A number of readers forwarded an article from the New York Times about the American Numismatic Society's hush-hush move of their collection to their new headquarters 22 blocks away in Manhattan this past Saturday.They didn’t exactly hire two guys with a truck to secretly move one of the world’s largest and most valuable coin collections over the weekend in Manhattan. But they did use five standard-issue moving vans.
No armored-car convoys. No helicopter gunships. No National Guard outriders flourishing automatic weapons. Just sweaty movers, in blue shirts with their names stitched at the front, schlepping 425 plastic packing crates that were filled with treasures trussed in humble bubble wrap and garden-variety vinyl packing tape.
Yes, the New York Police Department provided an escort, but during more than eight hours on Saturday, one of the great hoards of coins and currency on the planet, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was utterly unalarmed as it was bumped through potholes, squeezed by double-parked cars and slowed by tunnel-bound traffic during the trip to its fortresslike new vault a mile to the north.
“The idea was to make this as inconspicuous as possible,” said Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director of the American Numismatic Society. “It had to resemble a totally ordinary office move.”
The collection of 800,000 coins, bank notes, medals, commemorative badges, pins, historic advertising tokens, campaign buttons and other artifacts has been amassed during the 150-year existence of the nonprofit society.
The society’s holdings rival the comprehensiveness and rarity of those in the Smithsonian Institution and comprise “one of the world’s great collections, the equivalent of those in Berlin, Paris and the British Museum,” said Christopher S. Lightfoot, an associate curator in the department of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of the collection’s value, Dr. Wartenberg Kagan said, “It is priceless because it has so many unique pieces,” adding with deliberate vagueness that experts had valued it in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“It’s our first coin collection,” said a New York police detective, Gregory Welch, of Emergency Service Unit Truck One, which shadowed the move with hidden heavy weapons “just in case,” along with patrol cars from the First Precinct. He said his unit was accustomed to protecting Federal Reserve gold transfers and gem shipments in the Midtown diamond district.
“Our collection is amazing, and much of it has not been on view,” Dr. Wartenberg Kagan said. The first exhibition, celebrating the society’s 150th anniversary, is to open in October.
Finally, after the massive doors and gates of the vault slammed shut, Dr. Wartenberg Kagan expressed gratitude to the police and the heroic efforts of her staff, and gave the order for the alarm to be armed. “To say I’m relieved,” she said after the lockdown, “is putting it mildly.”
To read the complete article, see: A Treasure Travels, Inconspicuously (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/16/nyregion/16coins.html)
Jim Hughes correctly identified curator Bob Hoge in the foreground of the second photo. It reminds me of the couple times I moved my own collection from bank to bank. One time my bank in downtown Pittsburgh sold its building and closed its classic old-style safe deposit vault, replete with bomb-shelter size vault doors. I found a box to rent in another bank several blocks away. At lunchtime one day I asked a colleague to accompany me for a walk; I loaded up two briefcases and we strolled through the crowds to the other bank. When I moved from Pittsburgh to Virginia I loaded the collection into moving boxes just as the ANS did and brought them down in my car unaccompanied - security by anonymity. Another blogger wrote on the topic of "security through obscurity", citing both everyday and high-profile moves of merchandise in the diamond industry. -EditorTo read the complete blog, see: Schneier on Security (http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/06/security_throug_1.html )
THE JOB BAZARRE
Wayne Homren, Editor
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