kit containing a hidden Kiev-30 camera, which sold for $22,400, 37 times its original estimate of $600.

KGB spy cosmetic kit containing a hidden Kiev-30 camera, with the lens operating through a small window on the side. Estimate: $22,400. Julien’s Auctions image

A Russian FSB spy umbrella containing a hidden digital video camera with the lens operating through a small hole on the handle ($19,200); and a Soviet KGB spy Yacht-1M miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder with numerous accessories housed in a briefcase ($11,520); and a Soviet KGB spy camera disguised to look like a pack of JPS (John Player Special) cigarettes which sold for $19,200, 32 times its original estimates of $600;

Soviet KGB spy camera disguised to look like a pack of JPS (John Player Special) cigarettes. Includes original instruction sheet. Sold for $19,200. Julien’s Auctions image

Other highlights included an original 1960 journal believed to be handwritten by Che Guevara ($16,000); a first edition of Guevara’s highly influential 1961 book La Guerra de Geurrillas [Guerrilla Warfare] bearing an official receipt stamp to the front endpaper from Che Guevara as Minister of Industries, signed “Che” and stamp dated Nov. 13, 1961 ($16,000); a color photograph of NASA astronaut Gene Cernan standing on the surface of the moon next to the American flag during the Apollo 17 mission ($10,000); and a television camera lens assembly of the type used by NASA on the lunar rover (LRV) during the later Apollo moon landing missions ($10,000).

 

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