KGB Devices To Go Under The Hammer In US

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A gun designed to look like a tube of lipstick, a purse with a hidden camera and a hotel room listening device are among items used by Soviet intelligence during the Cold War going up for auction for the first time.

American auction house Julien's will sell the roughly 400 lots -- online and then in-person from mid-January to February 13, 2021.

The items were recently on display at the KGB Espionage Museum in Manhattan, New York -- a private museum opened in January 2019 by Lithuanian historian Julius Urbaitis that has closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are not aware of any similar auction for this genre. There is going to be a massive follow up on this because people are so fascinated by all this," said Julien's CFO Martin Nolan.

A lipstick-shaped gun, pictured in January 2019, will go on sale in early 2021 as part of an auction of items from a pop-up KGB museum in New York A lipstick-shaped gun, pictured in January 2019, will go on sale in early 2021 as part of an auction of items from a pop-up KGB museum in New York  AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Estimates for the items range from a few hundred dollars to $12,000, which is the top estimate for a rare Soviet version of the Enigma code cipher machine known as the Fialka.

A stone bust of Vladimir Lenin is expected to reach between $5,000 and $7,000, while a steel door from a former KGB prison hospital is estimated at $500 to $700.

"This is not massively expensive stuff, this is fun stuff that... can trigger a fascinating conversation at a dinner party," said Nolan.

Julien's is also putting under the hammer other memorabilia from the Cold War, including a high school report card for Che Guevara, a signed 1958 letter from Fidel Castro discussing plans to take Havana, and items related to the US-Soviet space race.

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