Rare artefacts of 'historical importance' stolen from Derby Museum and Art Gallery


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The Independent Online

Derbyshire police are appealing for information after £53,000 worth of coins, medals and watches were stolen from Derby Museum and Art Gallery’s city-based storage facility. 

Around 1,000 artefacts from were stolen sometime between 1 May and 19 June this year and investigations so far have drawn a blank.

Gold and silver watches dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries worth  around £3,000 each were among the haul, which also included a selection of coins dating back 800 years.

Rare trade tokens dating back to the seventeenth century, when merchants issued their own coins as substitutes for official coins of low value, are also missing.

The items were kept locked away at the storage facility, the location of which has been withheld by police, for some time.

The thefts only came to light when the museum service was contacted by another museum with a request to borrow some of the items for their own displays and staff discovered that they were gone.

Investigating officer DC Dee Hornblower said: “There has been no sign of a break in at the premises so the possibility that this was carried out with inside knowledge has at this stage not been ruled out. We have circulated details of the stolen items to every police force in the country in the hope that they can be traced.”

Derby City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture Martin Repton explained: “The issue here is not just about the values of the stolen items but also the historical importance of many of the pieces.”

“Our ultimate fear is that some of these items which are of a relative low monetary value could potentially be discarded by the culprit or culprits meaning that they would be lost forever with little chance of recovery.

The coins and medals have no museum marking on the object itself (as is usual museum practice for numismatics). Instead they were each housed in an individual brown paper envelope, mostly marked with the museum accession number and identification information. Once removed from these envelopes they will be difficult to positively identify.

The coins are mostly generic, national issues of silver and bronze. They range from a penny of Henry II (c.1180) to late twentieth century issues of Elizabeth II and represent most monarchs in between, including the Commonwealth.

The medals date primarily from the eighteenth and nineteenth century and include issues commemorating local and national events and personalities. Most of these are generic and would be difficult to positively identify. There are, however, some named awards medals, such as school prizes and Great Exhibition awards, which could be identified.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the stolen items or the perpetrators of this crime is asked to contact Derbyshire police, Tel: 101, quoting incident 512 of 19/06/12 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.