This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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It was nearly 10 years ago when British coin dealer Stephen Fenton of Knightsbridge Coins purchased five rare coins at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. Post-sale, Fenton used FedEx to ship the coins overnight, and as promised, the box arrived the next day at Knightsbridge Coins in London.
When Fenton opened the package, he found it stuffed full of white packing paper but no coins. Law enforcement and FedEx officials were immediately notified. Investigators later determined that the coins had never left the U.S., on the basis that the green and white striped tape used to reseal the box after it was looted was exclusively used at Newark Airport’s FedEx warehouse in New Jersey.
Though police questioned a former FedEx employee, the thief was never caught. Fenton proceeded to register all five coins on the Art Loss Register’s international database of stolen and missing art, a resource that champions due diligence checks prior to good faith purchases of artworks and decorative objects.
A decade later, three of the five looted coins appeared at auction: a 1916 German East Africa 15 rupien, an 1870 gold 16 Japanese Mutsuhito 20 yen, Meiji 3, and a gold 1902 British colonial proof Trade dollar. Today, the three coins are collectively valued at more than £30,000, or about $46,000.
Fenton enlisted the ALR to contact the three auction houses involved, and the coins were pulled from their respective sales. Another major coin dealer in the U.S. who had consigned all three lots claimed he had purchased the coins in good faith from another dealer.
With the help of Detective Robert Medaglia of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police, the case was reopened and a release was negotiated with the consignor by Christopher A. Marinello, general counsel for the ALR. The coins were returned to Fenton by the ALR on behalf of his insurer.
“Everyone’s entitled to a second chance,” says Marinello. “When it came time to ship the coins from New York law enforcement back to London, we decided to use FedEx.” The box arrived safely in London – this time with its valuable contents inside.
The ALR says it continues to actively look for the two missing coins: a Henry VIII, 1509-1547, testoon and a Charles I, 1625-1649, Newark besieged half. Questions or information about their whereabouts can be directed to the ALR by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at +44 (0)207 841 5780.