The Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio is auctioning off a Depression-era relic to raise money for new, modern guns. The department is letting go of a very early, low-serial number Thompson Model 21 submachine gun to pay for current equipment for their deputies.
The current Sheriff, Orvis Campbell, said that previous Sheriff Abe Laird bought the gun on May 13, 1934. He believes that the Thompson may have been used as a riot gun during the Depression.
The auction is slated for Sept. 11, and is expected to bring in around $40,000 to $50,000. The Thompson is valued at $37,000 but as these guns become less and less common they continue to sell for more every year.
“I will be shocked — and I mean absolutely shocked, because we’re having serious conversations with very wealthy people — if it doesn’t bring $50,000,” Campbell told the Columbus Dispatch.
The Thompson isn’t the only gun up for auction at the Tuscarawas County Justice Center this September. The Department is also selling off a few rifles and shotguns along with two 37mm gas and flare launchers.
Part of the reason Campbell expects the Tommy gun to sell for top dollar is that it’s in pristine condition. The department kept the gun in its armory where it saw regular cleaning and preventative maintenance.
The department lost the case years ago, but in a way, that has prevented the gun from rusting in a closet. That and its early production and low serial number — 2575 — are sure to increase its value.
The gun was appraised at a Newark Thompson enthusiast and collector meeting. “To these enthusiasts, the moment they saw it, they’re like, are you kidding me?” Campbell said. “This is almost the Holy Grail of Thompsons.”
Proceeds from these auctions normally go to the county, but the local commissioners agreed to let the department keep the money. The sheriff’s department will use the money to buy deputies new guns and equipment such as holsters, weapon lights and other accessories.
“Sheriff Campbell is doing his best due diligence to make more proceeds for his office and to protect all of us,” said Commissioner Joe Sciarretti. “So those monies, as the resolution stated, are going toward new firearms.”
Currently deputies must pay for their own firearms. This creates a number of logistics issues for the department.
“That can be problematic,” Campbell said. “One, it’s a problem for ordering ammunition, and it’s also a problem for training.”
Even when deputies get together to purchase all the same firearms, in the past, the department purchased and issued the wrong caliber ammunition. This will allow the department to standardize its equipment.
“We have young guys who don’t have much money, and they might be using something not as reputable and good,” said Campbell. “So we’re just going to issue weapons.”
The department doesn’t expect to use all of the money to re-equip its deputies. The rest of the funds will be put in reserve for future equipment needs.
Campbell is looking forward to the auction not just for the money, but for the satisfaction of returning something to the community.
“The second part of it is, when we found out there was such a group of aficionados, it probably belongs with one of them,” said Campbell. “The government’s good at a lot of things; we’re not good with antiques.”