Newsletter No. 211 August 6, 2016

Newsletter No. 211 August 6, 2016


by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Now that I am retired from the CIA, I have some free time on my hands so when Mr. Royster asked me  to write an article on publications and organizations created for the sole purpose of selling fake daggers and other edged weapons, I accepted it with pleasure. Thanks to my gallery of advanced collectors, I have been able to secure access to new sources of information which are generally unavailable for the majority of collectors. This knowledge and my experience of collecting the German militaria for about 40 years provide an opportunity for judging and advising newcomers to the collecting community. I have witnessed the emergence of new pseudo-experts and the slow but sure collapse of yesterday`s icons of the German dagger and edged weapons business. So, let’s get started.

Always remember these points before you reach for your checkbook or credit card:

  1. Nobody can be trusted. The best advice for any collector is his own knowledge.
  2. To get this knowledge will cost you.
  3. A dealer is only interested in making a sale. Do not believe his stories and creations but do believe your own eyes and your own knowledge.
  4. It`s important to understand that if something seems to you doubtful or at all questionable believe it that if and when you decide to resell a questionable item someone might well know more than you do and will quickly inform you of your mistake in purchasing a fake or mis-attributed item
  5. And probably the most important thing to realize that the price of knowledge is error. You will make mistakes based on the lies of crooked authors and even more crooked dealers. The price of knowledge can be painful.

Now, let us begin our educational program:

The first fakes under discussion are going to be the “golden” series by Major James .P. Atwood. Major Atwood is most truly the evil genius of German edged weapons collectors. This person did his best to evoke interest to these items, but his intentions were far from altruistic; he was motivated by the desire for money.

Atwood, a CIA operator, was stationed in Berlin and used his residence in Germany to further his business ventures.

In those early days he realized that marketing was crucially important for his business. It doesn’t really matter what you sell, what matters is he way you do it.

He was the first who created a purported authoritative work on edged weapons of superior quality.  His work on German edged weapons was a high-quality work with excellent illustrations that established a large number of daggers ranging from doubtful ones to explicit fakes. Books certainly have existed prior to Atwood and after him, but he alone had filled the gap of a dealer’s presentation album for nearly 30 years.

Later, in 2000, LTC (Ret) Thomas Johnson did the same thing, using the latest technologies. Let us return to the activities of Atwood. Being adventure natured, as an advanced CIA contract worker, Atwood enjoyed access to official German records and institutions such as dagger and edged weapons manufacturers in Germany.

His commercial acumen and artistic taste gave him the background on how to convert hardware into a tangible dollar. Taking advantage of his contacts as well as contacts among former Third Reich personnel, first of all, he bought up the German manufacturers’ stock surplus and a number of Damascus blades of post-war production manufactured by a certain Herr Müller. Using the production facilities of this workshop, he had items created that he displayed in his book.

Through his contacts in the CIA he moved his products to American dealers, and he did not limit his protected shipments to fake daggers and swords. Atwood also was involved in shipping surplus German automatic weapons to militant American groups. His business rival, John Angolia, another CIA asset, informed the authorities about Atwood’s activities and caused a Federal investigation to commence

Because of his connections with CIA clandestine activities, it was deemed inopportune to publically prosecute Atwood and charges of tax fraud, illegal weapons dealings and other charges were duly dismissed by Federal courts.

Following his clearance of criminal activity, Atwood published the book that along with legitimate daggers and swords also contained his fakes, fakes that could only be obtained by dealers from him. He made considerable profits not only from the sale of his book but also from selling the fakes depicted in it to gullible collectors.

Atwood was clever enough not sell these fakes himself. He sold his fakes through various crooked American, and British, dealers and these fakes were sold at militaria shows and supported by fabricated stories about veteran’s families who had brought these recently fabricated rarities to dealers and sold to them for very low prices.  The crooked dealer then displayed the Atwood book showing a picture of the fake and was able to reap a significant profit from the believing buyers.

What was it that dealers did business with Atwood? Dealers made huge profits from the sale of Atwood fakes and at the same time, as his customers, Atwood could be of considerable assistance to his dealer customers because of his government position. (Atwood was also the ex-FBI agent who was involved in smuggling of weapons to Cuba, knew personally Barbie, Skorzeny and other less prominent Third Reich personalities).

Now let’s move on to some of the items created by Atwood and his eager followers.


  1. Almost all gold-plated daggers: the so-called Generals’ dagger of the Army, LW, and the Customs and HJ are merely upgraded and gold-plated from standard ones from the Army, LW, Custom, HJ etc.
  2. A number of Damascus items: Himmler’s letter openers with his signature in gilt letters Epoxied on, plus the SS M-33 and M-36 daggers with recently-made Damascus blades signed, spuriously, by Müller.
  3. Absolutely fantasy pieces like the so-called SS prototype with Müller’s recently fake Damascus blade.
  4. And the most famous of his fakes was a copy of the so-called Herman Goring’s Wedding Sword. This he had created by the Solingen firm of Eichhorn from their original drawings of the authentic Wedding Sword, then in a private German collection. This sword, allegedly found in a tavern in the South, was eventually sold for over a million dollars!

So the question now to be asked is: why did a person who was involved in such profitable political and economic games as collaboration with ex-Nazis, dealing, through his controlled Merex company, with illegal weapons, drug smuggling, and the sale of former Soviet nuclear artillery shells to the Pakistanis, bother to make, authenticate and sell fake Nazi edged weapons?

Today, the so-called “advanced dagger” collecting world is filled with Atwood’s creations and his “Adolf Hitler personal PP Walther,” and his “Adolf Hitler assassination rifle” along with his fake “Goering Wedding Sword” are the jewels in many “truly significant” collections.

P.T. Barnum was right: A sucker is born every minute.

And here are photographs of both Atwood’s fakes and fantasy pieces, taken from his book, and additional illustrations of more recent fakes and fantasy pieces taken from various purportedly authoritative sites but which are really nothing more than advertisement for fakes by crooked dealers and collectors.

First we show pictures of fake and fantasy pieces from the Atwood book and then more recent fakes and fantasy pieces.

The Atwood-invented 'Himmler letter opener' with fake Damsacus blade and glued-on lettering.
The Atwood-invented ‘Himmler letter opener’ with fake Damsacus blade and glued-on lettering.
A total fantasy dagger put together with post-war parts. A totally non-extant piece.
A total fantasy dagger put together with post-war parts. A totally non-extant piece.
A recently gold-plated HJ leader's dagger. This dagger was never gold-plated. Someone has ruined a good piece, unless this is one of the Atwood fakes with a fiberglass scabbard
A recently gold-plated HJ leader’s dagger. This dagger was never gold-plated. Someone has ruined a good piece, unless this is one of the Atwood fakes with a fiberglass scabbard
Another fantasy 'SS Honor Dagger with a hanger based on the original one for the Army honor dagger.
Another fantasy ‘SS Honor Dagger with a hanger based on the original one for the Army honor dagger.
An Atwood post-war "SS presentation dagger" with a fake Damascus blade and epoxied-on lettering
An Atwood post-war “SS presentation dagger” with a fake Damascus blade and epoxied-on lettering
Another "SS Honor/Prototype dagger" with reworked Luftwaffe officer's dagger hanger.
Another “SS Honor/Prototype dagger” with reworked Luftwaffe officer’s dagger hanger.


5 thoughts on “Newsletter No. 211 August 6, 2016

  1. I know that many Russian dagger collectors have been swindled by American, British and German dealers. All the big dealers sell fantasy pieces for huge money but only after their paid shills have “authenticated” them on the forums. These forums are full of stupid people mixed in with the front men for crooks. Now, they are even faking standard daggers but all they are going to do is to destroy the market. Once the word gets out, and this von Johnston person seems to be headed that way, all of these collections full of fantasy pieces or upgraded fakes will end up full of junk the collectors can never sell or even give away at a Braille convention.

    1. We have hundreds of color pictures from Mr. von Johnston of all manner of fake daggers.
      Most were taken from the websites of dealers or especially from the forums.
      And we are going to post them, believe it.
      I agree that the forums are nothing but sales shills for dealers but a good part of their membership consists of illiterate idiots with riker mounts filled with worthless garbage they are desperate to get approved by other twits.
      Look at the uproar over the RODO SS buckles for instance.
      Dold made only one type of buckle.
      Now there are dozens of different types floating around, some only weeks old, and the loud-mouthed “experts” strut their stuff in print.
      “Look at me!” they scream, “I’m the world’s greatest expert on…belt buckles, rare daggers, plastic Knights Crosses, Hitler paintings, SS uniform buttons and on and on.
      The loudest pseudo-expert in belt buckles works for Gottlieb!
      And don’t forget books written about recently-made camouflaged German steel helmets or other books showing rubber Knights Crosses designed to be worn in the shower!
      This reminds me of the noise coming from the zoo’s monkey house at feeding time.

  2. Why don’t you publish this? I found it literate and on point.

    My, my, busy hands are happy hands. It is better for the crooked dealers to be rewarded sooner rather than later.

    I have heard from a long-time collector who has traveled to militaria shows for many years, and he is no longer involved in active collecting because of the insanity generated by the online forums that has percolated throughout the field. As pointed out by Royster, a collector must garner his own knowledge and ignore the sales pitch of dealers. I am told that the rules for originality have become so byzantine and convoluted that most original items will be rejected in favor of items offered by the collector’s go-to dealer. So you see, nothing much has changed—only the technology.

    Those who delude themselves that they are “investing” in military items are the true unfortunates. If you collect for something other than the pleasure of owning original pieces, you are destined for a rude shock when you try to cash in. I recall how Harper Noehren believed his collection would be his retirement bonanza. I wonder how he views things today. Then there is David Delich…

    1. Here you have the reason why I never buy from a “important” dealer, buy anything offered on the Internet or only read the forums for loud laughter. The crooks and the idiot brigade have done damage to the hobby by turning it into a fake fest that is the electronic twin of the MAX and SOS shows. If you want to see what grotesque fakes are new on the market, just look at the internet dealer postings and at the forums. A nice tunic that started out in life as a Leutnant of Medical service has been upgraded to that of a field marshal and the so-called “Hitler Youth 1936 Olympics” recently-invented fantasy dagger is only found on forums and on the lists of the most exclusive fakers. Oh yes, and in the collections of the pin heads. But pin heads with money!

  3. Dear Dr. Harry von Johnston,

    I am a college undergraduate student currently studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. I am a prospective history major student, and also an amateur firearm historian online. I regularly contribute to the documentation of obscure firearms on several internet communities.

    Around the last year or so, me and my fellow amateur firearm researchers happened upon an obscure firearm known as the SDK silenced rifle (Schalldämpfer Karabiner), also known as the “Adolf Hitler assassination rifle”. We initially documented the weapon based on the common sources available on the internet, which describe it as being a Nazi rifle made during WWII, brought to the United States from Germany by Lt. Col. James P. Atwood in the 1960s. However, I found myself intrigued by the figure of James Atwood, and proceeded to dig deeper into information on this figure.

    Searching on James Atwood, I quickly discovered this article that you authored for Mr. Arthur D. Royster on the subject of Atwood fakes. Reading through the article made me realize that James Atwood was a notorious fraudster, and you specifically mentioned the “Adolf Hitler assassination rifle” as one of his many fabrications.

    The discovery of your article was of great interest to me and my colleagues, and we immediately used your article to reassess the SDK silenced rifle and rewrote our documentation, pointing out its fabricated history. However, despite this initial breakthrough in knowledge, we struggled to find any leads that could lead us to more detailed information on the SDK silenced rifle.

    Thus, representing the wishes of both me and my partners, I wish to inquire you on more in-depth knowledge regarding the “Adolf Hitler assassination rifle”, as well as any relevant information concerning the figure of James Atwood in relation to the rifle. Your contribution will be of great value to our research, and to the improvement of public knowledge as a whole.

    David Wu

    P.S. Here ( is a link to me and my colleagues’ documentation on the SDK silenced rifle. We have attributed this article in the references section.

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