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October 10th, 2005

Catherine the Great’s Pistols

The history of the Property Clerk Division of the NYPD isn’t pretty. I go into this in my book. They have their act together now though, and I found one story about them that I just loved.

In 1982, Property Clerk personnel took a second look at two guns that were seized in a raid in the South Bronx in 1971. The weapons weren’t like anything they’d recovered before, so they took them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see what they could find out about them. The Museum had seen the pistols before, in 1933, when they were lent to the Museum and displayed that summer. They turned out to be handmade flintlock hunting pistols that were made for Empress Catherine the Great in 1786.


The police department didn’t smelt them, they didn’t throw them into the Hudson River, and they didn’t sell them at a police auction (typical fates for property in their possession). They lent them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art who put them on display for the second time in fifty years. The New York Times ran a piece about the pistols which were then recognized by the family of John M. Schiff, who were able to document their purchase in 1939, and their theft in 1970. In 1986, John Schiff donated the pistols to the Museum in memory of his wife, Edith Baker Schiff. After strongly expressing the difficulty in placing a value on items of such artistic and historic importance, Peter Finer, an English arms and armour dealer, estimated that the ivory, gold, steel and brass pistols were worth a million dollars.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Police History ·

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Det. AL Sheppard (Ret) // Oct 11, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    The “REAL” story with the two guns. Det. Sgt. Tom McCabe & 1st Grade Det. Jim Tedalsi of the Intell. Div. were to persons responcible for the weapons being identified as Kathrine the Dreat

  • 2 AL Sheppard // Oct 11, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    Sorry for the typos, can’t find my glasses. But that’s the real deal on the guns. Sgt. Mc Cabe passed away last year, and Det Tedaldi is retired.


    Det. AL Sheppard (ret)
    NYPD-Major Case Saquad