"Who knows if it is the real ax?" says Leon Trotsky’s grandson, Esteban Volkov, dismissively to the Guardian. Keith Melton, for one. The private collector says he staunchly believes that an ice pick he recently purchased and plans to display at the International Spy Museum in Washington is the one that ended up two-inches-deep into Trotsky's head on Aug. 20, 1940. The Russian revolutionary was dead a day later. The Guardian traces the murky path the ax took after it was wielded by a man who went by Frank Jacson (in reality Spanish communist Ramón Mercader) and visited Trotsky at his Mexico City-area home under the guise of wanting his feedback on an article. It was briefly shown to the public at a police press conference, then stored as evidence until police officer Alfredo Salas took it.
He gave it to daughter Ana Alicia, who kept it under her bed for decades and then tried to sell it in 2005, telling the Guardian at the time that she was "looking for some financial benefit." As for what the financial benefit ended up being, Melton wouldn't say and Salas wouldn't even confirm the sale occurred. As for how Melton knows it's the genuine article, he cites things ranging from a paper trail to a telltale rust mark that he says was born from a bloody fingerprint left by Jacson. The AP does a deep dive into Melton, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, and once claimed the title of largest McDonald's franchisee in America. His collection of spy artifacts, thought to be the largest in the world, is worth an estimated $20 million. It was boxed up over 17 days and shipped to the museum, which is opening a new facility next year. Read more on Melton's other treasures here. (Read more artifacts stories.)