Two vintage Tommy guns, found gathering dust in the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina, inspired an “Antiques Roadshow” style trade.
Sheriff William Schatzman quickly realized their value, and decided not to sell, but to exchange the now-illegal guns for 88 Bushmaster rifles.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the Bonnie and Clyde-era 1928 Thompson fully automatic submachine guns were valued at around $30,000 a piece to collectors. Instead of outright selling them, Schatzman and the Sheriff’s Office pursued a trade with a police arms dealer, Craig’s Firearms Supply in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Little is known about the origins of the vintage Tommy guns, but the Sheriff’s Office believes they were gifts from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, as evidenced by documents from 1968 showing that the guns were registered in the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division – now known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
As Schatzman can recall, the tobacco company used to pay its employees in cash, requiring guards in the cash truck to be armed. Once paychecks became the norm, the guns were useless, and were donated to the Sheriff’s office.
The guns were discovered as the Sheriff’s Office prepared to move to a new building. Inventories were taken and the Tommy guns were found; even the police commissioner had no idea they were there.
“I’m sensitive to history and its necessity for the county … but I think the benefit derived exceeds the historical value,” Schatzman told the Journal.
Take a look at the 50 Twitter accounts to follow in the shooting industry.
The sheriff’s office reportedly also hopes to trade 14 Smith & Wesson revolvers and a Kimber frame for 176 new Glock 45-caliber magazines, valued at $3,000.
The idea isn’t unheard of, and a similar story came out of nearby Rowan County last year, where the Sheriff’s office sought out a trade for a nearly identical Tommy gun model.
Watch this video for some more insight on the guns from Rowan County Sheriff Jerry Davis: