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Lost and Stolen SpecimensMinerals stolen from Mott Community College - Flint, Michigan
On March 1, 2010, dozens of minerals were stolen from the mineral museum at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. Cases containing minerals from South America were broken into. Of note, a gemmy Phosphophyllite better than 2 cm in length was stolen. Because I appraised the collection a few years ago, they are having me come in next week to help with ascertaining what was stolen and its value. I will be posting descriptions of some of the noteworthy specimens taken when I have more information. This is a tragedy, this is a small school with a collection on display which is quite remarkable. It is my understanding the school was in the process of photographing the collection, but had not yet gotten to these cases.
2nd Mar 2010 22:41 GMTWalter Kellogg
Walter - once you have helped determined what is missing how about posting the list to Mindat? There are a lot of us who are approached to purchase either single minerals or entire collections. If I know what to be on the watch for maybe we can get these back.
2nd Mar 2010 23:15 GMTDanny Jones Expert
Being in the economic situation the State of Michigan is in, it doesn't surprise me that people are going to such extremes to make a buck. What makes this even more disturbing is that it was a college, a place of higher education for all, that was the victim here; completely uncalled for!!
3rd Mar 2010 00:04 GMTPaul Brandes Manager
As stated earlier Walter; please post a list of what minerals were stolen and I'm sure the Mindat community will do everything in its power to locate them.
The fact that minerals were only(?) stolen from as yet unphotographed cases might not be coincidence, might point to someone close to an insider. And the taking of a thumbnail phosphophyllite, rather than bigger flashier material would point to someone knowledgeable about minerals, not just your average drug addict.
3rd Mar 2010 00:22 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager
3rd Mar 2010 02:15 GMTChris Stefano Expert
I suspect you may be correct, but I hope you're not, seeing as that greatly reduces the probability of recovery. Walter also told me that the labels were not stolen, which may indicate that the thief was not knowledgeable. This robbery is interesting because it has occurred almost exactly two years after the theft at the University of Michigan.
Makes me sad that this happens. And hello Walter from Fort Wayne.
3rd Mar 2010 02:52 GMTByron Thomas
I agree with Alfredo on this one.
3rd Mar 2010 03:13 GMTJoseph Polityka Expert
Chris, the reason the thief left behind the labels is because it is almost impossible to prove that a particular crystal specimen was owned by someone unless the label was also stolen or if the person is caught in the act. It is easier to prove the case against a thief if he or she is caught with the specimens and the labels. The labels can be used to certify ownership. If the thief stole the "fools gold" (pyrite) then I would concede that the thief was an amateur: however, stealing a phosphophyllite leads me to believe the thief knew what they were looking for.
Chris, I think that for easily recognizable stuff (like phosphophyllite) the knowledgeable thief is less likely to take the label, as having the label at home or in their possession would be proof of guilt. They already know what the mineral is, and where it's from. On the other hand, for things of more difficult-to-determine provenance, like a gold nugget, the label would be important to the mineralogically knowledgeable thief, and unimportant for the drug addict who just wanted to sell it for bullion.
3rd Mar 2010 03:14 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager
(After posting this, I see that Joseph has beaten me in posting this idea. But for the museum's sake, I hope both of us are wrong and it all turns out like the last Michigan museum heist.)
Here is just one more example where a school or an institution is given an asset of considerable value and it is put into the hands of people who know very little about it and don't care very much either. And because of this they do little to protect or preserve it. The phosphophyllite crystals alone could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Often these crystals are quite transparent and can be cut into lovely gemstones. If this is done the specimen will vanish forever. When you sat the specimens were stolen, does that mean there was breaking and entering or was it just noticed one day that the specimens were missing?
3rd Mar 2010 07:51 GMTRock Currier Expert
This is really sad, and the fact that two thefts have happened at institutions of higher learning makes me a little embarrassed for my home state. Yes, economic conditions here are tough, but there is no reason to resort to something like this. However, I realize that there are people out there that will do just about anything...
3rd Mar 2010 08:55 GMTScott Sadlocha
Walter, once you post a bit more information on the pieces, we can all keep an eye out for them. After reading some of the details, though, it does seem like someone with a bit of knowledge took the items, making the prospect of recovery a bit slimmer. Every little bit helps though, and it is good to get the word out. The more eyes open, the better the chances.
This is unfortunately a relatively common thing. It seems to happen at least a few times a decade.
3rd Mar 2010 09:02 GMTJenna Mast
In the past, security systems were expensive to install and maintain but today there really isn't much of an excuse for colleges and universities not to have security cameras.
Especially with all the shootings which seem to becoming unfortunately common place.
I do hope they recover the specimens catch whoever did it.
Alfredo gets the gold star! Insider involvement strongly indicated here for the aforementioned reasons. The circumstances of access (breakin versus no apparent force used) are key here as well. Have they fingerprinted the cases?? Does the building have an after hours access log or computerized record (as with a swipe card system)? How about building external security cameras covering the area of the building? This one is solveable provided the crime scene has not been corrupted.
3rd Mar 2010 13:43 GMTChester S. Lemanski, Jr. Manager
4th Mar 2010 15:25 GMTWalter Kellogg
Thank you for your support. It appears the theft took place during the early evening when the building was still open. At the time, there were classes in session nearby. Several glass cases were targeted. With one exception, the top glass of the case was pried open and minerals from the top shelf were taken. Since these cases are rather high, it would seem necessary to use something to stand on to accomplish this. On one case, the glass was broken after an attempt had been made to cut it. This was the case with the Phosphophyllite in it. This case also contained some small Colombian Emerald which had very good color and were gemmy in sections. In an email from Shelia
Hi I by mistake hit tI he 'post message' button - here is the rest of the post:
4th Mar 2010 15:30 GMTWalter Kellogg
Shelia Swyrtek, the curator, describes in general what was taken:
"They were very specific about which samples they took from the cabinets they had easy access to. They always chose the very good, excellent, and most valuable samples from the ones they could get at. I also think that whoever took them must be a smoky quartz collector because they made the effort to break into the sealed quartz case and only took smoky quartz crystals."
Shelia is working on a complete list which we will post shortly.
I would be very much surprised that there would not be liftable fingerprints somewhere from the glass under the circumstances described. Any blood, even a tiny amount?? Good clue on the smoky quartz. Even if the building were still open, were there any surveillance cameras on the exterior?? Whoever did it had to carry the proceeds out, even if it was a backpack there might be a noticeable difference in its bulk between entry and exit. Any other quartz specimens handled (displaced)? Quartz surfaces would be excellent for fingerprints!
4th Mar 2010 20:03 GMTChester S. Lemanski, Jr. Manager
6th Mar 2010 21:33 GMTWalter Kellogg
Thanks for all the suggestions. The curator has emailed me a spread sheet of the stolen specimens. I cannot figure out how to attach it to a post. Below is a copy and paste from the file. I tried to edit this, lining up all the columns and what not. Only to find out - what you see when you type in your post is not the same thing as seen in the preview. All extra spacing goes away and everything is single spaced (I tried spaces and tabs). I was able to put a blank line between each specimen.
Following are the columns of data:
ID# All specimens had a label attached to them. This was a small round piece of paper from a hole punch with the ID# written on it. The labels were afixed with either glue or lacquered over.
Display name - this is the name attached to the display cabinet(s) the specimens were in.
Sample Name - usually the same as the mineral name
Location of Origin - the location - sometimes blank if unkown
Condition - What level of damage did the specimen have
Size - standard mineral sizes
Appraisal notes - These are notes I made 4 years ago when I appraised this collection. These were included because sometimes they can be informative in identifying the specimen.
ID# Display Name Sample Name Location of Origin Condition Size Appraisal Notes
CS-3 Crystallography Azurite Very Good Thumbnail
F-270 Cyclosilicates Dioptase Fair Small Cabinet
M-186 Cyclosilicates Tourmaline Good Cabinet This is very nice. It would be nice to confirm the location. There unfortunately is damage to the termination. WK
M-905 Cyclosilicates Tourmaline and Quartz Very Good Cabinet
M-952 Cyclosilicates Emerald Columbia Excellent Thumbnail 8 pcs. - Appraised as a set. The catalogue number is on the display stand. This part of a Riker box display I found in the back room. There are 11 more pcs. in the Minerals of South America case as SAM-152.
C-44 Halides Boleite Amelia Mine, Boleo, Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Mexico Very Good Thumbnail Rare. Type location. Big for species. Originally there were two pcs. with the same catalogue number and index card (C4). The two pcs. were distinct enough to warrant seperate treatment (there were even 2 different dealer labels stapled to the index card). Since, I decided to put the 2 specimens in different displays - I made a new card/number. C44, the lager one (this one) is in the Halides. The smaller, C4, is in the Minerals of Mexico display. WK
M-103b Halides Fluorite Hill-Leadford Mine, Cave-In-Rock, IL Fair Museum Mine closed in 1969. WK
W-18 Halides Halide Kern Co., California Fair Cabinet
AM-2 Minerals of Africa Azurite Tsumeb, Namibia Excellent Cabinet
AM-16 Minerals of Africa Malachite Stalactite Kolwezi, Katanga, Congo Very Good Small Cabinet probably bought at the Detroit show where Carter was a dealer
MOA-5 Minerals of Australia Boulder Opal Queensland, Australia Good Cabinet
MOA-20 Minerals of Australia Smoky Quartz Mooralia, Victoria, Australia Very Good Miniature I left the previous price empty. There was an index card with a price of $30. There was no ID #. There are 2 pcs. in the case. Neither has an ID #. I made a card for each pc. with
seperate ID#s. WK
X-6 Minerals of Mexico Fluorite Durango, Mexico Good Miniature Dealer says "water inclusions" . I don't see them. However, there are internal cleavages and the water may have escaped. WK
X-40 Minerals of Mexico Danburite Charcas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico Very Good Small Cabinet These are available periodically. I bought several very large XLs 2 1/2 years ago at Denver and a Kg of XLs this size. Value is base upon the price I have been charging. (For the price on the card I have XLs several inches long over an inch thick and 3 inches wide). I have never heard the mine in the display case nor seen any mine name in association with Danburite. I was told about 12 years ago by Benny Fenn (who at the time had the corner on this material and had literally tons of it) that there were numerous mines in the region and all the material looked similar. WK
SAM-1 Minerals of South America Atacamite Atacama Desert, Chile Good Miniature type location - currently very plentiful - it is mined as CU ore in Chile WK
SAM-2 Minerals of South America Beryl variety: Morganite Baixo Guandu, M.G., Brazil Good Miniature I soaked it in HCl and brushed it and got quite a bit of the rust off it. WK
SAM-3 Minerals of South America Mangano Calcite Casapalca, Peru Very Good Small Cabinet
SAM-7 Minerals of South America Rhodochrosite Huallapon Mine, Pasto Bueno, Peru Fair Miniature good color - with Quartz and Huebernite
SAM-8 Minerals of South America Phosphophyllite Cerro Rico de Potosi, Bolivia Fair Thumbnail Fishtail Twin - a classic.
SAM-11 Minerals of South America Topaz Ouro Preto, Bahia, Brazil Excellent Thumbnail
SAM-19 Minerals of South America Franckeite Bolivia Very Good Miniature Although relatively rare, this material is still available. Value is based upon the price I currently charge for a similar specimen. There are a couple of locations in Bolivia this material comes from. Since both are considered co-type locations, we can call this type material. These look just like the ones I have in stock (thus the location I have listed). However, I have not seen the material from Ouroro. This probably is intergrown with Teallite. WK
SAM-20 Minerals of South America Aquamarine M.G., Brazil Very Good Miniature Hollow termination.
SAM-24 Minerals of South America Sphalerite and Mangano Calcite Pachapaqui, Peru Good Small Cabinet This material is still very common and has come down in price. In fact, the reason it has been appraised this high is the nice Tetrahedrite XL. If you face the specimen so the catalog label is in the front, the Tetrahedrite XL is in the back right hand corner (with the Quartz XL penetrating it). On the bottom there is a lot more massive Tetrahedrite. The species is common at the location. WK
SAM-26 Minerals of South America Pink Apatite on Albite Grovenador Valaderes, M.G., Brazil Very Good Cabinet
SAM-27 Minerals of South America Aquamarine in Quartz Parelhas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil Fair Cabinet
SAM-28 Minerals of South America Quartz Flower Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil Good Cabinet a.k.a. Amethyst Rose WK
SAM-50 Minerals of South America Vivianite Morococcala, Bolivia Very Good Miniature
SAM-100 Minerals of South America Smoky Quartz M.G., Brazil Fair Museum Would be worth more - except the main XL tip is chipped. WK
SAM-151 Minerals of South America Emerald Columbia Excellent Thumbnail 11 pcs. - Appraised as a set. The catalogue number is on the display stand. This part of a Riker box display I found in the back room. There are 8 more pcs. in the Cyclosilicates case as M-952.
MUS-11 Minerals of the United States Gypsum Kansas Good Cabinet
M-238 Native Elements Gold Hemlow Mine, North of Lake Superior, Ontario Massive Cabinet Difficult to appraise. If Chester paid $125 for the pc in 1967 and the majority of the price was due to the metal content, then we can calculate a value for the metal. Currently, gold sells for appx. $500 / oz. In 1967, it sold for $35. This is an increase of a multiple of appx. 14. So, $125 x 14 = $1750. Usually, specimen are worth more than the mere weight of the gold. This was true in 1967 and is true today. So, an assumption has been made that the value of this piece as a specimen has gone up proportionally with the price of the metal. I doubt if it has gone up more than this, because this piece is not extraordinary aesthetically speaking. If we knew the location, it could add value to the piece. Finding the dealer's label would be wonderful. I brought Bill Barr from Ann Arbor (one of the state's foremost collectors) to look at the collection. He took one look at this specimen and immediately recognized the location. Apparently, he has collected at the location. WK
M-930 Native Elements Silver Crystals Wolverine Mine, Houghton Co., MI Excellent Small Cabinet A noteworthy specimen. Extremely large for Silver Crystals from MI and we even know the mine. WK
M-200 Nesosilicates Zircon Fair Miniature Bright Yellow SW fluor. Value is determined by fluor. WK
M-211 Nesosilicates Andalusite Good Thumbnail
M-48a Phosphates Wavellite Marion Co., Arkansas Excellent Thumbnail
M-54 Phosphates Pyromorphite Sherman Mine, Burke, Shoshone Co., Idaho Good Cabinet An old location long
closed. Nice piece. WK
M-300 Phosphates Endlichite - Arsenian Vanadinite San Carlos, Chihuahua, Mexico Very Good Cabinet not a valid species WK
Q-3 QuartzFossil Plants Macrocrystalline (Smoky) Good Museum
Q-6 QuartzFossil Plants NC Smoky Quartz Lincoln Co., North Carolina Very Good Cabinet
Q-9 QuartzFossil Plants Smoky Quartz Colorado Good Small Cabinet
M-1a Sulfides Marcasite on Dolomite Picher, Oklahoma Good Museum
M-13 Sulfides Stibnite Baia Spyrie, Romania Excellent Small Cabinet The market was flooded with these a few years ago. Thus the lack of appreciation. I have heard the mine has recently closed, so the value should start climbing. WK
M-599 Sulfides Cobaltite Fair Thumbnail relatively rare
M-121e Tectosilicates Opal Very Good Museum not quite thick enough to cut. The catalogue number is one of a series (M121), indicating Quartz and its varieties - most of the other specimens in this series are in the Quartz collection. Opal is not Quartz - but rather considered a Tectosilicate (according to Dana). Since there was no Opal specimen in the Tectosilicates case, I put this one there.; WK
M-134 Tectosilicates Scapolite Otter Lake, Pontiac Co., Quebec Fair Museum Quite large crystals. Good typical monochromatic red SW fluor. - with Augite Xls WK
M-137 Tectosilicates Nepheline Massive Cabinet
M-138 Tectosilicates Sodalite Massive Cabinet There is some interesting black material. WK
M-139 Tectosilicates Chabazite Fair Miniature
M-140 Tectosilicates Stilbite Fair Small Cabinet
M-143 Tectosilicates Thomsonite Good Thumbnail decent eye patterns WK
M-143a Tectosilicates Thomsonite Good Thumbnail decent eye patterns WK
M-906 Tectosilicates Chabazite Very Good Cabinet with Calcite
typing a post is not what you get when you preview - all the extra spacing went away whether the spacing came from space characters or tabs.
6th Mar 2010 23:13 GMTAnthony Kampf Manager
If you email the spreadsheet to me, I can post a more readable version on the SMMP website.
Hello there, this is my first time for posting on this site. It is a sad day to hear of mineral specimens being stolen. I would surmise that the specimens have already been sold to a private collector. This is what was done with hundreds of gemmy Maine Tourmalines and Emeralds from the Wintringham collection. His specimens were removed from his house while he was on his deathbed. I later sold the remainder of his collection for his estate last year. I am 99.9% positive who took them (it was a mineral dealer), but I had no photographs. I think it would be a wise effort for collectors to photograph their specimens. Also, in case the specimens are still on the market, I suggest for this list to be circulated at all gem and mineral shows, asap. Someone might recognize something.
18th Mar 2010 19:18 GMTRonald Kendig
18th Mar 2010 21:08 GMTJasun D. McAvoy Expert
Is it possible we know anything about who those emeralds and tourmalines came through? Perhaps any of the previous owners or dealers had some more detailed info. I had meant to ask you about this last time we visited actually.
have you put word out to anyone, anyone at all, that might have possibly taken a picture of any of these cabinets or specimens at the college? Even perhaps the photography classes - or ask any of the photography professors. I know when I was in school, I often saw photography students looking for interesting subjects over in the Bio and Chem labs...
taking pics of preserved biological samples, atomic models, etc. etc.
Its a long shot, but I'd have to think someone would've wanted to photograph some of these things at one point or another. A nice little phosphophyllite specimen - How did some proud collector not take a quick picture of that? Also, as I mentioned to Ron, do we know if there were any previous owners who could perhaps any greater info?
Also, is there any active police investigation going on?
Ron, that story about the collector on his death bed kind of upsets me. What kind of dirtbag would steal minerals from a collector on his way out. What a worthless peice of !@#$%.
18th Mar 2010 21:40 GMTMichael Hopkins
The scenario continues with no comments whatever regarding police involvement, crime scene processing, surveillence cameras. Am I correct that the silence means that none of the above were considered/executed/reviewed??
19th Apr 2010 18:50 BSTChester S. Lemanski, Jr. Manager
> Am I correct that the silence means that none of the above were considered/executed/reviewed??
19th Apr 2010 19:02 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder
In situations like these, and especially when there is an ongoing police enquiry, it's usually best to say silent and not discuss operational matters until there is a positive outcome.
Hi, Thanks for your thoughts.
5th May 2010 05:47 BSTRonald Kendig
Neil did have purchase records, but truthfully I was so busy last year cleaning, working with the appraiser, and running from show to show, that I never thought about the people he purchased specimens from. Do you think it is too late to pursue this?
Thanks for your comment. I am 99.9% sure who the "dirtbag" is but legally I cannot say who, because I cannot prove it. Other than his Nanny (who had no interest in minerals), there was only one person who visited Neil while he lay on his deathbed. The "dirtbag" has done this before, and he is a sneaky one. Specific specimens were taken. Pages in his appraisal book were altered (replaced.) This man sells minerals and has many many contacts. He is a smooth operator. Many people buy from him and they have no idea that he is a thief. He sells minerals all over the U.S.
But do I have photos of what was taken, no. This is a new thought for me. Neil used to do talks at clubs, and he used slides. Most of his talks were on Maine pegmatites. The family did not want any of his "media". It is a great possibility that there may be pictures of his minerals. I will check into this. I am sure that by now, all specimens of his have been sold or removed from circulation. I received an email from Van King around the time of Neil's death, stating that Neil's large Franklin copper specimen was on Keith Williams table at Tucson. Van said he would send me a photo, but I never received it.
Since my end of selling the Wintringham collection has ended (I had only a 9 month window to sell everything.), I can only hope that the bank handling his estate will pursue finding the lost specimens. (After all, they will lose a large chunk of change from the lost sales.) Maybe the family will pursue it. They have recently decided they want to publish the last book Neil was working on before he got sick.
Legally speaking, my hands have been tied. The "dirtbag" visited Neil regularly. So his finger prints were all over the house.
If the ones stolen had not yet been photographed could it be someone who knew this and is familiar with the collection?
11th Jul 2010 17:09 BSTDonna Gandy
This isn't the aqumarine specimen by chance, is it? I know this is an old post, but I figure why not? It's worth a shot...
17th Mar 2014 04:08 GMTNatalie
Please forgive me for the double post, but I wanted to explain why I thought this might have been a stolen specimen:
17th Mar 2014 09:24 GMTNatalie
I am a lampworker, and a torch turned up with some cut hoses . The other items being offered and sold don't really seem to have much correlation to each other ; on that note, the minerals being sold don't have any solid information about where they were found and how they were mined, and the only information provided is just some new age rambling-- not really helpful, and awfully suspicious, methinks.
It is my understanding that the perpetrator of this robbery has been caught now and most, if not all specimens were recovered.
17th Mar 2014 11:31 GMTChris Stefano Expert
Fantastic to hear Chris. Thanks for the update.
18th Mar 2014 03:55 GMTScott Sadlocha
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