Local News Spotlight

Bonnie and Clyde gun goes for $130,000 at auction

Online bidder purchases historic weapon thought to have been used by bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde.

Updated: 2012-01-22T06:36:07Z

By GLENN E. RICE

The Kansas City Star

At $130,000, it was a bit more than what Michael Brown was willing to spend, even if it wasn’t his own money.

Brown had traveled to Kansas City from Las Vegas on Saturday to bid on the famed .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun that was believed to have been used by the bank robbing duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Hoping to snag a piece of outlaw history for a gangster museum being built in Las Vegas, Brown said the most he was willing to spend for the weapon was $115,000.

An online bidder bought the historic submachine gun for $130,000.

“Very few guns out there have such historical value, and that is one of them we were trying to acquire,” Brown said afterward. “We took a gamble. We set a price ceiling. You have to take the emotion out of it, so we had a price that we were willing to go.”

The same online bidder purchased the 12-gauge 1897 Winchester shotgun supposedly used by Bonnie and Clyde for $80,000. Robert Mayo, with Mayo Auction & Realty in Kansas City, declined to reveal the identity of the online bidder.

On Saturday, anticipation filled the room as Mayo, the auctioneer, worked his way down the list of items being auctioned.

“This is a piece of history,” Mayo told the crowded room. “You came a long way. Don’t let it slip away.”

The bidding started at $50,000, much less than the $100,000 Mayo had set as the initial bid. Bid spotters were stationed throughout the room, ensuring that no bidder was overlooked.

The asking price quickly climbed to $80,000, then $100,000.

“$120,000 for a piece of history,” Mayo requested.

The winning bid was announced minutes later.

It is believed that both guns were left behind when the couple had a shootout with police on April 13, 1933, in Joplin.

The Tommy gun was a Model 1921A, produced in the early 1920s and often used by law enforcement, military and criminals during the Great Depression. John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd, as well as members of the Barrow Gang, supposedly used it.

A police officer gave the weapons to Mark Lairmore, a Tulsa police officer, and they remained in the family until they were sold on Saturday.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in a police ambush in May 1934 in Louisiana, about a year after the Joplin shootout.

Larry Van Zandt said he wanted to purchase the weapons for a Nevada car dealership that hoped to use the weapons as a part of a promotional campaign.

Anyone who purchased a vehicle from the dealership could have their picture taken while holding the weapons, Van Zandt said.

“It was fun to watch, but when it started jumping, jumping and jumping, the feeling was it was going to get away from us pretty quick,” he said.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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