It happens way too often.
A dealer packs up his car after a coin show and heads for home. It’s only a three- or four- hour drive. Makes no sense to fly.
It’s been a long week, he’s tired and his traveling companion is hungry. They find a nice, reasonably priced restaurant to stop at on the way home. It’s a convenient halfway point and a good opportunity to stretch their legs.
But not long after they’ve been seated at their table, another smash-and-grab hits out of nowhere. Their car window is broken and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of coins are stolen from the back seat of the car.
That’s what occurred earlier this month to a Pennsylvania couple returning from a Maryland coin show. Mid-afternoon, driving home from the show, they decided to stop for a bite to eat. When they returned to their car, the back window had been broken and their coins stolen.
And don’t think their coins would have been safe if they had stored them in the trunk. Another Pennsylvania coin dealer was robbed two years ago after stopping at a restaurant on his way home from a coin show in New Jersey. He sat down at a table in full view of his car. But after ordering, he looked out and saw that his trunk was open. All of his inventory was stolen.
A year and a half ago well-known Maryland coin dealer Julian Leidman was dining with family on his way home from a Connecticut coin show. Two 50-pound cases filled with about $1 million in coins and currency were locked in the cargo area of his minivan. But that didn’t stop thieves who broke into the minivan and made off with the cases. That story has a happy ending, however, after an East Coast dealer who was offered some of the stolen coins contacted authorities and most of the inventory was recovered.
Doug Davis of the Numismatic Crime Information Center warns dealers to be alert to anyone overly interested in their activities, hovering near their tables or following them at the coin show or hotel. While there are lone thieves out there, it’s also well known that organized crime is behind many of the thefts.
But dealers aren’t the only people who need to be cautious. Buyers need to be just as wary when it comes to flashing a roll of money or showing off a newly purchased coin.
Bottom line, you can’t be too cautious. I remember the first big coin show I attended. As I left the show for the day my colleague advised me to take off my “Please rob me” sign, also know as my show badge.
So be alert, watch out for strangers, keep an eye on your rearview mirror, and pack an apple and some nuts to tide you over until you get home.
As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus of “Hill Street Blues” would say, “Let’s be careful out there.”