Dave Lange submitted this great story of his involvement with transporting great rarities from the American Numismatic Association collection. Thanks!
I have a story to add to Ken Hallenbeck's account of security surrounding the Bebee 1913 nickel when the ANA acquired it in 1989.
About ten years later I was tasked with being the courier of that coin to from the ANA's vault to NGC's offices, which were then in Parsippany, New Jersey. This nickel was to be certified and graded by NGC as a courtesy to the ANA. At the same time I was also carrying the ANA's two 1804 silver dollars, the Class I Cohen specimen and the Class III Idler coin. All three were inside the small leather briefcase that I carry to every coin show, and these titanic coins were in the company of my own instructional coins brought from home, as well as my meager purchases from the Colorado Springs coin show and, probably, from Ken's shop in town.
It was ANA Summer Seminar week, and I was serving as an instructor when I was received a call from NGC instructing me to meet with then-ANA Curator Robert Hoge. He confirmed what I'd been told by the office---I would be going home with the big three in my possession.
This was fairly early in the week, Tuesday as I recall, and I had butterflies in my stomach for the remainder of the seminar. I was sworn to absolute secrecy, so I couldn't explain to anyone there my sudden loss of appetite. Any person who knows me will understand that this is an extremely rare symptom, indeed.
When the time came to leave on Friday morning I again met with Robert Hoge at the museum, and he turned over the three coins to me at that time. Each was in an large, acrylic holder of the sort made by Capitol Plastics. It was then that I met my two security guards who would escort me to the airport. Now, you have to imagine that in Colorado Springs during the height of summer most people dress casually, shorts and tee shirts being the norm, and this was especially true on campus during seminar week. Nevertheless, my two guards were the original "men in black." Each was dressed in a dark suit and had shades on, even indoors. When they escorted me to the town car parked in front of ANA headquarters it was hard to say which attracted more attention from the students and instructors awaiting their shuttle to the airport---the limo with darkened windows or my two Secret Service-type escorts. I couldn't imagine a more inappropriate manner in which to carry valuables, since I was used to security people who dress like beachcombers to blend in with the crowd.
I was put into the back seat next to one of the guards, while the other drove. During the ride to the airport I was given a tutorial in what to do in the event of an armed hijacking. The guard seated next to me instructed me to respond to the first sign of trouble by bending over underneath the level of the window, and he also informed me that he might have to rest his shot gun on my back while engaged in a running gun battle!
By the time we got to the airport I was already a nervous wreck. I knew that going through security could be a hassle when carrying coins, as I'd been asked to open my bag many times before. This has never been a problem, as I simply ask for a private screening inside one of the rooms set aside for that purpose. The guards are always satisfied, though they do sometimes ask a lot of questions about the 1799-CC trade dollar they bought while in the service overseas. Easy-peasy, right? Oh no---not only did my guards refuse to allow a search of my bag, they also refused to surrender their side arms while going through security. A confrontation ensued, and I was ready to duck at the first sound of gun shots. Somehow, my guards managed to convince the security people that they were licensed to carry guns into the terminal (this was pre-9/11), and we continued on to my gate. There I parted company with the men in black, and they informed me that there were two plainclothes guards already seated within eyesight of me for my protection (actually, it was for the coins' protection). I looked around and made them both very quickly, though they easily could escape detection by someone not looking for them. Most people don't look up from their books every few seconds, and that was a dead giveaway.
It was at this point that a group of seminar students recognized me and came over to chat coins. Of course, this is always the last thing in the world I want to do at the airport, as it can attract the attention of thieves and other nosy people, but I certainly didn't need it when I was carrying three coins then valued at $4 million for the group. "Hi Dave, what'd you buy at the coin show?" was a typical opening line, and I tried to dodge as many questions as possible.
When the time came to board I was at last able to relax, as I didn't imagine anything bad would happen after that point. I was correct, and the flight to New Jersey went quite smoothly. NGC's own security people at the time, Bob and Dan, met me at the Newark airport (dressed casually, of course), and they drove me back to the office. The ANA's three prized superstars were securely locked inside the vault, and I was at last able to reflect back on my wild week at the seminar. In some ways, each one since that time has seemed pretty tame.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
SECURITY FOR THE ANA'S 1913 LIBERTY NICKEL
Wayne Homren, Editor
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