I primarily collect handcuffs, but also have other police memorabilia including police call boxes, early police lanterns, police rattles and a few patches and badges. I was a police officer for almost 40 years and have picked up items here and there, but have been gathering handcuffs as a serious collector for about seven years. I have over 600 restraints right now. The largest collection in the world is over 1,500 handcuffs.
My collection of handcuffs is a visual time line of modern restraints, from 1850 to the present. I don’t know if the average person would call handcuffs beautiful. I do, but I’m biased. There is an artistic symmetry to handcuffs that attracts many people, and of course there is a segment of the population that experience handcuffs first hand.
The history of many of the US made handcuffs and their makers is well documented and very interesting. Until the mid-1800s the US used either European-made restraints or a riveted style cuff or leg iron. By looking at the various designs, year by year you can follow the progression of locking handcuffs to the modern swing through design which was patented in 1912.
It’s not a numbers thing for me.
Damon Shields, 64, Clarkston, USA
My favorite restraint is probably the McKenzie Mitt. For lack of a better description, they are steel mittens. The device came about after McKenzie, a corrections officer, was shot in the leg. It was thought that the Mitt would limit mobility and was the answer to safely transporting prisoners by train. However, the Mitt turned out to be too good. The railroad companies had strict rules that prisoners could not be unshackled for any reason. This meant that if a prisoner had to go to the bathroom, a guard would have to assist him in every way. Needless to say the Mitt didn’t last long. There are only about 35 pairs known to exist.
It is always fun to watch the reaction people have when you tell them you collect handcuffs. I quickly explain that I don’t have any with fur on them and that they’re the tools of what may be the world’s second oldest profession.