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KGB Espionage Museum
Photograph: Shutterstock/Warren

This NYC museum is auctioning off real-life spy gadgets

The KGB Espionage Museum is selling its entire collection including a lipstick gun, deadly umbrella and more.

Will Gleason

If you’ve ever had dreams of being a secret agent, they’ve probably involved a lot of tricky little gadgets. From James Bond to Austin Powers, spies are synonymous in pop culture with their mind-blowing (and often logic-defying) high-tech tools. Well, it turns out that real spies did in fact use plenty of sneaky, hidden tricks to assist them with their lives of espionage. (And no, we’re not talking about the martinis.)

KGB Espionage Museum, a relatively new institution located in Chelsea, is now making an impressive array of those types of objects available to purchase via auction. The museum, which was forced to close due to the pandemic, is now putting its collection up for sale. 

lipstick gun
Photograph: Courtesy Julien's Auctions

"Julien's Auctions is proud to present the largest collection of rare and important artifacts from Cold War era history ever to be assembled at auction," said Darren Julien, President/Chief Executive Officer of Julien's Auctions, which is handling the sale. "These extraordinary items taken out of the secret archives and vaults from the U.S., Russia and Cuba will add tremendous value to any collection from world class museums to any history buff's private trove.”

The upcoming sale, which will take place in February, includes about 400 lots estimated to sell for anywhere between a couple hundred dollars and $12,000. There are plenty of fascinating objects that will be included in the auction including a Soviet Fialka code cipher machine capable of producing 590 quadrillion possible combinations, a door from a KGB prison, a spy purse with a hidden camera and even a gun hidden in a tube of lipstick. 

(That last one kind of seems like an accident waiting to happen to us, but maybe that’s why we’re not spies!)

purse camera
Photograph: Courtesy Julien's AuctionsA spy purse with a hidden camera.

If you’d like to check out some more fascinating New York museum objects, but don’t quite have the chunk of change to buy a replica of a deadly syringe umbrella, check out our constantly updated list of the best museums in NYC, featuring the top shows to see right now at currently open institutions.

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