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Stolen sheet of bank notes recovered

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Good news came in many forms at the Long Beach Coin, Stamp and Collectibles Expo in early June.

It started June 2 on dealer set-up day when dealer Kevin Lipton was reunited with a sheet of bank notes that had been stolen almost two years ago from his office. It continued June 3 when lines formed to get in on the first public day and finished up with nearly a $10 million Heritage auction.

The story of the recovered sheet is probably the one that will be retold in future years.

A Santa Ana, Calif., vest-pocket dealer named Virgel Nickell, who calls himself a “dabbler” in National Bank Notes, returned the sheet to Lipton and was surprised with a $5,000 reward.

The six-note sheet of Series 1929 Type II $5 National Bank Notes from the Branchville Bank of Branchville, N.J., is unique and had been stolen from Lipton’s Beverly Hills, Calif., office in a burglary in October 2008.

“The notes are from Branchville, N.J., and that’s the town where I went to summer camp as a child. I bought the sheet at a Christie’s auction in 1982, and they were framed and displayed in my office for years,” Lipton said.

Nickell came across them at a Huntington Beach, Calif., swap meet in early May. Nickell said a young man who wanted to sell the sheet spoke to him.

“He wanted $500 for it,” Nickell said.  “I figured it was a common sheet, but my reaction was that it was good buy at $500.  But when a friend and I researched it on the Internet we learned it was not only rare, it was not mine,” Nickell continued.

“I knew I couldn’t keep it. I had to return this to its owner, so I brought the sheet to Long Beach because I thought Kevin would be there. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I cried when he gave me money for it. I wasn’t expecting that,” Nickell said.

Lipton was happy to pay the reward.

“I couldn’t believe it when he showed me the notes.  They’re the only thing taken that I cared about,” Lipton declared.

The public was apparently happy, too, and showed it by coming out to the show in large numbers.

“The opening morning crowd was even larger than this past February when the ‘Ship of Gold” sunken treasure display was the featured exhibit,” said Ronald J. Gillio, expo general chairman.

This time the draw was a multi-million display of the Cardinal Type Collection of Early Copper, which featured over two dozen high-grade early American pieces, including items from an all-time finest PCGS Set Registry collection assembled by Martin Logies for the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The foundation was in the headlines recently as the buyer of the first 1794 silver dollar, paying a record $7.85 million.

The official Long Beach auction conducted by Heritage realized nearly $10 million, though it continued on in electronic form until a scheduled June 9 close.

Held three times each year, the next Long Beach expo is slated for Sept. 23-25.

For more information see the expo website at www.LongBeachExpo.com, or call Expos Unlimited at (805) 962-9939.

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