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Original Fbi/police Cases


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#1 Sig

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 06:45 AM

I have read in Roger Cox's book that 1 case was sold for every 30 TMSG's.
Cases started being sold in the 30's or thereabouts.

Not sure where to start but with an assumption that 1/2 of the inventory of Colt TMSG's had been sold by 1930 leaving 7,500.
Would it be safe to assume there are around 7,500/30 = 250 FBI/Police Cases?

Now if that is a close assumption I believe the population of known Colt Thompsons existing today is 2,500 or less, am I close?
If the above are close then 1 in 10 Colt TMSG's have an original case available, if no cases were destroyed which I rather doubt so the actual should be less than that.

Another question is the mix of the population of FBI/Police cases.
Is the mix 50/50 FBI to Police? Any ideas?
Seems to me Police cases are rarer, based on my short TCA show tour last year which I remember few Police versions and more FBI versions.
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#2 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 11:09 AM

Sig,
Since the FBI destroyed most of their cases along with a great percentage of their Colt Thompson's, the real deal FBI case is way rarer than the police case. The majority of cases seen on the market today, most being advertised as 1930's originals, were made in the 1960's/1970's anyway. Since many police cases were home made by individual departments, and not the three or four manufacturers, it stands to reason to see more variety of PD cases. But the number of transferable Colt TSMG's in the U.S. is more like 1800.

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#3 Chopper28

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 11:39 AM

Arthur, how did you arrive at the 1800 figure for the number of registered Colt Thompson's?
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#4 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 12:02 PM

Chopper,
I didn't. Helmer, Richardson, Herigstad and Cox agreed on the less than 2000 figure from their own research.

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#5 1921A

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 02:37 PM

I'm certainly not an expert on this topic, but I have learned a few things about original Thompson cases over the years. This information is based on my observations and that of others but is in no way complete and is offered in the spirit of sharing.

No one really knows the numbers of FBI, Police and Indiana style cases produced, but all agree the numbers are small. These cases were factory produced but never caught on probably because they were not advertised. No where, in the all the Thompson literature produced, do you see hard cases or prices.

I traveled the eastern U.S. for a number of years selling police equipment and like Cox and others had the opportunity to see quite a number of Colt Thompsons and accessories in their original environment. Hard cases were very rare but I observed more FBI style cases with royal blue interiors than any other type. It is generally accepted that the FBI purchased approximately 135 Colt Thompsons complete with hard case, spare parts box, magazines and cleaning rod in the mid 1930's. More were acquired later. Quite a number of these cases survived judging from the specimens in private collections and police departments today. I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire four FBI and three "police" cases.

It appears likely that more than one firm made the FBI case. Four different types of locks and two styles of catches have been documented on FBI type cases. Construction varies slightly. Some of them are configured to take the standard length cleaning rod. The materials, hardware and "fitting out” of one of my four is slightly different from the others. On that case, there is no maker's label and the configuration; interior and exterior are nearly identical to the Swetnam. Three of them came directly from FBI sources. The other came from a police department that purchased it from the Swetnam Company. I found several FBI cases over the years that were purchased by police probably after seeing the local FBI agent's case. One of these had a purple interior rather than the usual blue. It is also likely that the FBI donated some of their cases to police departments down through the years.

I've observed "police" cases in royal purple, royal blue, black, green and one red. It appears that the standard model "police" case was produced by at least two if not three different companies including Chicago Luggage, Books Trunk Company and Swetnam. It is also interesting that some of the "police' cases I found, including one I own, do not have side latches and some, like the FBI model, were configured to accept the short model cleaning rod.

The Indiana cases I found all had red interiors. Cox mentions, if I recall correctly, that "all Indiana cases observed had a violet interior." I found none of those, although some of the red ones were faded and discolored to the point that they might have appeared to be violet. I have heard of one Indiana case with a royal purple interior but have not seen it. Most cases I observed were identical in every detail but a few of them had different style locks, draw bolts and corner protectors then the others. Like the FBI and the "police" case, it appears that different styles of locks and hardware were used over time.

My observations lead me to believe that, of the three main types of hard cases, the FBI style is more commonly encountered than the "police" style and the Indiana type is the most difficult to find. Most of the serious Thompson collectors I've met have an original FBI case. Some have the "police" case and only a few own the Indiana case. No doubt, others have different opinions and experiences but this sums up my observations over the past twenty odd years.

Greg Fox
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#6 Mark Layton

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 04:06 PM

My case has a long-grained artificial leather skin, three latches along the front, the middle one being lockable, three hinges on hte back, a latch on each end, metal corner protectors, and a rich royal purple interior. The large latches on the ends read, "Eagle Lock Company, Terryville, Conn USA. The carry handle is leather. What kind of case might this one be?
Thanks, Mark
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#7 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 04:13 PM

Greg,
Undoubtedly there were people like you making copies of original cases 40 and 50 years ago. This is why it is somewhat unnerving to pony up $1500 to $2500 for cases advertised as originals. The sellers should also be limited in their claims about the originality of their case(s) true manufacturing dates since the use of period hardware is still availble today. Authenticating these pieces of luggage is haphazzard at best since there are no hard and fast rules to abide by. Other than a Sweatnam sticker (not exactly an integral piece of the case) to help ensure authenticity. Unless these cases were inherited directly from a Department of Justice, or PD, 40 years ago, it is anyone's guess as to their genuiness.

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#8 Sig

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 04:52 PM

Mark
Yours sounds like a police case with the latches on the side.
The key tell tale that it is a police case is if the 4 XX mags are on the left side and the L drum on the right as you look at the open case.

Arthur and Greg
Your information is appreciated.
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#9 Mark Layton

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 08:28 PM

On my case, the mags are on the left and the drum on the right , as you said. So, my case is a PD case.

Thanks for the help on that! Mark
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#10 colt21a

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 12:30 AM

terry william's made replica's, so did roger small of tn.and a few others over the past 25 year's.so unless you have the real proof,and i know a bunch of cases that had been original from a az.p.d.and a new mexico p.d.that had been redone,so would not that be original just restored.

also ran across a old dude in around 1990 91 at the o.g.c.a.show who's son was in the f.b.i told me the tale of how his son picked a ton of stuff out of g.s.a.trash in the 70's and 80's..............i bought three c-drums from the guy and a few L drums and stick mag's..he said whatever cases he sold had been the "real deal"f.b.i.style........... and in good to exc.cond.and the metal spare parts kits had been ruined and alot were empty of part's....and rusted or dinged and dented.............

i took this as gospel from the guy...............since i had never seen so much on one's guy table,i just about bought him out that morning of his whole table,he would remember me since i laid 5k on him at the opening of the show..............

and his two table end neighbor's just about dropped when they saw that much cash for what they called......
"some old tommygun stuff"

i have had just about all the cases myself,including the coveted "chicago police case"pictured in cox's book......just remember they also duplicated the sweatnam label's also,

there is nothing wrong with a redone case.or a replica for that matter..........as everybody cannot afford the "real deal"if one becomes available for sale...........just like the metal spare parts kit......................

have fun with the stuff guy's...............yes there are a few of us out there still looking and willing to help you.........just honest and quick replie's.............take care ,ron colt/21a
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#11 1921A

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 06:10 PM

Footnote to my post:

Some of you raise a good point. How do you tell an original FBI or Police case from a reproduction?

Since about 1960 I've had a passion for anything Thompson. I started with literature and accessories after I was given a handbook and 1936 catalog by retired policeman neighbor. My first Gun came along in the mid 1980's and the collection grew from there. Along the way I've been fortunate enough to see a lot of guns and accessories, including hard cases, in PDs, SO's and State Police arsenals throughout the U.S.

It’s fair to say Roger Cox's book triggered the collector interest we see today.
Until the early 1970's, not many collectors were interested in Thompsons, Colt or otherwise. That included accessories like the hard case. Cox provided the first comprehensive reference source.

The first replica cases I'm aware of came about in the late 1970's and early to mid 1980's. There was simply no demand for them before that. Numrich Arms offered one for the 1928 FA and the 1927SA. Kahr has continued to offer that style. It does not resemble any of the prewar cases. Someone in Texas made a few "Police" type cases back in the 80's for collectors and again while nicely made they would not be mistaken for an original case. Terry Williams made 50 FBI "style" cases (with Swetnam labels) in the late 80's and sold them to collectors as "reproductions." They are solid decent replicas (I have one) but again a Thompson collector can tell the difference and so could any antique dealer. The exterior/interior materials used in these cases did not exist in the 1930's. The case we produce is a close replica but it is "marked" and also easily distinguishable from a prewar case.

I disagree with the notion that there are a lot of 40 to 50 year old fake/replica hard cases out there. A Thompson case by any maker, manufactured at any time from the 1920's through the 1950's and sold to law enforcement, is of historical interest and therefore original and collectable, in my opinion. They’re also rare as hell! Prewar cases are not at all difficult to identify if you know what to look for.

There was no interest in duplicating FBI or Police cases until collector demand started to grow in the 1970's and 80's. Police had long since stopped buying them and most of the companies that produced them were out of business by then. The scarcity of original prewar boxes, sudden collector demand and rising prices made it feasible for a small shop to attempt to make replicas. It always comes back to "supply and demand."

Literature seems to be the “item of choice” for reproductions. Buyers beware! Nearly every piece of original Thompson literature has been reprinted and it is difficult to tell from original pieces. A lot of it was done 20-25 years ago and now looks aged and consequently is being passed off as genuine. Ebay is loaded with it.

I would be interested to learn of any other replica case makers if anyone knows of some I didn't mention. If there are members out there who have unusual hard cases or information they would like to share – let’s hear from you.

Greg Fox
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#12 Chip

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 07:57 PM

Greg:

I am looking for a replica case for a 1928, sound like you make them. Do you have a website or could you post some information on them?
thanks,
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#13 Jay Baker

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 06:52 AM

Chip, he makes the best. Got one for Christmas from my wife after a little sweet talkin'. You will be pleased.
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#14 Arthur Fliegenheimer

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 10:58 AM

QUOTE
I disagree with the notion that there are a lot of 40 to 50 year old fake/replica hard cases out there. A Thompson case by any maker, manufactured at any time from the 1920's through the 1950's and sold to law enforcement, is of historical interest and therefore original and collectable, in my opinion. They’re also rare as hell! Prewar cases are not at all difficult to identify if you know what to look for.


The pre WWII cases would be the only type with a legitimate connection to the Colt Thompson and Auto-Ord. Those cases made by indistinguishable makers, who were enaged by some PD to outfit one of their TSMG's in the 50's, would not be any more collectable than those made for a PD, or anyone else, in the 60's, 70's or today. Yes, these original 1930 cases have not survived in abundant numbers. This is why so many seen on the market today are not the real McCoy.
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#15 Ron A

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 01:12 PM

Did Sweatnam make both FBI and police cases?
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#16 1921A

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Posted 17 February 2004 - 09:38 PM

Ron:

I think they did. I have one "Police" case that does not have end catches. The materials, hardware and construction are identical to the FBI case. No label but I'd bet it's Swetnam.

Greg Fox
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