Six coins in a traveling exhibit from the American Numismatic Association have reportedly been stolen from a display at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation in suburban St. Louis.
The coins — five gold and one silver — were worth an estimated $18,844, according to Jay Beeton, ANA marketing and education director. Beeton said the total value of the complete exhibit was $20,864.
The stolen coins were the most valuable items in the traveling “Money of the Civil War” exhibit, which also includes postage and fractional currency, Civil War tokens, encased postage stamps, a Confederate war bond, demand notes, and an example of the first coin to feature the “In God We Trust” motto (an 1864 2-cent coin).
The most expensive coin among those missing is an 1862 Coronet gold $5 half eagle, which is in Mint State 60 condition and worth an estimated $15,000, Beeton said, citing the 2012 edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins, commonly known as “the Red Book.”
The other coins in the display that were taken were an 1849 Seated Liberty silver dollar (in Very Fine 30, worth $425), an 1861 Coronet gold $2.50 quarter eagle in About Uncirculated 55 condition (worth an approximate $400), an 1847-O Coronet gold $10 eagle in VF-30 (worth $925) and an 1861 Coronet gold $20 double eagle in Extremely Fine 40 ($1,850).
The final coin was a counterfeit example of an 1857 Indian Head gold $3 coin, which had an estimated bullion value of $244.
Transportation Museum Association President David Ahner, in a statement, asked for the St. Louis community to help recover “these historically irreplaceable artifacts. These coins are important pieces of our collective history. They must be returned so future generations can appreciate our nation’s past.”
If they are not returned, the museum will have to cover the replacement cost, Beeton said.
“When we lend out these displays, part of the agreement is that the agency or club or whatever that is going to be taking the display is responsible for any losses,” he said. “These would be insured as part of our collection, but chances are [the loss] wouldn’t even reach our deductible.”
Beeton disagreed with the characterization of the stolen items as “irreplaceable.”
“It’s not like we let someone have the 1849 pattern double eagle. That would be irreplaceable, as it’s the only one. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, that doesn’t mean that you don’t feel somehow impacted by this.”
Kristen Valenti, special projects coordinator for the St. Louis museum, said: “We’re just devastated by this situation. We’re appealing to the public in hopes that somebody will come forward with some information.”
Valenti would not confirm the timeline as to when the coins were discovered missing, but had told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that museum officials noticed that the coins were missing just prior to the museum’s 11 a.m. opening June 12, a day before the exhibit was slated to open. The coins had last been seen late in the afternoon the previous day, before the museum closed at 5 p.m., she told the local paper.
The exhibit was expected to continue through June 30, but museum officials, as a security precaution, have removed the remaining items in the exhibit, leaving the exhibit boards (which show images of the items) in their place, Valenti said.
“We’re uncomfortable [with leaving remaining items on display] right now with all the attention on the coins,” she said.
The exhibit is located inside the Earl C. Lindburg Automobile Center, a large metal building housing antique cars, in Kirkwood, Mo.
The ANA offers organizations and clubs a choice of 10 small traveling exhibits, including the “Money of the U.S. Civil War” exhibit that was on display in the museum.
The “Money of the U.S. Civil War” exhibit has four full-color panels featuring a total of 27 related numismatic items. Each exhibit panel measures 32 inches wide and 20 inches tall.
The exhibit panels are designed to lay horizontally in secure table-top exhibit cases, with images guiding placement of the coins and other items in the display.
Each of the exhibits is available for loan for $75 plus insured shipping costs, which range from $58 to $65, depending on exhibit. Discounts are available for ANA members and nonprofit organizations.
Exhibit borrowers must provide secure cases for the exhibits or can rent cases from the ANA. The Museum of Transportation borrowed cases from a local coin collector in the St. Louis area, Valenti said.
The Museum of Transportation has announced that the St. Louis Regional Crimestoppers agency is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the subject or subjects responsible for the crime. ■
Story was updated to reflect total value of the collection.