It's a steal... a wealth of Dillinger memorabilia goes under the hammer

John Dillinger is the most famous American bank robber in history; a character seen by some as a Robin Hood figure, and by others as a common criminal.

Now Heritage Auctions is presenting a broad collection of Dillinger memorabilia from the best possible source: his half-sister Frances Helen Dillinger.

The family have kept hold of some extraordinary pieces, including a hunting suit Dillinger wore in Little Bohemia before the final shoot out (estimated at $25,000), a life insurance policy taken out on Dillinger by his father (estimated at $2,500) and a dollar bill Dillinger was carrying when he was shot, stained with his blood (estimated at $10,000).

John Dillinger Dollar bloodstained
John Dillinger's bloodstained dollar

The dollar bill is contained in an envelope of $7.81 which the FBI said was all the money Dillinger had on his when he died. Witnesses say that he actually had wads of cash, but the FBI agents proved remarkably light-fingered.

The lots causing the most interest, however, are those comprising Dillinger's pocket watch, wooden and real Colt guns, and letters from prison.

The wooden gun is thought to be the one which Dillinger carved from a washboard and used to break out of Crown Point, Indiana Jail on March 3, 1934. "Colt 38" is crudely carved on one side.

There are actually three guns with some evidence to back them up as being the 'weapon' in question, which perhaps explains the relatively low expected price of $13,000. A genuine nickel-plated Colt, presented by Dillinger to his younger brother soon before he died is listed at $35,000.

John Dillinger Colt
Colt pistol given by Dillinger to his brother

One of Dillinger's guns sold for $95,600 earlier this year, whilst the gun used to shoot him sold for $36,400.

Amongst the items returned to Dillinger's family along with the envelope and suit was the 17 jewel Hamilton pocket watch with gold filled case carried by him when he died. Frances Helen Dillinger is especially certain of the provenance of this item as she was present when the FBI returned it and has known where it is ever since. It is valued at $35,000.

Finally, also valued at $35,000, is a calm, measured letter written by Dillinger to his father from the Lima, Ohio jail on Sept. 27, 1933. Dillinger admits to being drawn into a life of crime, but claims he has never harmed anyone. Five days later his gang would break him out of the jail, killing the Sheriff.

A letter written by Dillinger from jail sold earlier this year for $60,000.

The auction is open for bidding over the internet right now, and will close after it has been joined with a live auction in Heritage Auction's Uptown Dallas Gallery on December 12.


Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock