Two of the rarest toys in the world are being sold at an online auction today, all thanks to the fun-loving, overgrown kids at the Central Intelligence Agency.
One of them is an Osama bin Laden doll designed by Donald Levine, a former executive at Hasbro who created the GI Joe doll. It has a minimum starting bid of $5,000.
Price tag too steep? Bid on another rarity: the terrorist version of the classic board game Chutes and Ladders, which starts at just $500 and was also designed by the former Hasbro executive. Both prototypes were produced at the behest of the CIA.
When Levine died last year, he left the doll and board game to his eldest son, Neil, who consigned the toys to the Nate D. Sanders auction house in Los Angeles.
With the bidding set to end at 8pm ET tonight, however, no one has stepped up to bid on the CIA terrorist toys.
Sam Heller, a spokesman for the auction house, told VICE News he expects bids to start rolling in minutes before the deadline. Heller said another bin Laden doll — there were only three made — was sold last year for $11,879. Heller said it's the auction house's policy not to disclose the identity of the buyer. One of the three bin Laden dolls is believed to be owned by the CIA.
The Washington Post revealed the existence of the bin Laden doll — and the fact that it was once a CIA top-secret project — in June 2014. The Post reported that the CIA's code name for the bin Laden dolls was "Devil Eyes."
That's likely because the 12-inch-tall bin Laden doll came with a "removable head featuring a depiction of bin Laden as a 'demon,'" according to a description of the doll posted on the auction house's website. "The removable head is a frightening representation of bin Laden, with his face painted bright red with black facial features and bright green eyes…. The doll's permanent head is a look-alike representation of bin Laden."
"Bin laden portrayed as a monster," Heller said. "That's what stands out…. It's supposed to dehumanize him."
Heller said Neil Levine, who did not respond to VICE News' requests for comment, told the auction house that the doll was secretly manufactured for the CIA in 2005 as part of an "influence operation," and was "intended to be used in Arab countries in order to persuade children from idolizing the terror leader" and to "dissuade them from joining a terrorist group such as al Qaeda."
The bin Laden doll is dressed in "traditional Islamic garb, a white removable five-button robe over a four-button white tunic with a mock collar, with off-white cloth pants and a pair of black mock-Velcro boots."
The winning bidder will receive a letter of authentication signed by Neil Levine.
CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani told VICE News the bin Laden "action figure" idea "was proposed and rejected by CIA before it got past the prototype stage."
"To our knowledge, there were only three individual action figures ever created, and these were merely to show what a final product might look like," Trapani said. "After being presented with these examples, the CIA declined to pursue this idea and did not produce or distribute any of these action figures. Furthermore, CIA has no knowledge of these action figures being produced or distributed by others."
What was not previously revealed is that the CIA also asked Levine to design a terrorist board game. A letter of authenticity signed by Levine said the game "has never been seen before."
Trapani was unable to comment about it. But it's based on the precursor to Chutes and Ladders, an Indian board game called Snakes and Ladders, which also happened to be the CIA code name for the project, according to Levine. It was also aimed at dissuading children from joining al Qaeda.
The game features "comical" depictions of "prominent terror leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein" and current al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and now-deceased al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The board game physically depicts the terrorist leaders as snakes — though not artfully drawn snakes. It comes with blue, red, and yellow game pieces in the shapes of a sandal, skateboard, pickup truck, race car, bicycle, and Aladdin-inspired lamp.
"The game was just sitting around in Neil's basement," Heller said. "He just wanted someone else to enjoy it."
UPDATE — 8:36pm ET: The doll sold for $6,250, and the board game sold for $625.
Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold