The Gold Coin Caper - Questioned Documents - Norwitch Document Laboratory
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The Gold Coin Caper

 

The Tale

According to Lloyds of London, insurer of a stolen gold coin collection, the insured stated that he was driving to a meeting with a coin dealer.  At approximately 3 o’clock in the morning he stopped at a red light while passing through the center of Jacksonville, Florida, convertible top in the open position. The victim stated that while stopped at the light, an unidentified individual approached his vehicle and grabbed a box containing rare gold coins from the front seat of his car.  The individual then fled.

As part of Lloyds normal insuring procedure for rare coins, pictures of the stolen coins had been previously submitted during the insurance application process.

The author was subsequently retained by a Miami law firm that represented Lloyds.  The firm wanted the file photographs of the missing coins examined.  The law firm was justifiably suspicious of anyone that would transport a number of valuable coins, placed in a box on the front seat of a convertible.  Further concerns with regard to the victim’s choice to drive through the center of an urban area at 3 o’clock in the morning, convertible top down.

Knowing little about these rare coins, the author visited a nearby branch of the Miami Public Library and borrowed the book Historic Gold Coins of the World.

 

The Chase

A preliminary review of the questioned coin pictures revealed that the photographs were not only odd sized, but each was a different size and slightly off from being perfect rectangles.  These photographs were simply not something that you would expect a commercial photograph developer to produce.  A more in depth study of the questioned photos using low power magnification revealed the  “screening” process used to reproduce and publish photographs in a book.  Substantial evidence was starting to point to the “photographs” as photographs of pictures in a book rather than photographs of actual coins.  “Remarkably”, these same “stolen” coins were featured and pictured in the book borrowed by the author from the nearby library branch.

A comparison of the Carthage coin “photograph” with the Carthage coin in the library book shows the same physical flaws in both.  Further, the exact same “V” shaped notch is found in the two photos.  This “notch” is in actuality a bit of “change” snipped off the coin and given back to the purchaser of whatever the coin was used to pay for.

A second comparison, this time of the Macedonian coin photographs, finds the same flaws, or nicks, in both coins.  Looking at these photos even closer, an exact same screening flaw is found in both photos.

At this point, it was safe to conclude that the insured “victim” had photographed the pictures in some copy of this same book.  What came next was nothing short of astounding.

There is a small physical disruption of the paper fibers of this specific library book.  This is not inherent to other copies of this book, as it is an actual fiber crease in this specific book.  It is an identifying physical characteristic of this book, and this book alone, and would not appear in any other copy of this publication.  This physical paper crease appears in the Lloyds photograph.  The “victim” had actually used this same book, from the same library branch, to perpetrate his fraud.

 

Epilogue

Lloyds did not pay on the policy.


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