The rare Australian 1813 “Holey dollar” of 5 shillings was returned
to the American Numismatic Association’s Edward C. Rochette Money
Museum on Oct. 23, according to ANA officials.
The coin was among more than 300 U.S. and world coins stolen from
the museum by an employee
in 2007. The Holey dollar was sold at
a July 2007 auction in Melbourne, Australia. The reported price
realized was $216,690 in Australian funds ($191,082 U.S.) including
the buyer’s fee.
“We are delighted to have the ‘Holey dollar’ Spanish real returned
to our museum collection,” ANA Executive Director Jeff Shevlin said.
The coin was stolen from the museum by former ANA Collections
Manager Wyatt E. Yeager, who was sentenced in April to 27 months in
federal prison and two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay
$948,505 in restitution.
Yeager worked at the ANA from Jan. 3, 2007, to March 21, 2007, and
he sold the stolen coins through auctions in 2007 and 2008 in
Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland and the United States.
Coinworks Ltd., the Australian numismatic firm that returned the
Holey dollar to the ANA, bought the coin at the auction. The company
specializes in Australian rare coins and notes, according to the ANA
“Coinworks is an organization that prides itself on its strong
ethic and commitment to the industry. That Coinworks initiated the
discussions regarding the return of the 1813 ‘Holey dollar’ to its
rightful owner (ANA) is a clear demonstration of the principles by
which we operate,” Belinda Downie of Coinworks said.
When asked if Coinworks was compensated monetarily for the return
of the Holey dollar, ANA officials said “all details about the return
of the Holey dollar are subject to a confidentiality agreement.”
The Holey dollar is struck on a 1788 Spanish-American silver
8-real coin of Charles III struck in Mexico City. It has a large hole
punched out in its center; around the hole on the obverse is the added
text NEW SOUTH WALES 1813 and, on the reverse, FIVE SHILLINGS. About
350 Holey dollars, Australia’s first domestic coin, survive today,
according to the ANA.
The Spanish 8-real coin (or dollar) was widely used by many
countries as international currency because of its uniformity and
milling characteristics. Some countries, like Australia, countersigned
the Spanish dollar so it could be used as their local currency. In the
United States, the Spanish dollar remained legal tender until the
Coinage Act of 1857.
In a story published in the Jan. 30, 2012, issue of Coin
World, when ANA officials publicly acknowledge the theft for the
first time, ANA President Tom Hallenbeck “characterized the
investigation and search for the stolen coins as complex and
“From our first contact with the authorities, it took a long time.
The wheels of justice sometimes are not very fast,” Hallenbeck said.
Hallenbeck told Coin World in January that the ANA’s
museum staff noticed items were missing in October 2007, and an
internal investigation was launched. Shortly after, local law
enforcement and FBI officials were notified in Colorado. He noted that
museum staff worked with authorities during the investigation and
played a critical role in helping to uncover vital evidence in the
case. He said the theft was kept confidential so as not to compromise
the ongoing investigation, during which Yeager relocated to Ireland.
ANA Museum inventory
Three ANA staff members and outside consultants spent the first 10
months of 2010 conducting a complete inventory and appraisal of the
numismatic holdings at the ANA museum, then ANA Executive Director
Larry Shepherd reported during an Oct. 26, 2010, ANA Board of
Shepherd told the board it was the first time that everything in
the ANA Museum had been cataloged and a value determined for each
item. At that time Shepherd said a conservative market value of the
museum’s holdings was slightly more than $37 million.
During October 2010, the board hired Robert Wittman Inc., a
security and recovery consulting firm that specializes in recovering
stolen art and collectibles, to investigate and recover the stolen
coins. The company’s founder and chief investigator, Robert K.
Wittman, founded the FBI’s National Art Crime Team.
ANA officials said in January 2012 that they could identify the
vast majority of stolen coins through photographs and descriptions of
the coins obtained when they were accessioned.
All of the ANA coins stolen were “raw” (uncertified and not
encapsulated in plastic holders) when stolen, although some were later
certified and graded before Yeager consigned them to auction or sold
At the time of Yeager’s sentencing, Wittman told Coin
World that his firm was actively investigating the case but that
“because of the sheer immensity of the numbers we can’t go after every coin.”
According to a story published in the May 14, 2012, issue of
Coin World, when Coin World asked Wittman “what,
if any, steps have been taken to notify the buyers at auction of
stolen coins consigned by Yeager, Wittman replied, ‘The ANA is not
responsible for alerting people if they purchased a stolen coin; it is
the responsibility of the possessor to figure out if the coin is
stolen,’ adding, ‘the ANA is the victim here.’ ”
Other recovered coins
The ANA has also recovered several other stolen coins that were
among the 38 coins and other items Yeager surrendered to the FBI. The
ANA determined that 32 of the 38 pieces belong to the museum.
Among the other coins recovered is a Netherlands Brilliant
Uncirculated 1946 gold pattern with Franklin Roosevelt portrait,
several Mexican reales from the 15th to 17th centuries, a tetradrachm
of Lysimachus from Thrace, and coins from Bolivia, Chile and Costa Rica.
ANA officials say the “ANA is determining its options for the next
steps in the recovery process.” According to the ANA, Wittman is no
longer assisting in the recovery process.
In August 2009 the ANA received $750,000 in a negotiated
settlement from its insurance carrier for losses incurred resulting
from the theft of coins.
The ANA filed its claim with XL Specialty Insurance Co., New York
City, in early 2008 after becoming aware of coins missing from the
museum and after determining what ANA officials believed to be the
number and value of the coins.
The settlement represented a negotiated compromise based on what
ANA could then document with regard to the missing coins. The terms of
the settlement establish that ANA will retain title to any of the
stolen coins that may be recovered.
ANA officials said the insurance payment was placed in a dedicated
museum fund. They acknowledged that some settlement funds may be used
for recovery costs.
No money has been distributed from the dedicated museum fund,
according to ANA officials.
According to the Oct. 23 ANA news release, upon their return, the
coins were photographed, cataloged and returned to the museum’s
vaults. The ANA upgraded its security and surveillance systems
following the theft, with improvements including the installation of
cameras and changes to its protocols for accessioning and
Funds used to upgrade the security system came from the ANA
general fund. The ANA has also reinstated an on-duty security guard
position at its Money Museum.
In the coming months, the museum also will hire additional
part-time staff to catalog and photograph the ANA’s museum collection
and to make museum resources available online to members.
Funding to pay the part-time staff will also come from the ANA
general fund, according to ANA officials.“This project will take
several years, but it is intended to secure this valuable ANA
resource,” Shevlin said.
An updated list of coins stolen from the ANA Museum is posted at
If collectors are concerned that they may have purchased a stolen coin
or if they have information about any of the coins on the stolen coin
list at the ANA website, ANA officials request they contact the ANA at