Although rumored for some time, the American Numismatic Association on Thursday issued a press release
announcing the theft of nearly $1 million worth of coins from the association's museum collection. Here's
Former ANA collections manager Wyatt Yeager entered a guilty plea today in Federal District Court in
Wilmington, DE, to the theft of approximately 300 historically significant coins and other numismatic
objects, valued at $984,740, from the American Numismatic Association Money Museum, ANA President Tom
Hallenbeck has announced.
Yeager, 33, was the museum's collections manager from January through March 2007 and is charged with Theft
of Major Artwork, violation of Title 18, United States, Section 668. Yeager faces a maximum statutory
penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release following any term of
imprisonment. Among the stolen items are an Australian 1813 Holey Dollar, a 1795 Half Eagle and an 1836
The theft was discovered by museum officials in October 2007 and was the subject of an extensive FBI investigation after museum staff confirmed the missing items. The museum staff worked with authorities during the investigation and played a critical role in helping to uncover vital evidence in the case. The theft was kept confidential so as not to compromise the ongoing investigation, during which Yeager relocated to Ireland. Yeager sold numerous rare coins stolen from the museum.
"This is a terrible loss for the ANA, the hobby and for coin collectors everywhere," Hallenbeck said. "Prosecution of this crime has been pursued in accordance with the law. The ANA is continuing this investigation and will diligently pursue the recovery of the stolen items."
The ANA retained Robert Wittman, Inc., a security and recovery consulting firm that specializes in recovering stolen art and collectibles, to investigate and recover the stolen coins. Robert K. Wittman, the company's founder and chief investigator, was the founder of the FBI's National Art Crime Team.
A list of stolen items can be found at www.money.org, by scrolling over the "Communications" dropdown menu and selecting "Museum Theft." A link to the U.S. Department of Justice press release and indictment will be available on the site.
As a result of the theft, the ANA has embarked on an upgrade to its security systems and further modified its internal security procedures. In addition, many of the ANA's important coins are being encapsulated by NGC to allow better inventory control through modern bar coding technology, photography and other enhanced security procedures.
"I want to reassure our members - and hobbyists everywhere - that the ANA is committed to improving the security of its collection, which is a true national treasure. As new technologies are developed, we will continually assess our security needs," Hallenbeck said. "Unfortunately, about 90 percent of museum thefts have some insider component."
"Many of the stolen items were desirable and historically significant," Hallenbeck said. "The ANA maintains theft insurance for its numismatic collections, but no amount of insurance can adequately replace these coins - or the loss of trust or sense of helplessness that we all feel following such a theft."
This is appalling - a museum's worst nightmare. To date none of the missing pieces has been recovered, although 49 have been located (with another 29 unknown. These coins will undoubtedly be the subject of recovery attempts and litigation for some time to come. Thankfully the theft was discovered relatively soon, unlike the switched cents from the American Numismatic Society collection which went without remark for decades.
Weren't there standard procedures in place to prevent this? Who was this guy? I'm not as connected with the hobby as one might think, but I know a lot of people and yet I've never heard of him. The Executive Director ought to be fired. Oh wait, he WAS fired (in October 2007)...
In my book, the buck stops there - even if the Big Cheese had no direct involvement, it is still their responsibility to ensure that the proper checks and balances are in place and being correctly followed. In another time and place the shamed executive would commit Hara Kiri.
To view the stolen item inventory, see:
Items stolen from Money Museum collection
Here are some images of the stolen coins. Coincidentally, one is an Australian Holey dollar similar to the one we discussed last week. These are not common coins and have unique characteristics. Be on the lookout for this coin - has anyone seen it?
1813 Australian Holey Dollar - location unknown
Another missing coin is a nice Chalmer's shilling. Where is it now?
1783 Chalmer's Shilling - location unknown
Coins from Albania, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, The Netherlands, Peru, Poland, and the United States were stolen. Be sure to check the list and keep an eye out for this stolen property. They could be anywhere in the world by now, and E-Sylum readers are in a unique position to help. And not just coins, but medals, patterns and a silver bar.
Some of these, like the bar and Holey Dollar are completely unique and readily identifiable from the photos. Be on the lookout for these!
1656 Mexico Maravillas silver bar - location unknown
Here's a link to a story about the theft on a local Colorado Springs television station.
Guilty Plea In $1 Million Theft Of Historical Coins
Wayne Homren, Editor
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