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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (09/2005) Headlines (08/2005) Headlines (10/2005)   Vol. 39 September 2005 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the September 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


Not many people can retire on a nickel- unless it's a rare 1913 Liberty Head like the one that sold Thursday for $4.15 million.

It is the second-highest price ever reported paid for a rare coin.

Legend Numismatics, a coin dealership in Lincroft, New Jersey, bought it from collector Ed Lee of Merrimack, New Hampshire. It is one of only five such nickels known to exist.

"Owning a 1913 Liberty Head nickel is unlike owning any other coin in the world," said Laura Sperber, co-president of Legend Numismatics. She called the 1913 Liberty Head the most famous of American rare coins.

The nickel was on display at a coin show in Long Beach, California recently.

Lee bought the coin from California sports agent Dwight Manley two years ago for nearly $3 million. At the time, he joked that he would be able to retire on the nickel.

Liberty Head nickels were minted from 1883 to 1912. "Miss Liberty" was replaced the following year by the Indian, or Buffalo, nickel.

But five 1913 nickels depicting "Miss Liberty" were minted illegally, possibly by a mint official. They were never put into circulation and were considered illegal to own for many years because they were not regular issue. The coins surfaced in the 1920s.

The old record for a 1913 Liberty Head nickel was $3 million, paid last year. The record for any rare coin is $7.59 million, paid in 2002 for a 1933 U.S. $20 gold piece.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeff Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.


Twenty years after losing her wallet, along with $177 and her Social Security card, Lisa Tonks finally has it back.

Tonks lost the wallet during a family trip in 1985 to Jackson and Yellowstone National Park.

The wallet was turned over to police, but without more information, and because the case was considered a minor one, it collected dust on a shelf along with other old evidence, like drug paraphernalia and weapons.

Jackson police technician Tom Turcol decided to reopen the case using a police computer network and some investigative know-how.

He traced the Social Security number to Tonks, of Peru, Indiana.

"She was quite surprised," Turcol said. "She figured it was gone and that's that."

From The Courier, submitted by Jeff Hauenstein, Findlay, OH


They were bouncing between appearances on "Good Morning America" and CNN and fielding nonstop calls from reporters. Tim Crebase and Barry Billcliff's story of finding buried cash in a friend's yard was a media sensation, and they were happy participants.

If only they weren't so talkative, they might have gotten away with stealing a fortune, police said.

Police said the duo's whole story about digging up the treasure was concocted to cover up the theft of the antique bills, valued at $125,000, from a home where they worked as roofers.

"Had they kept quiet... they probably could have sold the money and no one would have ever known," Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said. "It just got away from them. Sort of like the snowball rolls down the hill and it keeps going and crushes you."

The owners of the home didn't know the stash was there, Solomon said. And the bills are so rare and demand from collectors so strong that a quiet, lucrative transaction would have been easy.

Billcliff, 27, of Manchester, N.H., and Crebase, 24, of Methuen, Mass., pleaded not guilty after being arrested on charges of receiving stolen property, conspiracy and accessory after the fact. Warrants were issued for Kevin Kozak, 27, of Methuen, and Matt Ingham, 23, of Newton, N.H., on the same charges.

Investigators said Crebase confessed under questioning. Crebase said he, Billcliff and Ingham- all roofers- found the money stuffed in rusting tin cans in the gutter of a barn they were hired to repair, and persuaded Kozak to go along with their story, authorities said. In his alleged confession, Crebase said Ingham planned to use proceeds to fund his rock band.

Investigators said they are not convinced it was found in a barn; they said it might have been taken from the barn owners' house. Solomon said most of the currency was recovered, but some was probably already sold.

Lawyers for Billcliff and Crebase said the men were sticking to their story of finding the box while digging under a tree in the backyard of a house Crebase rented from Kozak in the town of Methuen.

Billcliff's lawyer, Alexander Cain said, "There is no evidence, none, that my client committed any crime."

The cache included 1,800 bank notes and bills dating from 1899 to 1928. The currency had a face value of about $7,000, but prosecutors said the men had been offered $125,000 by a collector. Police received an anonymous call on Tuesday from a woman who said the story the men had been telling was a lie, according to court papers.

From the Kennebec Journal, submitted by Gary S. Mangiacopra, Milford, CT., and many other readers.


The first part of a centuries-old Ethiopian obelisk looted by Benito Mussolini's troops was returned Tuesday, arriving by cargo plane in a small wind-swept town that was once the center of an ancient and powerful kingdom.

The return of the 1,700-year-old granite obelisk ends a dispute that began in 1947, when Italy signed a pledge to the United Nations to return all the property plundered from Ethiopia.

The middle section of the 80-foot high funeral stone, taken in 1937 on the orders of the fascist dictator, was flown into northern Ethiopia at sunrise. The 58-ton piece was placed under armed guard at the airport until the two remaining pieces are flown to Axum from Rome later this month.

The move could set a precedent for the return of sacred Ethiopian objects and ancient artifacts looted by British troops and later locked up in British museums, royal palaces and private collections, officials said.

"Inevitably this... could open the floodgates," Giorgio Croci, professor of engineering for ancient monuments at the University of Rome, said as the obelisk was unloaded.

"This is a part of the Ethiopian culture and history and we realize how important it is to this country and its people," said Croci, who led the $7.8 million restoration project.

Pealing bells and chanting priests from the dome-shaped St. Mariam Cathedral greeted the first piece of the monolith, which dates back to the third century, predating the arrival of Christianity in Ethiopia.

"The obelisk is a symbol of pride, of civilization and part of the Ethiopian identity," Teckle Hargos, an archaeologist, said. "People outside of Ethiopia often think of famine, of war, of drought and don't realize the wealth of heritage that this country does have."

The obelisk symbolizes the powerful Axumite Kingdom, which was established between 200 and 100 B.C. Massive obelisks are among a few tangible remains of the past glory of Axum, an area lying in the shadow of the Adwa Mountains where Emperor Menelik II defeated the Italians in 1896- the greatest modern victory of an African army over a European force.

From the Kennebec Journal, submitted by Gary S. Mangiacopra, Milford, CT.


An 18th-century Italian violin reported stolen from an aspiring performer's car was returned by a man who said he found it in a nearby alley while walking his dog, authorities said.

The man, whose name was not released, turned in the $850,000 instrument and bow to police Wednesday in good condition, authorities said Thursday. They were being checked for fingerprints and were expected to be returned Saturday to 20-year-old violinist Lindsay Deutsch.

"Just that it's over is so amazingly good," Deutsch said. "I'm at peace."

Deutsch said a thief pried open a car window and snatched it off the seat while she was grocery shopping Sunday.

"I've been waiting my whole life to get an instrument of this quality, and for it to be gone like this, I didn't think I'd ever get this one back," she said.

The violin was crafted in 1742 by Sanctus Seraphin, the top violin maker of his time in Venice, Italy. It is considered several notches below the instruments made by Antonio Stradivarius but one of only about 30 known to be in existence.

The instrument had been loaned to Deutsch two years ago by collector Peter Mandell. Mandell, 36, said his insurance covered nearly every possible contingency- except theft from a vehicle.

"It's just been an emotional roller coaster," Mandell said after the violin was recovered.

Deutsch said she was prepared to work off the debt to Mandell if the instrument was not recovered.

From The Daily Telegram, submitted by R.V. Cheney, Adrian, MI.


From junked trucks to World War II submarines, vast fields of far-flung wreckage exist beneath the blue-green ocean off Hawaii.

"It's like an obstacle course under water, especially at Pearl Harbor," said John Smith, science program director at the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory. "Finding the more interesting artifacts is a real challenge."

A World War II-era Japanese submarine scuttled by the U.S. Navy is the laboratory's latest significant find among thousands of wrecks, most from the past two centuries.

The ship is one of two I-400 Sensuikan Toku class subs captured in the Pacific a week after Japan surrendered in 1945. Both subs were deliberately sunk by the U.S. when Russian scientists demanded access to them. The 400-foot-long hulks were the largest built before the nuclear ballistic missile subs of the 1960s.

In 2002, the waters off Oahu also yielded a Japanese midget submarine that was hit an hour before Japan's aerial attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"These are incredibly valuable archaeological sites," said John Wiltshire, acting director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory. "Sometimes in the marine environment, you can preserve things you can't preserve on land."

The value of Hawaii's undersea wreckage is historical rather than monetary. Hawaii's shipping boom began in the 1800s, well after piracy's heyday in the late 1600s to mid 1700s.

Most cargo ships navigating the island chain in the 19th century carried goods that would have disintegrated by now, such as sugar, lumber, phosphates, sandalwood and furs, said Rick Rogers, who has written several books on Hawaii's shipwrecks.

Treasure hunters scouring the Hawaiian ocean bottom for doubloons or pieces of eight are more likely to find submarines, old whaling and merchant ships, fishing boats or 20th-century recreational craft and land vehicles.

Rogers, a former Army salvage diver, believes just one of the few tales of under-sea treasure in Hawaii is worth seeking. He has spent 25 years and thousands of dollars searching for two galleons carrying Spain's entire annual cargo of Oriental trade goods, including porcelain, silk and spices.

References to castaways and shipwrecks in Hawaiian legends stoked Rogers' interest in the ships. He believes one went down off Maui in the late 16th century, the other in 1693 off the Big Island's Kona coast.

From The Daily Telegram, submitted by R.V. Cheney, Adrian, MI, and Gary S. Mangiacopra.


Archeologists said Tuesday that they found a 2,000-year-old shoe in a hollow tree used to construct an ancient well near Wellington in southwest England.

"As far as we know, this is the oldest shoe ever found in the United Kingdom," said Stephen Reed, who led the team from Exeter Archaeology that made the find. "It is reasonably well-preserved, with stitch and lace holes still visible in the leather."

It was found in an area where a Bronze Age iron-smelting site was discovered in 1989. Nearby, Exeter Archaeology researchers found water troughs and timber-lined wells they dated from 700 B.C. to A.D. 43.

From the Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Who said reading isn't enriching?

Michele Anderson recently discovered more than just a great story when she opened a library book. She also found a wad of cash.

The former employee at Armstrong Library pulled a mystery novel off a shelf and noticed a bulge in its dust jacket. She opened the book and discovered what library officials termed was a "substantial" sum of money.

"I felt something in there, and from my time working here, I just had to straighten it out and felt in there and pulled it out," Armstrong said. "I thought, 'Whoa, wait a minute.'"

Library officials declined to say how much money was discovered, or what the title of the book was, so they could locate the money's rightful owner.

The book hasn't been checked out since March 2004, when the library switched its system of tracking books. Before then, the book had been checked out 45 times, but the library's record keeping system doesn't track previous checkouts.

Susan Cassagne, the library's director, said she believes if the money isn't claimed, it should belong to the library.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeffrey L. Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.


It's taken six years and a special act of Congress, but an aircraft mechanic from Princeton, Minn., is the undisputed owner of a rare World War II Corsair fighter plane that he salvaged 15 years ago from a North Carolina swamp.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis in Minneapolis approved a settlement that ends a lawsuit filed a year ago by the U.S. Justice Department against Lex Cralley. The lawsuit was the climax of an escalating battle of wills that had been going on since 1999 between the 50-year-old Northwest Airlines mechanic and the U.S. Navy.

"I've been under a cloud so long, it almost seems like a dream that it's over," Cralley said Tuesday.

In celebration, Cralley said he plans to exhibit the still-skeletal and disjointed remains of the Corsair at the annual Experimental Aircraft Association show next August in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

"It remains a piece of naval aviation history to be shared," said Cralley, whose dream is to restore the plane to flying condition- something that will take many years and millions of dollars, according to aviation history experts. It's estimated that fewer than 25 Corsairs still are flying.

In 1990, Cralley salvaged the remains of the fighter plane that had been buried in the muck of a North Carolina swamp for 46 years after it crashed there during a training flight in 1944. Shortly after the crash, a Navy report noted the death of the pilot, Marine Lt. Robin C. Pennington, and described the plane as "demolished."

Cralley transported the pieces of the shattered plane to a workshop behind his home in rural Princeton, registered it as a "non-airworthy model" with the Federal Aviation Administration and began the painstaking work of restoration.

Nearly a decade later, however, the Navy came calling. Though the world is littered with the abandoned artifacts of war, the official policy of the Navy is that its property is always its property- forever.

And the Navy was particularly interested in the remnants of the plane in Cralley's shed. Military aviation enthusiasts say it's the only Corsair of its kind known to exist.

Specifically, it's a Corsair that was manufactured by the Brewster Aeronautical Corp. of Long Island, N.Y., after the original manufacturer, the Chance Vought Aircraft Corp. of Stratford, Conn., became overwhelmed by the wartime demand for new planes.

Brewster, which no longer exists, built 735 Corsairs- Cralley's was the 119th- compared to more than 12,000 F4U Corsairs built by Vought, which is now headquartered in Dallas.

Cralley said he was inundated with phone calls and messages after word of the lawsuit became public last year. Most of them came from people who wanted to express anger or outrage, he said.

One came from U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., whose district includes the original crash site near Cherry Point Marine Corps Training Station.

Jones, who called the dispute a "laughable poster child," for big government run amok, introduced a measure called a "private bill" in the House that specifically directed the Navy to convey ownership of the plane to Cralley. The Senate version was introduced by Minnesota's Norm Coleman.

"Here was a good solid American citizen who wants to preserve naval air history at his own expense and the Big Brother Navy comes down and says, "No you can't," Jones said Tuesday. "To me, it was just ridiculous."

The measure was attached to the Ronald Reagan Defense Bill that was enacted last October. But it took another six months for attorneys representing the government and Cralley to agree to the terms of the gift.

"I'm not going to speak negatively about the donative's efforts, but the gift seemed to come awfully hard," said Boyd Ratchye, the Minneapolis attorney who represents Cralley.

In the end, Ratchye said Cralley got the deal he wanted, but he added that the agreement does not set a precedent for the resolution of disputes between the Navy and other private collectors of salvaged military hardware.

Deborah Sciascia, an attorney for the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, referred calls to naval public affairs. In turn, they referred calls to the public affairs office of the Department of Justice, which could not be reached for comment.

However, in a letter that accompanied the settlement, the Navy's assistant director, Helen D. Rosen, stated that the agreement "is in the best interests of the United States."

From the Pioneer Press, submitted by Justin Fisher, Sandstone, MN.

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