Dr. Sol Taylor

DuPont Heist: Mystery Solved

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, August 25, 2007

n 1967, perhaps the most notorious coin robbery occurred at the Willis DuPont estate in Coconut Grove, Fla. Bold burglars not only stole the "usual" loot — jewelry — but also managed to steal a fabulous collection of some 7,000 coins. Many of coins eventually were located after the thieves fenced the jewelry and some of the coins.
    Thirty-seven years later, one of the few missing key coins — an 1866 silver dollar without the motto "In God We Trust" (one of only two known) — came to light.
    The story was covered in the April 2004 issue of the Maine Antiques Digest as well as Coin World and other numismatic publications. A librarian in Maine had acquired a box of coins around 1982 as collateral on a loan to book-collector Edwards Huntington Metcalf, grandson of famed railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington. Metcalf had died in 2001. The librarian had done some research on the coin and eventually contacted John Kraljevich and John Pack of American Numismatic Rarities of Wolfeboro, N.H.
    The coinís pedigree traced back to Robert Coulton Davis, a Philadelphia druggist and coin collector who apparently persuaded his friends at the Philadelphia Mint to make a set of three coins and one additional dollar coin without the motto. Davis apparently was the local drug supplier to Mint employees of their favorite opiate, known as laudanum. The 1866 coin was probably minted after 1866.
    The Davis collection was sold in 1890. Philadelphia dealer Stephen Nagy acquired the silver dollars. One example was traced to an auction by Stack's of New York City in 1972 as part of the Winner Delp estate. It showed up again in 2003 in a sale by American Numismatic Rarities with a reserve of $600,000. It did not sell.
    Around 1954, the coin was acquired by Willis DuPont and was in his home until the 1967 theft. The coin was not only authenticated, but identified as the DuPont specimen and returned to DuPont. He indicated it would be donated to the American Numismatic Associationís Money Museum in Colorado Springs (if it has not already been done).
    The story of the thieves who were infamous for their daring, wealthy-home robberies became a TV documentary after the two criminals served their time.

    Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.