The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 13, March 28, 2004, Article 7


  Last Sunday, March 21, The Miami Herald published a
  story about the lawyer for the du Pont family working to
  track down the coins stolen in the famous 1967 robbery.
  It's lengthy, and I'll only print a few excerpts here, but it's
  a very interesting article that I encourage our subscribers
  to read.

  "For 36 years, Harold Gray has been on an extraordinary
  mission -- to recover what may be the most famous stolen coin
  collection in the United States.

  The hunt has taken him from England to Uruguay to Switzerland,
  through the doors of countless coin shops and at times deep into
  a shadowy underworld populated by thieves and swindlers. The
  Palm Beach lawyer and former insurance investigator has followed
  every clue, every thread, every whiff of possibility that might lead
  to one of the purloined coins.

  Since October 1967, when five hooded gunmen invaded the
  Coconut Grove estate of chemical empire heir Willis Harrington
  duPont, binding the family with silk neckties and stealing the
  valuable coin collection from duPont's safe, Gray has been on
  the case.

  ''We remain,'' he says today, "in hot pursuit.''

  [I assume this is lawyer-speak for "the client hasn't run out of
  money yet."   They may still be in hot pursuit of the coins, but
  after 36 years it's pretty safe to say the thieves got away with
  their caper.   No one has ever been prosecuted for the original
  theft.  The story goes on to describe the recent return of
  the 1866 ''no motto'' silver dollar, and the Linderman 1804
  silver dollar that someone walked into the offices of the
  American Numismatic Association in 1982.  The article
  describes the robbery and some earlier coin recoveries as
  well.  -Editor]

  "A Herald story at the time showed an aerial photo of the
  estate at 3500 St. Gaudens Rd., dubbing it the scene of the
  ''great coin robbery.'' The story said gunmen burst into the
  duPonts' bedroom shortly after midnight, tying up the couple,
  their 4-year-old son, the maid and the butler while their other
  son slept through the ordeal.

  The robbers were described as courteous one minute,
  dangerous the next -- fetching a bathrobe for the maid when
  she became cold but threatening to put a bullet in the head of
  duPont's wife, Miren, when she momentarily forgot the
  combination to the safe.

  The men escaped in the duPonts' red Cadillac convertible with
  coins and jewelry worth a total of $1.5 million at the time.
  Between 7,000 and 8,000 coins were reported stolen, many
  collected by duPont's father, including 257 rubles and ducats
  from the Prince Mikhailovitch collection of Russia, according
  to the FBI. The Mikhailovitch collection had been slated for
  the Smithsonian."

  "For Gray, who has worked with Willis duPont for 42 years,
  the hunt is partly about righting a wrong, partly about the mental
  challenge. He is a wily character on his own, made even more
  formidable by the vast duPont resources."

  "The very first coins recovered -- in 1968,  just four months
  after the robbery -- were ransomed back by the duPonts for
  $50,000. Private investigator Edward Stanton and his wife,
  Barbara, who stuffed her purse with the cash, made the trade
  in Philadelphia. Recovered: 13 pioneer gold coins, minted
  mostly by mining companies during the 1849 gold rush.

  Later that year, a 1787 gold doubloon was recovered at the
  Towne Motel on Brickell Avenue when a 29-year-old
  ex-convict named William Metzler tried to sell the coin to
  undercover FBI agents. Metzler received a five-year sentence.
  He said he stole the coin from one of the original robbers.

  More coins popped up. In 1969, a ''Stickney'' 1804 silver
  dollar was recovered. A portion of the Mikhailovitch collection
  turned up.

  In 1993, Gray heard about two duPont coins offered for sale
  by an unnamed Israeli collector -- an 1804 ''draped bust''
  dollar, one of only 15 known, and a unique 1850 $5 gold

  Gray flew to Zurich, where the Swiss police and other law
  enforcement agents arranged a fake buy.

  When the operation was aborted, the couriers tried to fly out
  of the country. Swiss police nabbed them at the airport.

  The couriers were arrested, then released. The coins went back
  to duPont."

  To read the full story, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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