Top Ten Spy Gadgets at the Spy Museum

What are spies without their gadgets? Here’s the Spy Museum’s top ten picks for coolest spy gear. Don’t leave HQ without them.

10. Lipstick pistol – Issued by KGB, circa 1965

The lipstick pistol, used by KGB operatives during the Cold War, is a 4.5 mm, single shot weapon. It delivered the ultimate “kiss of death.”

pistol disguised as lipstick

What color red are you using? It really brings out your eyes.

9. Shoe with heel transmitter – Used by Romanian Secret Service (Securitate), 1960s–1970s

Operatives would obtain an American diplomat’s shoes, and outfit them with a hidden microphone and transmitter, thus enabling them to monitor the conversations of the unsuspecting target. While most shoes only smell, these shoes can also hear.

Radio bug in Shoe

Can you hear me now?

8. Coat with buttonhole camera – Issued by KGB, circa 1970

This hidden camera was concealed in an ordinary looking coat. The lens, tucked behind the right middle button, is perfectly positioned for photographing unsuspecting people. To take a picture, the wearer of the coat would squeeze a shutter cable hidden in the coat pocket. It was widely used in the Soviet Union, Europe, and North America. Talk about a fashion statement.

Coat with hidden camera

The latest from the Paris runways

7. Pigeon camera – circa 1910

Some pigeons doubled as spies—reconnaissance pigeons like these World War I birds carried cameras to photograph enemy activity. That’s what you call a bird’s eye view.

Camera Pigeon


6. Tree stump listening device – early 1970s

U.S. intelligence placed a bug in a wooded area near Moscow to eavesdrop on radar and communications signals of a nearby Soviet missile system.  The intercepted signals were stored and then transmitted to a satellite passing overhead. If a spy falls in the forest, does he make a sound?

Tree Stump Bug

Oleg, you will not believe what I just found!

5. Steineck wristwatch camera – Germany, circa 1949

An agent would carefully aim the camera while pretending to check the time —not an easy feat since there was no viewfinder. Pressing a button on the watch snapped the photo. Gives new meaning to the term “watching you.”

Wristwatch camera

It’s picture time.

4. Hollow coin – Issued by KGB, 1950s -1990s

Hollow coins easily concealed microfilm and microdots. They were opened by inserting a needle into a tiny hole in the front of the coin. One Soviet operative accidentally lost his hollow coin and it ended up in the hands of a Brooklyn delivery boy. Needless to say, it was a bad tip.

Coins that are hollow

Definitely not legal tender for any debt, public or private.

3. Minox camera – Germany, circa 1969-1975

John Walker used a Minox C camera to secretly photograph documents for the KGB.  He used the camera so often that it eventually wore out. At the time, it was the smallest camera in existence.

Minox Camera

Precursor to the SLR

2. Enigma machine – Germany, circa 1940

Originally designed to encode business communications, the Germans adapted the Enigma cipher machine for use in World War II. The machine linked a keyboard to a series of rotors using electric current. The rotors transposed each keystroke multiple times generating millions of possible combinations.  The message was then sent in Morse code. The Allies eventually cracked cracked it. Good thing there was no such thing as “autocorrect” back then.

Code machine

The code is unbreakable? Challenge accepted.

1. Ring gun – France, 19th century

This lethal device held six 5mm bullets. It had the nickname, “Le Petite Protector,” meaning “the small protector” in French. Talk about a trigger finger.

Gun Ring

A true “blood diamond”

Every successful agent is going to need an array of gadgets to help them accomplish their assignments. These ten won’t let you down.

That’s all the intel for now. More to follow.

This entry was posted in Top Ten, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Top Ten Spy Gadgets at the Spy Museum

  1. Anonymous says:

    Neat list! One question: What role did the Americans have in the breaking of the Enigma codes? I thought the Polish and British (with some help from the French) cracked them.

    • Agent 0 says:

      Thanks for reading! To answer your question, not that big of a role. We made an error and gave credit where credit wasn’t due. We’ve edited for accuracy. Thanks letting us know!

  2. Alex Blakemore says:

    Regarding #2, the enigma machine, you state that the US broke the code. Are you certain? I’ve always heard that the British broke the Enigma at Bletchley Park, using the Collossus computer designed by Alan Turing, based on in part on information provided by Polish mathematicians. The US has plenty to be proud of, we don’t need to claim credit for British accomplishments too (assuming my facts are correct)

    • Agent 0 says:

      Good catch, Alex. We got a little too excited with our pre-Independence Day celebrations and let that one slip. We’ve edited for accuracy. We appreciate the comment!

  3. Pingback: 13 Hidden Spy Cameras That Could Be Watching You Right Now | Gizmodo Australia

  4. Ender says:

    One more on the Enigma…The Allies eventually cracked cracked it. They cracked cracked it?

  5. Josh says:

    The tree stump is just too impressive! Very nice list you have compiled.
    Hidden Cameras

Leave a Reply