$450,000 worth of rare coins stolen


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

ORLANDO - Thieves stole $450,000 worth of rare coins after trailing collectors from a convention, breaking into their cars while they ate dinner and robbing one at gunpoint more than 100 miles away.

"We haven't seen anything of this scale or this violent in years," Coin World editor Beth Deisher said of the thefts and robbery linked to the Jan. 5-7 gathering at the Orange County Convention Center.

The biggest haul happened two hours from Orlando after the coin show closed, when at least three men with a shotgun followed a dealer to Florida's west coast.

William Dominick had stopped at a Waffle House in Bradenton, where armed robbers smashed out the windows of his silver Mercedes sedan while he sat in the driver's seat, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Popping open the trunk, the robbers grabbed two steel cases plus a briefcase and ran toward a black luxury car with tinted windows.

An intervening homeless man hit one of the robbers, who dropped and left behind the largest case, reports show.

"It had $700,000 to $800,000 inside," Dominick said Thursday of the recovered case.

The contents included an 1879 U.S. gold coin worth $150,000 and a $10,000 bill valued at $75,000, he said.

"The blessing is that that homeless guy was there," said Dominick, who gave the man a $100 bill.

The missing briefcase and the second steel case, which weighed about 30 pounds, held $250,000 in merchandise, Dominick said.

"I've offered a $100,000 reward," said the dealer, who runs Westwood Rare Coin Gallery in Naples and a New York suburb.

"I'll do whatever's needed to get these guys in jail."

The thieves also struck while three collectors ate dinner on Jan. 5 near the convention, Orange County sheriff's reports show.

Dinner guest Daniel Bandish lost $35,000 in Morgan silver dollars and $10,000 in cash in the burglary.

Dealer and collector Charles Hager lost $66,000 worth.

"Never in 40 years have I even left my valise in an unattended car before," Hager said. "I came out. The windows were broken, and you get that feeling when your heart drops into your stomach."

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