The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 9, February 28, 2021, Article 14


Readers submitted information about some more interesting and notable numismatic thefts. -Editor

Bruce Bartelt writes:

36-aureus of Justinian I electrotype "Regarding greatest numismatic thefts, one of the greatest and saddest must be the 1831 theft from the Cabinet of Medals of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Apparently many valuable and some unique ancient gold coins and medals were removed and have been assumed to have been melted down. One piece was a 36-aureus of Justinian I (electrotypes survive, one in the British Museum). Besides coins, artifacts from a priceless Frankish treasure were taken.

"In my reading I have seen several passing references to this theft and have always wondered if there is a full written account and inventory of the lost items. Do any of our readers know?"

For more information, see:
electrotype; medallion (
The great find and great loss of Childeric's treasure (

Alan Luedeking writes:

"I was surprised not to see the famous theft of coins from the Joseph J. Mickley collection in 1867 on the list."

Right - that's a big one. -Editor

Jefferson inaugural medal stolen from Monticello obverse Jefferson inaugural medal stolen from Monticello reverse

Alan V. Weinberg writes:

"In connection with recent E-Sylum references to Joe Levine, major numismatic thefts & Monticello, I am submitting rather mediocre images of photos Joe gave me in the early 1980s of Julian PR 2 silver Thomas Jefferson inaugural medal by engraver John Reich. This was stolen from Jefferson's Monticello in the early 1980s and has not resurfaced in all these subsequent decades. It has an obverse noticeable rim ding opposite 1801 and a peripheral small gouge on the rev above Wing. The medal is rare in any metal and this silver medal in this condition is worth north of $30,000 today. There are fewer than a dozen silvers known."

"The photos Joe gave me were not of the best quality, even cut off on the edges, and likely given to Joe by Monticello. Still there are defects which identify the medal. It is amazing it hasn't been seen in all these decades which means it has likely sat in a long time collection, perhaps one of your readers without them knowing of its stolen status.

"The medal is also listed in DeWitt/ Sullivan and so would be of interest to political collectors."

We could go on all day with smaller thefts, but Jefferson's personal inauguration medal is really something special. But any rare item with known identifying characteristics is worth being on the lookout for. Here's another missing rarity. -Editor

Alan adds:

"In 1998 this Sheldon-3 1793 Chain cent, likely slab graded EF 40 these days, was mailed raw on approval via Overnight Express Delivery insured / priced for $17,000 to an Oregon collector, in 1998. The collector, since deceased, claimed he received the package empty. It is still out there, not having surfaced so far as both Tony Terranova and I, both regular viewers of better Chain cents, are aware."

Missing Sheldon-3 1793 Chain cent ad

Alan also submitted these notes on other notable coin thefts. -Editor

Circa 1964 an armed robbery at Lester Merkin's NYC office wherein numerous rare coins were stolen, coins appearing soon after in other NYC coin shops.

Circa 1966 I discovered the switching of rare American coins for more common coins in trays at the British Museum. At the time the unsupervised exhibition of coins to off the street visitors invited into their vault rooms was the practice. I discovered this while being allowed to view tray upon tray of treasures over several days. One coin missing was an Uncirculated 1792 half disme donated by either Sir Joseph or Sophia Banks circa 1800. In its place was an EF cleaned 1829 half dime. At least the switched-in coin was the same denomination. As a result of this revelation, the BM instituted considerably more secure visitation viewing.

One of the DuPont armed robbery coins was a 1787 gold Brasher Doubloon (recovered years later) but still outstanding is a unique silver 1866 no motto seated dollar.

A red 1864-L Proof Indian cent, slabbed high grade, stolen out of Rick Snow's bourse case at a Baltimore show several years ago, later traced to Canada and still outstanding. A six figure coin.

A long term switching of large cents from the NYC ANS by William H Sheldon who resold the higher grade ANS large cents with his collection, with many coins ending up in innocent 3rd party hands. Most coins recovered and returned to ANS with some cents still outstanding. The Sheldon switching extended beyond the ANS into other private collections.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Kenny E-Sylum ad02 Books Literature

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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