A British Colonial Proof Trade Dollar Coin, struck in gold (1902)
It was nearly ten years ago when prominent British coin dealer Stephen Fenton of Knightsbridge Coins purchased five rare coins at a Sotheby’s auction in New York.
Post-sale, Fenton entrusted FedEx to ship the coins overnight, and as promised, the box arrived next day at Knightsbridge Coins in London.
Imagine Fenton’s surprise when he opened the package to find 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 a stolen art database.
A decade later, three of the five looted coins appeared at auction—a German East Africa, 15 Rupien Coin (1916), a 16 Japanese, Mutsuhito, 1867-1912, 20 Yen Coin, gold, Meiji 3 (1870) and a British Colonial Proof Trade Dollar Coin, struck in gold (1902). Today, the three coins are collectively valued at over £30,000 GBP. Fenton enlisted help of Chris Marinello to contact the three auction houses involved, and the coins were pulled from their respective sales.
Another major coin dealer from the United States 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 (whose name in Italian translates to “coin”), the case was reopened and a release was negotiated with the consignor by Mr. Marinello. The coins were returned to Fenton 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.