New York (AFP)

Single bullet pistol in the shape of a lipstick, handbag hiding a sophisticated camera: a vast collection of objects used by Soviet intelligence during the Cold War will be auctioned, a first intended to seduce fans of the world espionage from around the world.

The approximately 400 lots that will be auctioned by the American house Julien's - online and then in person, from mid-January to February 13, 2021 - were until recently on display, against a background of music and period furniture, at the "KGB Museum".

A private museum opened in Manhattan in January 2019 by Lithuanian historian Julius Urbaitis.

But the adventure was short, cut short by the pandemic which closed New York museums for months.

While the major museums reopened this fall, the lesser known ones, such as the KGB Museum, remained closed.

The Urbaitis gave up the New York museum to focus on another museum project in Lithuania, explains Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien's.

Specializing in auctions of "pop culture" objects, the American house is delighted to be the first to take advantage of "the curiosity and fascination for the world of espionage", he says.

The context is promising, with the recurring accusations of Russian interference in the American or European elections, the Novichok poisonings, or the pandemic which pushes people to "seek new distractions", including via auctions of unusual objects, according to Mr. Nolan.

From a KGB prison door to the Soviet version of the Enigma encoder / decoder, to a bust of Lenin, estimates can range from a few hundred to $ 12,000.

But many items - like the killer lipstick - are worth between $ 800 and $ 1,200, according to Nolan.

What "spark fascinating conversations during a dinner with friends", and attract as many Russians nostalgic for the Soviet era as James Bond fans or simply people in search of a good "investment", he says. .

To complete this sale, Julien's will also put under the hammer some other memorabilia from the Cold War, such as a high school bulletin from Che Guevara, a letter from 1958 signed Fidel Castro in which the Cuban revolutionary presents his plans to take Havana (estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 dollars), or certain objects related to the period of the American-Soviet space race.

© 2020 AFP