Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Coin Robbery in St Albans Museum

It is now being reported that over the weekend of 7th January there had been a break-in at the St Albans Museum in Hatfield Road. The thieves got away with finds from excavations in St Albans Abbey and the 1969 Abbey Orchard excavations by the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society prior to the construction of Abbey Primary School.
The finds taken were a sixth or seventh century silver hand pin, and, from the same case a group of 30 Anglo-Saxon coins "with an insurance value of £12000". They were part of the Abbey Orchard hoard which had been buried towards the end of the ninth century and contained 29 pence and one half-pence coins. The latter is a coin of Alfred the Great of the Londonia monogram reverse type. The council says the pence coins are all of the Lunette type (so-called because the moneyer's name appears on and between the two half moon shaped ornaments on the reverse). Another source however gives the information that there had been "46 coins in the collection and four of those were stolen in 1977".

"The council has closed the upstairs gallery at the museum while police investigate the thefts. The council has also commissioned a security review of its museums".

Manisha Mistry, 'Saxon coins and silver pin worth £12,000 taken', St Albans Review, Tuesday 24th January 2012.

UPDATE 7.02.12:
The coins are illustrated in Syllogue of Coins of the British Isles, vol 42 (South-Eastern Museums) p. 13 under numbers 650-655, 657, 659, 661, 663, 665-672, 674-678, 733, 753 and 758. The previously stolen four coins are 657, 675, 738 and 750. The illustrations are reproduced in the Abbey Orchard hoard photos folder on the Yahoo hammered Coins collectors' discussion list. Nice to see some coin collectors taking a responsible line over stolen artefacts.


kyri said...

dont be suprised if one or two are "found"by metal detectors after all the fuss has died down.
remember the rare coin stolen from a display at malmesbury abbey and than it was "found" by a metal detector in tetbury.after the coin was seen by the local flo,it was ready to be sold to the highest bidder with a brand new pas number,it was only the actions of a secret informer that foild the plot,not the actions of the pas.its so easy to launder stolen coins through the pas which is a great shame.

Paul Barford said...

As I recall, the PAS say they detected the "said to be from Tetbury" deceit before the object actually got into their records.

Whether or not that is so, the potential of the PAS record for 'laundering' stolen items and items illegally excavated elsewhere is obvious.

One might ask - given the volume of artefacts going through their hands weekly - what steps the PAS actively take to cut down the possibilities of such activities occurring for example do they examine landowner agreements, showing the "finder" actually does have legal title to the objects they are bringing in and reporting?

This is of course very important if the FLOs are keeping the objects on the office (museum, county council for example) premises for further study. If the "finder" has no legal title, they would be harbouring stolen property.

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