Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Pocket Change"

We trust our museum professionals to preserve and protect our cultural treasures. Perhaps we should be less trusting.
While serving as collections manager of the American Numismatic Association's (ANA) Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wyatt Yeager absconded with approximately 300 coins and other numismatic objects valued at $984,740, according to a January 12, 2012 press release issued by the ANA. Yeager, who pleaded guilty on January 12, 2012 to one felony count of Theft of a Major Artwork, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. During a mere three month tenure from January to March, 2007, Yeager embezzled $492,205 in rare coins that he then sold in 2007 through several auction houses, including ones in St. Louis, Baltimore and Melbourne, Australia, as well as an additional $492,535 worth of coins and other numismatic materials that were sold in 2008 by Kanker Auctions of Germany.
Although this extraordinary case seems to involve only one criminal mastermind, many more individuals and institutions should be held accountable for their arguably "criminal" activity: the auction houses in St. Louis, Baltimore, Melbourne and Germany that each sold a portion of the stolen coins without performing the due diligence expected of such organizations; the in-house security team charged with protecting and preserving the Money Museum's collections; as well as the museum's staff who failed to discover the theft until October 2007, more than six months after Yeager's departure from the museum, which provided the former collections manager ample time to sell many of the coins at auction.
The ANA has vowed to upgrade its security systems, but has the damage already been done? As of January 12, 2012, only 32 of the coins had been recovered. Yeager's actions, along with the inaction of many others, have resulted in the alteration, perhaps permanently, of the numismatic cultural heritage of not only the United States, but of other countries throughout the world whose coinage was represented in the Money Museum.
Originally posted by Joshua Mix on CulturalSecurity.net.

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