US Coins

The war on crime

A Mint State 1911-D Indian Head gold $2.50 quarter eagle is a rare and valuable coin. If you have one in your collection, hopefully it will never be stolen. But if it is, a notice sent to the Numismatic Crime Information Center may aid in its recovery.

Images courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries.

I am not sure how much altruism is going on in the numismatic marketplace, but a candidate for the description could be Doug Davis, who conducts the Numismatic Crime Information Center and who has done a lot for the hobby in recent years.

While the likelihood of having your coins, paper money, tokens or medals stolen is small, it does happen, and Doug offers help.

Set up as a nonprofit corporation, NCIC’s mission is to serve as “a national and international resource for the education, prevention and investigation of crimes involving coins, paper money, tokens, and related numismatic items.” Its operations include assisting law enforcement agencies during investigations, maintaining a database of numismatic crimes, hosting with current news and downloadable resources, email alerts of crimes and monthly newsletters, and service as an advocate for numismatic crime victims.

Dealers have been receiving NCIC’s alerts regularly, but the extent to which this goes to the general numismatic community is very small. It costs nothing to sign up, so if you are interested you might want to do this. I contacted Doug about maintaining a permanent database of items stolen in the past, and while this is not a reality yet, it is hoped for in the future. Many coins cannot be differentiated — modern Mint issues, bullion pieces and the like, plus anything for which a sharp photograph does not exist. However, with today’s technology, pictures are easier to create. Paper money is a bit easier to track — with information concerning the type, serial number, plate letter, date and other information that is unique to each note.

Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. have developed photographic methods of keeping track of coins in the past. I envision that coins stolen that were mounted in these firms’ holders may have a photographic record in the future that will be useful, even if the coins are removed from the holders.

NCIC is certainly worth investigating and supporting. I appreciate it a lot, and Stack’s Bowers Galleries staff members are instantly informed when a new alert arrives.

Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private email,, or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.

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