Coin collector suspected after burglary at city museum

2014-08-19 00:00

IS a private coin collector behind the thefts of rare coins at Macrorie House Museum?

That is the question curator Roxanne Thomas is asking after professional thieves broke into Macrorie House this weekend, stealing rare coins and antique gold watches worth more than R200 000.

They left other valuables untouched.

Thomas suspects that the theft of nine rare coins may have been ordered by a private collector.

Thomas was doing her final preparations for the upcoming Victorian Fair, to be held at the museum in Jabu Ndlovu (Loop) Street on August 30, on Sunday afternoon when she realised somebody had broken into the museum.

She said she feels the theft should be shared with Interpol and the museum community as the items taken are highly valuable and very specific.

“This was no casual opportunistic [theft],” she said. “Our entire coin collection was targeted, along with a gold coin case and two gold pocket watches.

“Our security company phoned on Saturday to inform us that they suspected something was wrong but when they got here they did not find anything suspicious,” she said.

The thieves must have gained access by climbing onto the gutter and broke the back window, forcing their way into the museum.

“We will be offering a reward if they bring our coins back,” Thomas said.

“It was pretty obvious this was done by people who knew exactly what they wanted because our computers and other valuable collections were not taken.”

She said they had been a victim of a burglary two-and-a-half years ago when thieves broke in and stole computers, but they had not experienced any problems since. “Then they did not touch any of our collection,” she said.

Thomas reported the theft to the police and is waiting for the fingerprints department to come.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said a case of business burglary is being investigated.

Anyone who has any information on the theft of the coins can call The Witness at 033 355 1127.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

MACRORIE House Museum

curator Roxanne Thomas said the stolen coins consist of the controversial “Godless & Graceless” design featured in an 1849 Godless Florin.

“Apart from the pattern issue of the previous year, this was the only coin of its type released for circulation, due to the controversy over its omission of the words ‘Dei Gratia’ [Grace of God] from the design,” she said. She said people of Britain refused to use it, saying it was a Godless coin. The thieves also stole half a rupee from the East India Company as well as a 20-carat gold sovereign coin.

The market value of what was stolen:

• 1849 Florin R8 500 (godless coin)

• 1889 Crown R2 100

• 1844 Crown R32 000

• 1889 DBL Florin R2 100

• 1887 Half Crown R3 600

• 1887 Florin R4 900

• 1849 ½ Rupee R4 500

• 1887 Tickey R177

• 1874 Penny R5 300

• 2 x 1868 Penny R12 000 (first ever side impression of Queen Victoria)

• 1878 Farthing R354

• 1842 3 ha’pence R1 800

• 1887 Gold Sovereign R159 500 (50th Jubilee coin)

• 18ct gold Sovereign holder with initials PE on front.

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