A Visit with Michael Busch,
the King of Berliner Handcuffs


An interview by Lars Holst


My girlfriend Ulrica and I were again invited to Michael Busch and his wife Nele in their very nice house in Greven, outside the beautiful city of Münster in Germany.

As always, we had a really great time together and the hospitality of the Busch family had no limits.

The last time we visited them, in 2008, they just had moved into their new house. Most of the restraints in Michael’s collection were still in boxes and waited to be unpacked. Now, the most significant pieces of the collection are nicely displayed on several boards that Michael made himself. The boards are decorating a few walls in the house.

Michael’s collection consists of about 800 objects including handcuffs, leg irons, thumb cuffs and nippers. The rest of the collection is stored in a ten drawer flat file cabinet. Most cuffs are folded and there is barely any space between them. Michael could easily fill three similar flat files and give each restraint some more space. On the other hand; very few collectors have enough space for their extensive collections.  

After having a closer look at Michael’s collection, I’m very impressed by the number of truly rare restraints. - Especially the ones in the German section which is Michael’s specialty.

Most collectors have not even held an authentic Berliner cuff in their hands; even fewer collectors are in possession of them. I counted in totally 10 Berliner cuffs, two of them attached to belts. - Then I didn’t count in his so called Horst Stein handcuffs and other “semi-Berliner” handcuffs like the French bicycle chain handcuffs. Michael also has three rare Schwertfeger bar handcuffs of different styles. Also Michael’s selection of Horst Moabit handcuffs and leg irons is stunning. Not many models are missing to make the collection complete.

Michael Busch with a Berliner Handcuff

Michael Busch with an early Mühlenfeld Berliner from his hometown Wuppertal-Barmen.
Some of his boards can be seen in the background.

Michael, for how many years have you been collecting?

I started to collect by the age of 13 so it must be about 30 years by now.

What are your favorite handcuffs?

My favorites are the Berliners, no doubt. If I only could keep one single handcuff from my collection, it would be the Dortmunder (aka Mühlenfeld 113).

What’s the aim of your collection?

I have a collection consisting of both common and very rare cuffs. Today I have come to focus in rarer restraints. I don't buy all colors of Peerless that I used to do years back, but when new handcuff models come out that are sold to police officers only (like the Clejuso model 9 or the new range of Hagge "Deutsche Polizei" handcuffs) I surely do my best to get them for my collection."

Michael, what restraints are on the top of your “wish-list”?

Oh, there are several. The top item would be a Mühlenfeld restraint belt but I don’t think I’ll ever find one. I also would like to find the Mühlenfeld 115 chain handcuffs and the corresponding leg irons. The so called Horst Stein leg irons, the Dortmunder with foldable bows are also on the top of my list.

You have been collecting for many years, do you have any special memories you want to tell us about?

Absolutely! In 1996 I visited Hamburg. In the evening I passed an antique shop and saw a Berliner cuff displayed in the shop window. I hardly slept that night and called the shop as soon as they opened up; just to make them put the Berliner aside for me as I couldn’t come there until after 5 o’clock in the afternoon. This cuff is still one of my favorite cuffs. I also didn’t pay too much for it, especially not compared to the prices of today.

Thanks Michael, it has been a great pleasure looking through your amazing collection.

Rare German restraints including two Schwertfeger and several Berliner.

A great selection of the famous Horst Moabit handcuffs and leg irons.

Nippers of different kinds and origins.

A selection of British restraints.

Two rare Swiss handcuffs (top), three French bicycle chain handcuffs (middle), four Italian Bagno handcuffs (sides) and one unknown handcuff (bottom).

One of the stuffed drawers in Michael’s cabinet. A great selection of Stotz handcuffs can be seen in the middle.

This is the Berliner Michael found in an antique shop in Hamburg. The bows are not protruding through the lock case as on later Berliner. Later Berliner also has protruding hinge rivets. On this one there are small “locks” covering the hinge pin.

A Mühlenfeld Berliner to the left and the “Hamburg” Berliner to the right.
The Mühlenfeld Berliner is probably manufactured later. The bows are protruding through the lock house
and the rivets outside the hinge. Earlier Berliner are much more “handcrafted” than the later ones.

Michael bought this Berliner from Gene Brogan at the Cannon’s Convention a few years ago.

Michael’s very first Berliner that he traded in early 1990’s and the
only known “double hinge” Berliner.

Top view of the double hinge Berliner, very clean design.

Michael and Nele Busch with their children Noa and Mathis to the left. Me and my girlfriend Ulrica to the right.

Text and pictures by Lars Holst, July 2010     

Visit the Lars Holst Restraint Collection at: http://www.holstcollection.com/

Visit the Michael Bush Handcuff Collection at: http://www.vincula.de/