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Coins recovered from 2001 theft

A dozen of 44 U.S. error coins stolen from an Indiana motel room in 2001 were recovered and returned to their owner through the joint efforts of three Professional Numismatists Guild members.

The recovered coins belong to collector and researcher Mark Lighterman of Sanford, Fla. Error expert Ken Potter says the recovered coins could be worth into the six figures.

Recovered is what is believed to be the only known Walking Liberty half dollar struck on a planchet intended for a 5-cent piece; one of three known Standing Liberty quarter dollars struck on a 1-cent planchet; a unique 1858 Flying Eagle cent on a silver half dime planchet; and a double denomination Indian cent on a previously struck Barber dime. There is also a transitional error 1944-dated Washington quarter on a zinc planchet intended for 1943 cents.

The coins were stolen along with a camera, laptop computer and a collection of more than 1,000 casino gaming chips from Lighterman’s motel room in Southport, Ind., when he was traveling to the Central States Numismatic Society convention in Indianapolis in April 2001.

The recovery was made by PNG member Paul Nugget of Spectrum East in East Meadow, N.Y.; PNG associate member Andrew Glassman, president of Spectrum Numismatics International in Irvine, Calif.; and PNG board member and former PNG president Fred Weinberg of Fred Weinberg, Inc. in Encino, Calif.

Ironically, Lighterman was told by Weinberg about the unexpected recovery just a few hours after he went to the bank to look at his remaining off-metal error coins for the first time since the theft.

“I was in total shock because I had not touched the wrong planchet collection in eight years, and that same day I got the phone call that a dozen of the coins had been recovered,” said Lighterman. “After all these years I thought they were in a river somewhere because nothing had ever surfaced from the theft except for my Nikon camera that showed up in a pawn shop in Ohio and some obsolete casino chips someone tried to cash in at a Florida casino.

The recovery began when Nugget was contacted in late August by a Georgia client who wanted to sell a large group of coins and paper money.

“The group included error coins that my client purchased in an estate sale about five years ago,” said Nugget. “With his permission I wanted to show them to several error coin experts, and I contacted Fred first.”

 “As I opened the package sent by Paul I immediately knew these were unusual and rare error coins, but there was no writing or other notations on the coins’ holders to indicate any pedigree or source,” said Weinberg. “When I began researching them I realized that 12 of the 13 error coins submitted by Paul’s client matched the descriptions of coins taken in the 2001 theft.”

The recovered stolen coins are:

•    No date Type II design Standing Liberty quarter on a cent planchet
•    No date Shield nickel on a nickel 3-cent planchet
•    No date Walking Liberty half dollar on a 5-cent planchet
•    1865 2-cent on cent planchet
•    1858 half dime on silver 3-cent planchet
•    1858 uniface Flying Eagle cent on silver half dime planchet
•    1866 Shield nickel on cent planchet
•    1899 Indian cent struck over an 1899 Barber dime
•    1908 Indian cent on silver dime planchet
•    1926 Lincoln cent on silver dime planchet
•    1936 Buffalo nickel on silver dime planchet
•    1944-S Washington quarter on a 1943 steel cent planchet.

“I am so happy get these 12 coins back after all this time, and I thank Paul Nugget and his client, and Fred Weinberg and Andrew Glassman for their help and support,” said Lighterman.

The entire listing of coins and casino chips taken in the 2001 theft can be found online at www.surok.addr.com/stolen2.htm.

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