John Dillinger's Death Mask

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John Dillinger's Death Mask


Kenneth "Doc" Coffman




Additional information about the sale.


Edward C. Hirschland

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The original death mask of John Dillinger, who had been shot dead by Feds outside the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue on July 22, 1934, entered my Chicago collection almost by accident. I was sitting in the bidders’ section at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in November 2010, minding my own business and waiting for some lots I was interested in. Dillinger’s death mask wasn’t one of them. But when it went on the block, there was astonishingly little interest. Prior publicity had been colorful and enthusiastic. While the lot seemingly withered as Leslie Hindman herself aggressively sought bids from the room, from the phones and from the web, I thought in an instant that this was a huge opportunity. Almost involuntarily my hand with the paddle shot into the air. Before I knew it, I was the high bidder. Leslie even addressed me from the podium and asked, “Ed, what are you going to do with this? Do you really want it?” At that very moment, I knew that I wanted it—badly. There followed a media frenzy on TV, radio, in papers across the land. It was one of the best (though unplanned) decisions of my collecting career. From that fateful moment on, I’ve been the proud possessor of one of the hallmarks of Chicago and American crime.




Kenneth "Doc" Coffman, “John Dillinger's Death Mask,” Caxton Club Exhibits, accessed December 7, 2023,