The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 41, October 14, 2007, Article 22


[Arthur Shippee forwarded a giddy New York Times article 
about how three gold Pulitzer Prize medals awarded to 
their rival Newsday were discovered up for sale on eBay 
when the publisher didn't even realize that they were missing. 
Numismatic personalities (and E-Sylum subscribers) Jim Halperin 
of Heritage Auction Galleries and Joe Levine of Presidential 
Coin and Antique Company were interviewed for the story. 
Here are some excerpts. -Editor]

"Newsday?s newsroom got an interesting tip last week: Its 
three gold medals for public service journalism had been 
listed on eBay and sold at a California auction for a total 
of $15,500.

"The online listing had photographs of three gold medals 
that certainly looked like the ones won by the paper in 1954, 
1970 and 1974, along with an extensive description of the medals 
as ?three fabulously rare and never before offered gold Pulitzer 
Prize medals,? obtained ?through an unlikely confluence of 
events? originating with a 2001 estate sale on Long Island.

"This jolted Newsday officials and staff members. Their medals, 
they believed, had long been locked away in a safe at the 
paper?s headquarters (the medals mounted on a plaque in the 
executive offices were reproductions).

"Still unsure if the medals listed on eBay were real or 
fake, company officials decided to look. The main safe was 
opened with a combination, but officials realized they no 
longer had a key to a smaller lockbox inside that held the 
prizes. A locksmith was called to drill into it, and when 
it was opened, the medals were indeed missing.

"?It?s a made-for-newspaper story ? the case of the purloined 
Pulitzers ? but it?s also very embarrassing,? said Bob Greene, 
who led the investigative reporting teams that won the 1970 
and 1974 prizes. ?This is the highest award the Pulitzer 
committee gives, one of the most precious things you have 
as an institution, and we won three of them and they go and 
lose them??

"Newsday reported in Tuesday?s paper that the medals had 
been reported sold. On Wednesday a more detailed article 
led with the delicious scene of company officials searching 
for their own Pulitzers by breaking into their own safe, 
and quoting their own building engineer and accounting 
supervisor on details about the room (protected with 
surveillance cameras) and the safe (which also contained 
petty cash and Newsday gift cards).

"?All those people around as they were drilling into the 
safe, it reminds me of Geraldo Rivera breaking into Al Capone?s 
vault ? and there?s nothing inside,? said Mr. Greene, adding 
?Couldn?t they have looked in on them every six months or so, 
to see if they were still there??

"Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said, ?I 
never heard of anything like this happening before.? Of the 
21 Pulitzer categories, only the public service category is 
awarded as a gold medal. Only one is awarded, and always to 
a newspaper, never an individual, he said. In other categories, 
the recipient is awarded a certificate, a crystal paperweight 
and $10,000.

"Jim Halperin, co-chairman of Heritage Auction Galleries 
in Dallas, said the consigner was a coin dealer who said 
he had purchased the medals at an estate sale on Long Island 
in 2001. He said company policy prohibited him from revealing 
the buyer?s name, except to the authorities.

"?We did not suspect anything unusual about the consigner,? 
said Mr. Halperin, adding that the verification process for 
medals does not place as much importance on pedigree and 
previous owners as other items. ?People ask, ?How do you 
miss something like this?? But there?s also the fact that 
these medals were only three lots out of a four-day auction 
of 12,000 lots: $27 million dollars worth of items.?

"The medals were put up for auction live at a coin show at 
the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif. and 
were simultaneously available for online bidding on eBay 
and the auction house?s Web site. The 1954 award (awarded 
to Newsday for exposing racetrack scandals) sold for $7,000. 
The 1970 award (for exposing secret land deals on Long Island) 
went for $4,500. And the 1974 medal (for a 32-article series 
about the heroin trade in Turkey and the United States) 
went for $4,000.

"?The 1954 medal was bought by a very well-known collector, 
and the other two were bought by a very well-known dealer,? 
said H. Joseph Levine, who owns Presidential Coin and Antique 
Company in Clifton, Va. He declined to give their names 
because he does business with them and said it would be a 
breach of client confidentiality.

"Mr. Halperin said, ?If they are indeed Newsday?s medals, 
I?m confident they?ll get them back.?

"Mr. Mancini said that ?in the end, the important thing is 
that they are recovered.? And where will they be kept?

"?That we?ll have to figure out.?

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

To listen to a National Public Radio piece on the medal, visit: 
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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