Fred Howard, a Virginia collector, left part of his valuable Byzantine coin collection on the viewing table in his bank’s safety deposit area. Fortunately for him, a bank employee noticed, and turned the coins in to the head office. Having no way to know which customer they belonged to, the coins ended up in the Unclaimed Property division of the Virginia Treasury. Usually, items left unclaimed for a certain period of time are auctioned, but this collection of coins seemed special to Alex Baker, an employee of the Treasury. He reached out to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where curator Peter Schertz made a breakthrough. Many of the coins were labeled with the name of the auction house or dealer they had been purchased from, and Schertz was familiar with several of them. The dealers had also kept records, and when contacted, were able to put Baker in touch with Howard and restore the missing coins.
This story might not have had such a happy ending if Howard hadn’t scrupulously labeled his collection. Not all losses are due to malicious theft; here are some things you can do to help lost coins make their way back to you.
1: Label your coins. Simply adding the date and purchase location to a coin can massively improve the odds of getting it back should it be lost.
2: Keep a record of your collection. A simple spreadsheet listing the coin, grade, year purchased, price, and place purchased from should be plenty; make sure it’s up to date. If some of your coins are lost or stolen, this will show exactly what is missing.
3: Make a system to ensure you don’t leave coins behind. Howard’s coins were lost when he neglected to put them away after viewing them at his bank. If you use a safety deposit box for your coins, come up with a system to make sure you don’t leave them on the counter. For instance, taking a quick cell phone pic of the empty viewing table after replacing the box: this adds an extra step plus physical motion, not just a sweep of the eyes. The photo can be deleted immediately, since it’s the process that’s important. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s something you’ll remember to do.
While there’s no way to ensure that your coins will never be lost or stolen, a few simple precautions can significantly improve the odds of getting them back.