What's been billed as the world's largest collection of KGB memorabilia has been on display in Manhattan for nearly two years, the labor of love of a Lithuanian collector who wanted to share with the world these 3,500 or so remnants of the Cold War. Now, per the New York Times, "that dream is dashed." The paper reports that the KGB Espionage Museum in Chelsea, founded by Julius Urbaitis in January 2019 and shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, will remain closed for good. Most of the items in it will go up for auction early next year at Julien's in Beverly Hills, Calif. "It was a difficult decision," says the 57-year-old collector, who recruited his daughter, Agne Urbaityte, to co-curate the museum with him. "My daughter and I have invested a lot of work, energy, heart, and many years of collecting artifacts."
The museum contains all the devices and doohickeys you'd expect to see in a James Bond movie or an episode of the '60s TV spy series Get Smart: a gun hidden inside a tube of lipstick, a purse with a hidden camera, a poison needle fashioned to look like an umbrella, even a listening device used by Adolf Hitler. AFP reports that lots will go up for auction both online and live starting in mid-January and running through Feb. 13. Items are expected to fetch anywhere from several hundred dollars for a steel door from a KGB prison hospital, to a few thousand for a stone bust of Vladimir Lenin, to $12,000 for a rare Soviet-era Fialka cipher machine. Julien's will be featuring other Cold War relics, including Che Guevara's high school report card and items tied to the US-Russia space race. (Read more KGB stories.)