Spying or espionage has been documented throughout history and its purpose is to get information, without permission, that's considered confidential or secret. Spying can be done by an individual or a spy-ring (a group of spies), usually for a government or a company.
Spy tools have also been in use long before real technology existed. The old spy gadgets used by the old spies were not as glamorous as the real spy gear today, but nevertheless were very effective for their time.
#1. An Old Letter Removal Spy Device
During World War 2 this letter removal real spy device was used to extract the letter from inside, without destroying the envelope seal. The pincer-device was inserted into the small unsealed gap at the top of the envelope. Taking grasp of the letter inside the device was turned, winding the letter around it, and then simply extracted through the gap at the top.
#2. An Old Spy Tobacco Pouch Camera
Hidden in this modified tobacco pouch was a 35mm spy camera with spring-winding mechanism that advanced the film between exposures.
#3. Modified Lady’s Spy Makeup Compact
Here, a secret code is concealed inside the mirror of a lady's makeup compact. By tilting the mirror at the correct angle, the spy code is revealed.
#4. A Vintage Spy “Dead” Drop Spike
Communication between spies and their handlers would always be a risk. The “Dead” Drop Spike would allow for secure communications through one person leaving material at a prearranged location and the other person picking up later on. This would eliminate the need for direct contact. This real spy device is a spike that could be pushed into the ground. The device is hollow and would contain messages, documents, or spy film.
#5. A Concealed Old Spy Compass
Spies going into harm’s way had a variety of clever places to hide miniature compasses for escape and evasion in case they were compromised - in razors or combs, uniform buttons or, as seen here, in cufflinks.
#6. An Old Cold War Camera Concealed in Cigarette Pack
This old cold war spy camera was built small enough to easily fit inside a modified pack of cigarettes. The 35mm spring-wound miniature camera had a smooth, quiet operation, allowing the intelligence offices using it to remain clandestine.
#7. Silver Dollar Hollow Spy Coin
More than just a coin, this Eisenhower silver dollar was actually an old spy concealment device used during the Cold War to hide secret messages or small pieces of film.
#8. Vintage Body Worn Spy Clothing
To collect intelligence while mingling with Cold War enemies, agents needed spy accessories that worked as well as they did. In some instances, spies were issued clothing and jewlry fitted with tiny cameras or microphones. Embedded in brooch pins or buttons, agents could mingle while recording the action.
#9. Seismic Intruder Detection Devices
These old spy intrusion detection devices would be used by agents around sensitive locations to monitor movement. Camouflaged as rocks or sticks, these Cold War devices were used to sense the movement of people, vehicles or animals up to a distance of 300 meters away. These old spy gadgets - running on tiny power cells - had built-in radio transmitters that relayed data via coded impulses.
#10. An Old Concealed Radio Receiver Spy Pipe
This vintage spying pipe is fitted with a micro radio receiver that allowed the undercover agent to hear radio transmitted sound via bone conduction - from the jaw to the ear canal.
Old Spy Gadgets vs New
Old spy equipment used to be esoteric, accessible only to government agents, but that has changed significantly. Today the market is flooded with spy equipment and their use has soared. No longer are these tools reserved for intelligence agencies. If you were to hire a private investigator you can be assured they will have their own PI gear.
Spy gear is useful for businesses, investigators, law enforcement, government departments, and private individuals for a variety of purposes.