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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2013) Headlines (06/2013) Headlines (10/2013)   Vol. 47 August 2013 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the August 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine


A shipment of gold valued at $625,000 vanished in a suspected heist after arriving in Miami on an American Airlines flight, authorities announced recently.

A police report says the gold, which arrived in a box, was brought on the flight from Guayaquil, Ecuador to the Miami International Airport, WSVN reports.

The plane's cargo was unloaded by five crew members, but the box containing the gold disappeared after apparently being loaded onto a motorized luggage cart or tug, the report said.

The cart was found in front of a gate of the same terminal where the flight from Ecuador was unloaded, about an hour after workers emptied the cargo hold, but without the box containing the gold.

The police incident report did not say who owned the gold or what its final destination was and an American Airlines security official at the airport declined to comment to Reuters on the case, saying only that it was being investigated by the FBI.

"The FBI is aware of the situation," FBI spokesman Michael Leverock told Reuters in an email.

Miami International serves as a major tans-shipment point for large quantities of gold produced in South America and exported primarily to Switzerland for refining.

The city has seen the trans-shipment of gold rise sharply in recent years as investors have turned to gold and its price has risen.

Gold is Miami's No. 1 import valued at almost $8 billion last year, mostly from Mexico and Colombia, and almost all destined for Switzerland, according to World City, a Miami-based publication that tracks trade data.

From FN, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.


A home remodeler reportedly made the discovery of a lifetime while gutting a property in Minnesota: A 1938 comic book worth more than $100,000.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that David Gonzalez, 34, made the startling find amid old newspapers used to insulate a wall of a residence he was renovating in Elbow Lake, MN. The Action Comics No. 1 issue, which features a new character named Superman hoisting a car above his head on its cover, has already attracted 31 bids in an online auction that runs through June 11, including one for $107,333.

"I knew it was worth money," the father of four told the newspaper. "But I had no idea how much."

The rare comic could have been worth even more if a heated argument with one of Gonzalez's relatives never occurred. He grabbed back from his wife's aunt amid the excitement of the discovery, ripping its back cover. Experts downgraded the comic book's condition to a 1.5 on a 10-point scale. For comparison, a 9.0-grade Action 1 recently fetched more than $2 million.

Fishler said the comic book would have been graded a 3.0 without the rip.

Vincent Zurzolo, a co-owner of ComicConnect, an online comic marketplace, said it was "pretty miraculous" that the comic book survived nearly eight decades.

"It's so hard for anyone to fathom that, in this day and age, you could still discover a comic book that nobody has known about because this book was in a wall of a house for more than 70 years," Zurzolo said.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, said he had no hard feelings regarding the damage to his valuable find.

"I am a humble working guy, so I didn't get too excited when I found it with old newspapers stuffed in the walls," he said. "Money won't buy you happiness."

From FN, submitted by Martin Maher, Langlois, OR, and Jeff Kehl, Avon, MN.


A massive, partly fossilized egg laid by a now-extinct elephant bird has sold for more than double its estimate at a London auction.

Christie's auction house said recently that the foot-long, nearly nine-inches in diameter egg fetched $101,813.

Elephant birds were wiped out several hundred years ago. The oversized ovum, laid on the island of Madagascar, is believed to date back before the 17th century. Flightless, fruit-gobbling elephant birds resembled giant ostriches and could grow to be 11 feet tall.

From The Miami Herald, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.


Danish museum officials say that an archaeological dig last year has revealed 365 items from the Viking era, including 60 rare coins.

Danish National Museum spokesman Jens Christian Moesgaard says the coins have a distinctive cross motif attributed to Norse King Harald Bluetooth, who is believed to have brought Christianity to Norway and Denmark.

Sixteen-year-old Michael Stokbro Larsen found the coins and other items with a metal detector in a field in northern Denmark.

Stokbro Larsen, who often explores with his detector, said he is often laughed at because friends find him "a bit nerdy."

Moesgaard said that it was the first time since 1939 that so many Viking-era coins have been found, calling them "another important piece in the puzzle" of history.

From The AP, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.


A South Florida golf course employee is being commended for helping return $36,000 in cash to its rightful owner.

Police say Rachel Castillo found a bag full of money at Miami Beach Golf Course. She turned the money over to authorities, who found a name and address in the bag.

The 76-year-old man was no longer living at the address, but officials managed to track him to an assisted living facility.

Police verified that the money belonged to the man, who will get it all back.

If no one had claimed the money in 90 days, Castillo could have kept it.

From The AP, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.


More than 150 years ago, John Sutter touched off the fabled Gold Rush when he found gold near his mill in 1849. But the prospectors who flocked to the Sierra foothills left plenty of gold in the ground.

At least that's what a mining company setting up shop in the same area southeast of Sacramento believes. Geologists for Sutter Gold Mining Co., estimate there are some 650,000 ounces remaining in the area that sparked an epidemic of gold fever. At today's prices, that could amount to just shy of $1 billion.

"We're building a new mine but we're really building on the history that's been here for 160 years," said Leanne Baker, president and CEO of Sutter Gold Mining.

The company plans to launch a full scale mining operation in the next few months at Lincoln Mine, a 10-mile stretch of California's famous mother lode. The mother lode itself is a 120-mile stretch from El Dorado County south to Mariposa County. Baker said all major permits are in place and the project, which will employ at least 100 workers at the outset, is set for full production later this year.

"This 10-mile segment is extremely important because it produced the bulk of the mother lode production," said David Cochrane, Sutter's vice president of environmental health and safety. "Mother lode produced 13 billion ounces of gold historically, and 60 percent of the production came out of this segment."

The gold will be a bit harder to get to, but modern technology provides many advantages the old-time prospectors couldn't fathom.

"Those first pieces of gold were discovered, [and they] simply jumped into the creeks with our pans and our buckets and what we had we were cooping it up," said Dennis Price of Sutter Creek Visitors Center.

Deep in the new mine, thousands of feet below the surface, modern day miners will work hard for the precious metal. But Sutter plans to use gravity floatation to recover the gold out and will not use toxic chemicals on site.

"It's basically drilling, blasting, mucking, starting and doing it over," said Baker. For now, geologists are doing "confirmation drilling" to find the richest deposits. That will help the mining engineers develop the mine plan that will produce maximum profits.

Although full-scale mining has not started, when FN visited the mine, drillers were already starting to pull visible gold out of the ground.

"It's very exciting to be doing it in a state that hasn't had a lot of recent gold production certainly in the mother lode," Baker said. "To bring it back to the area where so many people in the country and around the world associate with the exciting part of gold production it definitely makes you feel like you're a part of history."

From FN, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.


The search for a shipwreck salvager who found sunken gold and then stiffed his partners by vanishing with the loot could be coming to a highway near you.

The U.S. Marshals Service began using alerts on digital billboards in Ohio and Florida late last month to locate fugitive salvager Tommy Thompson, who remains wanted after failing to appear in an Ohio court last year following his 1987 discovery of millions of dollars in gold bars and coins from the SS Central America, a 280-foot ship that sank during a hurricane off the North Carolina coast in 1857.

"They've generated some tips, but obviously not as many as we'd like to see," Brad Fleming, a deputy U.S. marshal in Columbus, told FN of the 10 billboards. "We haven't received the right tip yet, so to speak."

The billboard notices also include an image of Thompson's assistant, Alison Antekeier, 45, whose arrest was ordered by U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. along with Thompson after they failed to appear in court in Columbus.

Thompson, 60, who sold bars and coins salvaged from the wreck to a California mint for $52 million, grew up in central Ohio and spent a large portion of his adult life in Columbus. Antekeier also lived in Columbus until she moved with Thompson to Vero Beach, FL, where the couple had been living as recently as last year, Fleming said.

Exactly how much gold recovered from the sunken ship's gold remains unclear, although investors who ponied up for Thompson's search claim they are due millions. His team of nine technicians is seeking more than $2 million and have been fighting for their cut in court for years.

"There is very little reason to doubt that these plaintiffs will prevail and in an amount in excess of $2 million," Michael Szolosi, an attorney for the technicians, told FN. "And all they see from the defendants is delay, delay, delay."

Szolosi said Thompson has never shown up in court and said he has never laid eyes on him. Thompson's former attorney, Avonte Campinha-Bacote, told FN last year that his client was "at sea."

Since that time, Campinha-Bacote's firm has withdrawn as Thompson's counsel due to an inability to communicate with him.

Fleming, meanwhile, said authorities hope the billboard notices, which appear for seconds between paid advertisements, will lead to an increase in tips connected to the pair.

Sargus last year temporarily blocked the sale or transfer of 500 restrike gold coins made from some of the discovered gold. Those coins were included in part of a deal in 2000 to sell rights to the remaining treasure to the California Gold Marketing Group for $52 million, leaving about $30 million after the cost of recovery efforts. The judge also ordered Thompson to disclose the location of those coins, as well as funds from a trust.

"We have reason to believe that the 500 coins still exist somewhere and that's why it's so important for [Thompson] to come to court as he's been ordered and to answer what the plaintiffs and the judge want answered," Szolosi said of the 2.5-ounce coins. "We want those assets held."

Thompson has faced several additional legal battles over claims to the gold by insurance companies, rival salvagers regarding returns that were expected by a group of 161 investors who paid $12.7 million in the mid-1980s to find the historic wreck, including The Dispatch Printing Co., which publishes The Columbus Dispatch.

In1998, after years of litigation, Thompson and his companies were rewarded 92 percent of the recovered gold, with the remainder going to insurance companies that paid claims after the steamship sank, according to the Dispatch.

Eight years later, led by Michael Williamson of Seattle, the team of nine technicians sued in federal court to seek the million they claim is due to them for locating the most famous shipwreck of its time. Those technicians and investors who funded Thompson's dream have yet to see any profits from the high-tech mission and the "bizarre" legal battle that has followed, Szolosi said.

The SS Central America, which was dubbed in maritime lore as the "Ship of Gold," sank during a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean in 1857, taking 425 souls and up to 21 tons of gold to the ocean floor some 8,000 feet depot. The gold had been shipped from San Francisco down to the west coast of Panama, then sent by rail to the Central American nation's east coast and finally loaded onto the steamship bound for New York.

From FN, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.


Turns out, the Federal Reserve's gold is secure and a bit more pure than thought- or so the government says.

Auditors spent weeks last year in a vault five stories beneath Manhattan counting, weighing and drilling small holes into gold bars owned by the U.S. Treasury.

It was the first time the Treasury's inspector general audited the department's gold held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which has captured the imagination of Hollywood as well as government skeptics.

The audit's results are in: The New York Fed's operations are up to snuff, and the U.S. gold on deposit is a bit finer than Treasury records had indicated.

Still, the audit likely will not lay to rest questions about whether the New York Fed has secretly lent the gold or otherwise encumbered it in a swap with another government or bank.

The audit of the Fed gold came after 2012 presidential contender and former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, questioned the central bank's gold holdings.

Paul has called for a full, independent audit and assay of the country's gold reserves.

As part of its audit, the Treasury tested a sample of the government's 34,021 gold bars in the New York Fed's vault, extracting gold samples that were tested for fineness in a process called assaying.

In three of the 367 tests, the gold was more pure than Treasury records indicated, according to the inspector general. As a result, the government notched up the value of its gold holdings by about $43,500, based on gold's market value.

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


A Florida man who went hunting for pythons in Florida's Everglades returned instead with a mysterious treasure: an antique, diamond-studded gold medallion that could date back to the 17th century.

How the handmade, penny-sized amulet got there is a riddle. One theory is it could have been aboard a ValuJet plane that crashed nearby in May 1996- or that perhaps it was part of the debris field from an Eastern Airlines crash in the same area in 1972. The fact that it is partially melted on one side could support that idea.

But wherever it came from, Mark Rubinstein, the eagle-eyes snake hunter who found it, is determined to get it back home.

"It looks like it belongs to somebody," he told FN. But if the rightful owner can't be found, Rubinstein says he'll donate the heirloom to the Archdiocese of Miami.

The saga of the mysterious medallion began when Rubinstein and two friends were participating in Florida's state-run Python Challenge, an attempt to hunt down the invasive snakes that can reach lengths of 18 feet.

After a fruitless day, he said, "We were walking back along a levee and something in the ground just caught my eye. I walked back and forth to make sure. I walked over and dug it out of the dirt."

Rubinstein removed an amulet that featured eight rose-cut diamonds along with gold latticework resembling a Celtic pattern. There also was a sapphire-encrused cross in the center with engraved symbols.

"The symbols on the cross just vexed me," he said. "I researched it but could not find them anywhere."

Rubinstein, from Coral Springs, FL, reached out to Carroll's Jewelers, where owner Bob Moorman confirmed the piece was likely between 18- and 24-karat gold. The rose-cut of the diamonds was popular between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Traditionally, a cross within a circle is indicative of a Celtic cross.

Rubinstein also contacted the Florida Goldcoast Gem and Mineral Society, which posted photos of the piece on the popular online jeweler's forum Ganoksin Project and various members offered theories about the religious and ethnic nature of the design.

"It looks like this cross was made sometime in the 19th century," said Stephen Walker a New York jeweler who has joined Rubinstein's quest to find the amulet's rightful owner. "A lot of Celtic jewelry is made to look a lot older."

Walker estimates that if the medallion were intact, it could fetch up to $1,000 or several hundred dollars if it were melted down for scrap medal.

"But if we could find an heir, it would be priceless," he added.

From FN, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.


President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington for Civil Rights were 100 years apart, but both changed the nation and expanded freedoms.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is presenting a walk back in time through two eras. A new exhibit, Changing America, parallels the 1863 emancipation of slaves with the 1963 March on Washington.

An inkwell Lincoln used to draft what would become the Emancipation Proclamation is on display on one side of the timeline, while the pen President Lyndon Johnson used to sign the Civil Rights Act is on the other.

A rare signed copy of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery- once owned by abolitionist House Speaker Schuyler Colfax, who helped push the resolution through Congress- is on loan from businessman David Rubenstein. It echoes the plotline of the current movie Lincoln.

At times when some believed slavery would never end and later that segregation would never end, history shows that creative leadership can "find a way to perfect America," museum director Lonnie Bunch said.

"It took courage, it took strategy, it took loss," he said. "But ultimately, it changed America for the better."

The exhibit is on view through September at the National Museum of American History while the black history museum is under construction.

The Smithsonian is publicly displaying several artifacts from slave life for the first time to set the scene for emancipation. They include the Bible that belonged to Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia, and a shawl given to abolitionist Harriet Tubman by Queen Victoria. Another section includes shackles used to chain children, a slave whip and buttons used to identify people as property.

A broadside advertising a slave sale announces that "plantation hands" would be auctioned in the rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel.

The museum also acquired a tent from a "contraband camp" or "freedmen's village" that sprung up to house slaves that had self-emancipated by crossing over Union lines.

From the Chronicle Herald, submitted by Daniel Finch, Halifax, N.S.

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