Most spy work is nothing like it appears in the movies.
"No, we don't all get an Aston Martin or a speedboat or any other funky form of transport," one MI6 operative told the BBC, revealing the real glamour the job involves. "You'll more often see us on a bus or a tube than anything like that."
However, there is one part that is a bit like the films
"We do actually have a Q. Q is actually a real thing," another spy said in reference to the head of research and development division that gives James Bond his ridiculous gadgets. "We have some brilliant technologists that supply us with all kinds of gadgets that we use. Only our stuff is better than Bond's."
Spy gadgets are a real thing, apparently, and you could own your own Cold War-era weapons and spyware, as a lot of them are being put up for sale at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills next year. The collection being sold includes quite a lot of KGB items used by the Soviet Union.
A particularly awesome gadget right out of James Bond is a lipstick pistol called the Kiss of Death. The single-shot weapon was a 4.5-mm pistol hidden inside a lipstick holder that was issued to female KGB spies around 1965 as an easily concealable weapon.
The auction will also include a "bug" used in hotel rooms in 1964 and a rare Soviet version of the Enigma code cipher machine (created in Bletchley Park) known as the Fialka. The device, operated by a punched card, was made to encrypt messages that could then be unencrypted by others with the same device and key.
There's also a replica of the syringe umbrella, perhaps the most famous of Soviet spy devices, that was used in an assassination in 1978. Georgi Markov was a Bulgarian dissident who moved to the UK in 1968. Here he wrote about life under Soviet rule, which was broadcast across Europe. However, telling the world about what he'd experienced earned him a price on his head in the USSR, which in 1978 ended his life.
Markov was waiting for a bus on Waterloo Bridge in London when he felt a small stabbing pain in the back of his thigh, much like a bug bite or a quick injection. He looked up and saw a man picking up his umbrella off the ground, before running to the other side of the street and making off in a taxi.
Shortly afterward, Markov began to feel feverish and went to the hospital, and four days after that he was dead. He had been killed by ricin, which was delivered through a "Bulgarian umbrella", a device designed by the Bulgarian Secret Service with help from the KGB.
A replica of the device, which was also allegedly used in the attempted assassination of Vladimir Kostov on the Paris Metro, will be on sale on Saturday, February 13, 2021, at Julien's Auctions. The auction, curated by Julius Urbaitis, who was the consultant for the HBO series, Chernobyl, will contain other relics from the era, including Che Guevara's high school report card, a signed 1958 letter from Fidel Castro detailing his plans to infiltrate the capital city of Havana, and a purse with a hidden camera and shutter apparatus.
"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, chief executive officer of Julien's Auctions in a statement. "From the entire KGB Espionage Museum collection to obscure U.S. and Soviet space race artifacts to never before seen items from Cuba and their Revolution, these stunning objects offer a fascinating look at the geopolitical, economic and cultural upheaval of that time, whose impact resonates more than ever in this election year."