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Research responses

From the May 31 Numismatic News E-Newsletter: Q. How much research must you do to establish that something you
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Having lived in Colorado Springs, Colo., since long before the ANA moved there I have and do know most of the players.
As a long time member of ANA this decision does not surprise me. The ANA Board, as in most large organizations, will protect its own.

 David R. Swearingen
 ANA #154234
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Give me a break. As a world expert in this specific field, Kagin absolutely knew what he had and where it came from. The ANA board showed itself to be essentially spineless in the face of a powerful and well known force in the field of Numismatics. Extremely disappointing to say the very least.

Robert Louis Clark, Capt. USN (Ret)
San Diego, Calif.

The top dealers and numismatists in this industry are very knowledgeable and have very long and remarkable memories. I can recount many conversations with a dealer who has traced the lineage of a coin or collection through its various sales and often quoting exact amounts of the sale. I?m sure the case against Don Kagin was circumstantial and the decision was accurate given the facts. As a general collector, knowing that Kagin himself attempted to purchase this specific item, tells me he knew of its lineage. He articulates otherwise in his defense and in his actions to help recover the bar.

As far as the specific question of ?How much research must you do to establish that something you?re selling, or buying, is not stolen?? Even when I purchase an expensive item, I like to know its pedigree. Most dealers provide me with answers to this and particularly auction history if that was its source. I believe that simply asking for the pedigree of the California Gold Bar probably would have identified it as hot.

While not applicable to the Manley case, I would like to see a national registry for stolen numismatic items. If one does not exist, either the ANA or a major numismatic company (PCGS, HNAI, etc) should step up to provide one. At the very least, one should be able to search an archive for a specific item to check to see if anything shows up.

This entire story left me only wishing I had the resources of a D. Manley so that I too could consider storing such a treasured item in my garage.
I read about PNG?s establishing a stolen item registry ? <>. I was unaware of this when I first typed my response to you on Friday. In reading the article and looking at the site, it appears the access is limited to PNG members and police/law enforcement agencies. I would encourage the providers of this site to open up this registry so that others can have access as well.

Norm Decker
San Diego, Calif.

As an attorney, it is my understanding that an individual who buys or sells something about which he has no knowledge regarding whether it is stolen property, has no legal obligation to research that point. Consider the overwhelming requirement such an obligation would place on virtually anyone doing business. The business person would have to spend the majority of his time trying to trace the succession of ownership of any item which came into his possession and, in the end, may still not learn the whole truth. Such an obligation would be clearly unfair and impractical. Also, since Kagin did not pay for the gold bar or complete any business transaction regarding the bar, he has committed no legal wrong -- either criminal or civil. This reflects the law in my home state of Illinois and may or may not apply in California.

 The question as to whether Kagin has broken any of the ethical regulations of the ANA depends on a strict interpretation of those regulations. If the ethics of the ANA require due diligence in such a situation, that seems virtually untenable in view of the explanation above and Kagin could bring a lawsuit against the ANA to reverse the board?s admonishment to perform better due diligence in the future.

R.H.L., M.D., J.D.
Chicago, Ill.

I have read the details in this situation with great interest. While it is not expected that ANA board members be perfect in their dealings, I find that Don Kagin?s lack of care in researching such a unique item appalling.
Significant research needs to be done and can be done behind the scenes and without consulting with or alerting the perceived owner (Manley). I feel that the money involved made the deal go forward and it was hoped that by burying the piece nobody would be the wiser.

Tim Kyzivat
Western Springs, Ill.

Mr. Kagin of all people should have had more due diligence. He parades his Ph.D. in Numismatics and his expertise in gold especially California gold. I really find it hard to believe that he did not know something was fishy. If it had been a different item not in his area of expertise- sure we could probably give him some slack, but you know what I mean.

However, the decision the board made is what you expect of this board. As for me, I have never done business with Mr. Kagin, but given what is known from this case as published and his plea of ignorance- I never will.

Dealers such as Don Kagin have been in business for years and should have known something was wrong.

Dealers and other people who have been in a business a long time get a feel for what is right and wrong. If it does not feel right do more checking.

Bob Wagenhoffer
Brea, Calif.

Looks like the ANA board, in desperate need of new leadership, took the easy road and let one of their own off. It?s no wonder the ANA is looked down upon by numismatic dealers. With folks like Mr. Kagin on the board, it will continue its mediocre existence.

Greg Culpepper
Thompson?s Station, Tenn.

Regarding this recent episode, and the resulting ANA decision, I don?t have any comments regarding the specifics of the case. However, with regard to numismatics in general, I believe a high degree of due diligence is appropriate and necessary for all ANA members. The criminal element that preys on coin collectors and dealers is one of the most serious problems facing our hobby, and given human nature, it?s not likely to go away. For people to continue enjoying this hobby, they can?t feel like they are at risk from unscrupulous actors. The ANA should make every effort to assure their members not only act ethically, but that they assist with the efforts to catch the bad actors where ever possible. In other words, the ANA should be very proactive to protect its members from any kind of unethical conduct, including requiring dealers to verify the ownership of particularly valuable coins (or gold bars) whenever possible.

Gregory Kipp
San Mateo, Calif.

When I was a kid my coin collection got stolen when our house was robbed, It wasn?t too much more of an accumulation of a bunch of different items. Mom and Dad didn?t even call the police. I would love to get them back but it was so long ago I don?t remember what I had in it. Now I keep a good list of my collection as I have much more invested now and have two safes to keep them in. The thought of someone steeling anything from me makes me irate!

I would stop at nothing to see anyone who stole even the smallest item to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!

Coins are not like tools or guns where you can engrave your name in them and identify it some years later, so it is a touchy subject.

James McFadden
Clearwater, Fla.

I?ve met Don Kagin, and found him to be a personable guy. I also supported most of his ideas as an ANA Board member. However, I do think he should have shown more diligence in brokering Dwight Manley?s stolen bar. Don is a recognized expert in this field, and should have known of the possibility of this bar belonging to Dwight Manley. He should be more careful in the future.

Bob Klippstein
Greensboro, N.C.

If this is coin dealing and auction buying on the highest level, thanks for the information, but this has, thank goodness, little to do with the average collector!

How did the gold bar get stolen? Why even try to drag Dr. Kagin through the mud, after the bar was recovered with his help? Is Mr. Manley a true hobbyist, or does he have a disdain or grudge against Dr. Kagin? There?s more to this than meets the eye, but Manley appears to be awful lucky the ?thief? didn?t just melt down the bar and destroy the evidence!

And, wild as it may seem, did Manley have the ingot insured? That?s the avenue it may take to get the answers to all the other questions! If so, it could have been loaned to exhibit (at a show or museum) so that students and collectors could have received some educational benefit/enjoyment from looking at this piece of history! And, if nothing else, Dr. Kagin should have been given a reward for not only recovering, but preserving and uncovering a noteworthy numismatic treasure!

Stephen Dann

 I believe that when a man a professional in his field over looks something that he knows is wrong for a buck that is a crime. He shouldn?t get a slap on the hand, he should be gone, doesn?t this man make enough money to do the right thing? What, just close your eye?s this time? Is this the first time? The almighty buck turns honest men into criminals and they get a slap on the wrist. So remove this person from office. How can he be trusted now?

Greg Mellon
Romansville, Pa.

In the Manley - Kagin dispute, one thought comes to mind. California gold bars are a very specialized collectible with the ingots having unique characteristics. These will often bear unique marks as to weight and fineness, as well as the company name or assayer stamped on the bar. In addition, this soft metal will exhibit nicks and bruises that serve to further identify the item through photographs and pedigree documents from auction records, etc.

Kagin is a professional and should have investigated the pedigree of the item since he was to benefit from the sale. His failure to investigate this item, while suspicious to some, doesn?t prove that he is a crook in any way. It does suggest some degree of carelessness on the part of Kagin, however.
Hopefully, Kagin will learn a valuable lesson from this transaction and take the time to learn about the material that he is to perform the services of broker for. He would be wise to know the real identity of the seller and verify title to the property in any such transaction, too.

Kagin would have no defense if another similar issue were to occur in the future. It is regrettable whenever circumstances like this injure our hobby. Carelessness on the part of numismatic professionals is never helpful. The ANA ruling is of no consequence to me. All of the infighting in the ANA recently has left me feeling grateful that I?ve never become a member.

Joseph Fagg
Auburn, Wash.

How could Don Kagin have known the bar was stolen? Why should he be required to contact anyone before purchasing? Did Manley advertise the fact that the bar was stolen? I never got an e-mail describing the stolen bar, or saw anything on the teletype. Manley could have advertised it was missing to the numismatic community. Then perhaps you could accuse a dealer purchasing it of knowledge it was stolen. This accusation sounds totally unfounded.

Andy Pappacoda
ANA Life Member, PNG Member
Clearwater, Fla.

I am Joseph J. McMenamin, 78 years of age, of Philadelphia, Pa., retired and a collector/dealer with 65 years of experience. I own rarities and have a plate coin in the Krause Standard Catalog of World Coins; a Japanese 5 sen pattern.

I believe that Mr. Kagin did not pursue due diligence in the matter of the California gold bar.

Mr. Kagin has for many years enjoyed the celebrity of a leading numismatic name and profiting from that celebrity.. It is pellucid that collectors, investors and novices turn to such celebrity in matters of their interest.

It is not an area of defense in due diligence to pose how much effort should be forthcoming in the sale of a rarity by a professional numismatist. The basic step, upon commission to sell the gold bar, would be to check with leading experts on gold bars to determine a price, number known, etc..

Joseph J. McMenamin
Philadelphia, Pa.

Heck, yes, if a specialist in something sees a very unusual item show up (especially if he?s seen it before!) he has an obligation to determine true ownership. That simple!

 New subject: For 2009 how about a dollar size coin that looks exactly like the 1909 Lincoln cent, only wth the denomination one dollar? Americans obviously love that cent. I would also suggest a new metal so as not to associate it with the recent losers.

All the best!

Bill Mills
Ft Lauderdale , Fla.