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Mineral ShowsQuestion for Dealers: Thefts at Shows

3rd May 2010 05:10 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

This question is directed at mineral dealers, both small and large, low end and high end (although I'd like to hear from anyone): What is your experience with theft at shows? Have you been a victim? If so what was the scale of the loss, the items taken, and what was the show (small club show, large commercial show), etc.? What steps do you take to minimize theft?

3rd May 2010 06:01 BSTJake Harper Expert

We have had one theft (that we know of, anyway) in the last 15 years of doing small club shows - the specimens retail value being $20. Both my wife and I are always very active and alert at our booth (no sitting down now!) and do our very best to keep all eyes on our stock - at all times.



3rd May 2010 06:04 BSTDana Slaughter

Hi Steve,

I've had very few problems that I know of to be honest. I don't police my booth as much as some dealers do and I'm very relaxed about having people come back behind the tables and have a look around. I worry more about my cash box than anything else. I've had three instances in many years that I know of: a) another dealer took some things b) a cameraman and mobile reporter took a mammoth tooth and fossil whale vertebra--I guess that they thought that it should be free as I was the one being put on TV! and c) one inexpensive item came up missing. We get very busy on our first day of the shows and my wife and I are sometimes overrun by customers waiting to pay. While we're busy wrapping, etc. it would be very easy for someone to pocket something---I'm sometimes amazed that it doesn't happen more often. Others will point out empty boxes in flats but invariably it is because someone put the rock back in the wrong spot.

I generally have the more expensive items in glass cases near the back. I did have one other dealer try to scam my sons while I used the restroom. Fortunately, my sons didn't bite and the guy was beside himself trying to explain how he thought I told him that he could get 60% off a specimen that was already reasonably priced. He turned beet red and I've never seen him again.

I regularly hear about theft at just about every show that I've done but usually it is jewelry items that are stolen. One guy at a show in MI tried to run off with a big oreodont skull in matrix from SD (not mine) and got about 30 yards before being caught. What a moron. I figure that I have to expect at least some theft but I've been pleasantly surprised at how little theft we've encountered. Maybe I'm too relaxed and just don't realize it! There may have been one or two other instances but I can't honestly remember any others at the moment.

I bought a huge collection in 2007 and in 2008 we brought the collection to our best show in Mesa, AZ (A.L. Flagg Gem and Mineral Show) and we were swamped by customers about 1/2 hour before we opened. They were lifting the sides of our tent to get in! We probably had 15-20 people waiting to pay and just the two of us were manning our double booth that year. It is the only time that I've ever really been worried about theft--I couldn't help but think how our backs were turned for virtually the entire first couple hours. The next year we had a friend stop by for a while to keep an eye on things while we wrapped, boxed and bagged but we weren't nearly so frantic as the year before so it wasn't a problem.

Fortunately, one of my buddies has a booth next to mine and we take turns watching each other's stuff every now and again so that we can check something out or use the restroom, etc. Good question!

Best regards,


6th May 2010 10:13 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

A personal observation is that the higher the entrance charge for buyers, the less theft there seems to be. Lot less theft at the Munich show, which has a rather steep entrance fee, than at free-of-charge venues in Tucson. A stiff entrance fee discourages some lowlife types but not the serious customers. (Caveat: I have no statistics for this, just personal experience, no statistically significant sample size.)

6th May 2010 13:44 BSTDavid Weiss

That may be so, but a high entrance fee may also discourage many honest "low end" and "mid range" buyers who would rather use the $20 entrance fee to buy a mineral, and thus decide not to attend...

and while I know it wasn't your intention, the statement below could be interpreteted as eletist or snobby.

Alfredo Petrov Wrote:


> A personal observation is that the higher the

> entrance charge for buyers, the less theft there

> seems to be. Lot less theft at the Munich show,

> which has a rather steep entrance fee, than at

> free-of-charge venues in Tucson. A stiff entrance

> fee discourages some lowlife types but not the

> serious customers. (Caveat: I have no statistics

> for this, just personal experience, no

> statistically significant sample size.)

6th May 2010 14:31 BSTMaryanne Fender

We have had maybe 5 thefts in 15 years of business. We are vigilant but accept the minor thefts as part of the scene. Worse than outright theft are bad checks then you have to pay to be stolen from (bank fees). We take bad checks very seriously much more seriously than outright theft.

6th May 2010 16:19 BSTScott Sadlocha

I have often wondered about this at the shows I attend. I walk around the tables and behind the tables looking at minerals, and I always take measures to make sure I don't look like I am stealing, because I consider myself a very honest person and would not want even the assumption. But I can see how a theft could occur, especially with a preoccupied dealer and minerals all over the place. When I go to shows, I chat with the dealers a bit, hoping they get to know me a little, so that the next time they see me they may remember me and not have to worry about anything.

I was really curious about it at the Greater Detroit Show this year. The venue changed to a Trade Center/Flea Market location, rather than a local community college, and I found the new location very unappealing, not to mention I saw a great of less than savory looking characters in the area, and the access into and out of the show seemed more plentiful, which to me seemed a bad situation.

I heard that there were quite a few thefts at the Cincinnati, Ohio show about a week ago. Can anyone confirm this?

6th May 2010 16:55 BSTChris Stefano Expert

As far as I'm aware, there were not significant problems at Detroit last year, however, they will be going back to Macomb CC. I don't know anything about Cinci.

6th May 2010 17:05 BSTScott Sadlocha

Well, I for one am glad they are going back to Macomb. I didn't like the Gibraltar venue at all, but it is good to hear that there were no major issues.

6th May 2010 17:21 BSTChris Stefano Expert

Many dealers were very worried about Gibraltar, however, after the show, everyone I talked to actually did very well there (in some cases much better than at Macomb), and many dealers wanted to stay there. However, you were not the only person who did not like Gibraltar, a number of influential people also had the same problems with it that you had Scott. It is my understanding that when Gibraltar learned that they intended to go back to Macomb for this year's show, that Gibraltar offered them the space for FREE for this year to try to keep them. Nevertheless, it will go back to Macomb, which I agree is a nicer setting, and is a shorter drive for me.

6th May 2010 18:28 BSTDonald Slater

I have had a few thefts over the years, mostly at the Tucson show when I use set up there. It is a major draw for thieves. I now work for a dealer there who has had some thefts but mostly lower priced items because he has the higher priced items locked behind glass. There seemed to be a much higher theft rate at the 2009 show than the latest one and he did loose a good size meteorite. I only set up at local shows now and have lost only one or two in the past years, luckily lower priced items. I work the shows by myself and it is hard to watch when there are several customers. It amazes me that someone could find enjoyment in a mineral specimen that they stole.

10th May 2010 06:02 BSTJohn Attard Expert


You bring up a good point that is it amazes you that someone would find a mineral specimen enjoyable when they know they stole it. I would say they may think at that time they would but later it probably turns out they do not ... especially when they realize that because if it they are now a thief.

In general for me theft is not a major issue but I take the precaution of putting the most valuable minerals behind glass.

10th May 2010 08:31 BSTGreg Dainty


We average 1 to 2 thefts a show. Im pretty sure mostly its kids, we have caught a couple. Its almost always the price tag that attracts them, i.e " that little things worth $100, wow" . What really gets to me is, they very rarely take the associated information label, so mostly they have no idea what they have taken. Theft of specimens by somebody with good mineral knowledge, Id say is probably one specimen a year.

What do you do? pay particular attention to groups of young kids.(13 - 14 years old plus), especially if they have been,to your stand once or twice earlier, put really valuable pieces at the rear, concentrated in one area, pay particular attention in the last one or two hours of a show.

I know this sounds a bit harsh on kids , but this is our experience. .......Greg

10th May 2010 17:30 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Groups of middle-aged women with large open handbags are far worse than the kids! One will distract the dealer with a bunch of beginner questions while her companions stuff their bags. I personally have never had a problem with teenagers, not even the scruffy-looking ones that other dealers are scared of. The teenagers sometimes turn into serious collectors after a few years. Looks can be very deceiving.

10th May 2010 17:53 BSTChris Stefano Expert

I've seen the types you describe Alfredo!

10th May 2010 18:20 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

I began this thread because for the first time in five years I suffered theft. In this case five specimens whose price total was less than $75. The theft occurred after daily opening for dealers but before opening to the general public. Therefore it was either a show staff member, another dealer (or their help) or a general public person who snuck in. The specimens were taken from flats at the table's edge, but the labels and individual specimen boxes were left. Everything taken was very generic: pyrite from Peru, etc. The thefts were discovered when I removed the night covering from my booth. From this I conclude that someone reached under the cloth and grabbed what they could.

If my five-year losses to theft are on $75, then I can count myself as very lucky. Haven't had a bad check or problematic credit card yet.

I have, over the years, 'stared away' (chased away by staring) suspicious kids, teenagers, and middle-aged ladies with large handbags. Even had to stare away another dealer once.

10th May 2010 18:50 BSTMark Gottlieb

One of the large hand bag ladies swiped a $3.00 prehnite from me last year. Surely, I had better stuff to take; maybe she liked green? If she asked for it, I would have given it to her for free. Funny world we live in.

10th May 2010 18:59 BSTTom Klinepeter

I have been lucky, every couple shows I loose one or two specimens. Most are not the higher priced specimens but low to middle range. However I was in a room in Tucson this winter where a dealer just had a $2 - 3000 specimen stolen. I know he was telling the truth as I had looked at the specimen the day before and had returned to look at it again. Something like that really takes the fun out of doing shows.

10th May 2010 21:01 BSTAnonymous User

My girlfriend and I were once falsely accused of theft at a BEAD show of all places, apparently some thefts had taken place the day prior and the accuser had some things is one of the worst feelings EVER to be falsely accused of theft. We basically let the lady have it, and in the process made a huge scene which drew lots of attention to her and lots of business away. In this world your reputation means so much and to have someone question your integrity is no small thing. I hope to start selling minerals too one day and theft is one of the problems that keeps me from doing it. I'm glad to hear that most of you have suffered only minor thefts in your experience, I hope it stays that way.

10th May 2010 22:53 BSTDenise Bicknell

What about breakage? I know I've seen it at shows. One in particular was a Peruvian Barite specimen - so sad! It is just as much a loss to the dealer as a theft.

10th May 2010 23:06 BSTMark Gottlieb

Who doesn't like to poke a nice okenite?

10th May 2010 23:41 BSTMaggie Wilson Expert

Good point, Denise.

We've been lucky enough to have only minor breakage and no thefts. We sell thumbnails in their perky boxes - the ones placed toward the front of the table are most at risk - inquisitive fingers (mostly kids) are the greatest concern. And who but the most knowledgeable is able to resist the urge to reach out toward the shiny, pretty, exotic looking pieces? We've also had to speak out to the folks that want to handle the pieces to gauge the energy.

To prevent breakage, we try to remain vigilant, and we elevate the table - see this thread We keep a stool on hand for those that need the extra height to view the pieces.


11th May 2010 00:11 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

Mark, that would be why I don't sell okenites (at least not white ones...haha) at shows (do have them on the web site sometimes), unless they are geode-protected, and even then, they usually go on the glass.

11th May 2010 00:14 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

I tell 'gauge the energy' customers that if they can feel the energy, then they are sucking out some of the energy, and therefore must buy the specimen. Needless to say, when I'm in that sort of mood, I don't have to worry to much about the healy-feely crowd.

And don't even get me started as to my policies when the heelies put a specimen into a body cavity..... Lucky for me the obnoxious woman who put a $50 Brazilian schorl deep into her cleavage "to test the energy" did buy it. She was going to buy it, whether she wanted to or not, after it went there.

11th May 2010 00:24 BSTPeter Hargis

I can't comment on having minerals stolen from me since I've only recently started to sell off part of my collection online, but I do have a thought on a trend I've noticed in this thread. It seems like most items stolen are in the lower-price range. I think that part of this is b/c many people feel that stealing has degrees of severity; i.e., it's not as bad to steal $5 as it is to steal $500, so there's less guilt in taking the lesser specimens. Maybe b/c dealers are more likely to prosecute a $500 theft vs a $5 theft?

At shows, I will walk the show first to see what's available and then return to certain tables numerous times trying to make up my mind, so I too try to look as innocent as possible b/c I know this can be suspicious. I usually keep my hands clasped behind my back while I'm looking at a dealer's minerals. And if the mineral looks fragile, I will ask the dealer if I may pick it up or if he/she can pick it up for me. It hurts to have to buy a broken mineral as much, I assume, as it does to have one broken in your inventory.

11th May 2010 02:11 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

I believe the value of the specimens stolen has to do with their availability, Higher priced specimens general have better security than lower priced ones.

11th May 2010 02:18 BSTScott Sadlocha


I agree with you. I pretty much follow the same procedure as I walk around shows, including the hands behind the back as I lean over. In the colder months, when I wear a coat, it becomes more troublesome, as I always get too warm at some point, so I am then carrying around a coat, and whatever I purchased, and it can get unweildy.

11th May 2010 16:32 BSTStephen Rose Expert

At the Seattle show a number of years ago an older 'gentleman' spent some time examining perky-boxed, lower end TN's at my booth. He was dressed like a farmer and made a point of using a very dirty handkerchief, a snot-rag in the purest sense, which he would then stuff in his overalls pocket. When he left, after several visits, I noticed that a TN was missing, surely wrapped snugly in a disgusting rag. I didn't actually see the act, so I didn't make a tissue of it.



11th May 2010 17:33 BSTDavid Weiss

Human perception is fairly predictable. I went to a mineral show in shabby cloths and was either ignored or looked at suspiciously.

The next year I walked in with a button down shirt and slacks, and the dealers seemed more attentive. One even handed me a $100 specimen and turned his back to take care of another customer.

...Which means he either trusted me, or the specimen wasn't worth the price tag. :)

Also, I found that the people dressed in nicer cloths have a harder time negotiating price with dealers. :)

But, yea, I do the hands behind the back thing too.

Peter Hargis Wrote:


> At shows, I will walk the show first to see what's

> available and then return to certain tables

> numerous times trying to make up my mind, so I too

> try to look as innocent as possible b/c I know

> this can be suspicious. I usually keep my hands

> clasped behind my back while I'm looking at a

> dealer's minerals.

4th Jul 2010 19:27 BSTRachel Cesana

Hey Steve

The Rhode Island Mineral Hunters run a show in RI at the Community College and we have not had any significant theft there. We hire a Security guard to walk around and our members walk around as well to help out. Our dealers say they are happy with us walking around as a second set of eyes for them or for bathroom breaks. jewelry seems to be the biggest draw for thefts not the high end stuff though. Vigilence seems to be the biggist deterrent and by everyone involved in the show.


5th Jul 2010 02:15 BSTVik Vanrusselt Expert

I believe myself to be a serious collector and I would NEVER steal a specimen from ANYONE.

However, I'm in a wheelchair (I'm handicapped, Spina Bifida to be exact) and always have a large backpack attached to it, containing spare clothing and stuff I might need. For some reason, that makes me suspicious to EVERYONE at a show.

I can see people thinking "He's faking it, that backpack is stuffed with things he's already stolen..."

(The most annoying thing to me however at mineral shows is not theft/breakage (which I have been accused of a few times, JUST because I'm in a wheelchair so I MUST be dangerous), but the 'selfishness' of the visitors. Some people even deliberately step in front of me at every single stand. When I accidentally hit their heels with my wheelchair they turn around and flip out at first, then apologize in the most ridiculous ways for not noticing me, which in turn is hilarious to me!)

13th Jul 2010 01:51 BSTGeoffrey Krasnov Expert

I've only experienced two incidents. The first was finding a really shabby pyrite that had been put in a box that used to have a very fine one. Apparently the buyer felt mine was better and figured I wouldn't notice? The second was more disturbing. I had just bout a half dozen thumbnails from another dealer when a good customer came by and wanted to know what was new. I showed him the bag and , after a few minutes he gave it back to me. After the show , when I wnet to open the bag, I noticed the best piece was missing. This fellow was the only one I had shown it to. Now, when he comes by my booth, I overcharge him and have made up for the loss.

What is difficult to control are the hands of the urchins. Parents seem to think it is so cute when they pick up specimens and rub the nice okenite ball. We have to constantly remind them to "touch with your eyes". Naturally, all the lesser priced and less fragile pieces populate the table peripheries, and the better stuff goes in cases.

All in all, the losses are way lower than retailers experience in general. I like to believe that people in the mineral hobby are just that much more honest and friendly. In all my years I have never had a bounced check either.

8th Sep 2010 06:14 BSTAisha Jan

In the 6 years since Rocksaholics has been established, we suffered the most thefts at the Holiday Inn show in Denver. The pink Katlang Topaz that was taken was priced at $ 1500.00 it was in a showcase but not behind glass. Several other minerals have been taken from the open flats that are placed on the bed. This same gang of ‘buyers/collectors’ visits this show every year, but have yet to be caught in the act. They stay away from us because they know, that I know, what they are up to.

The most expensive specimen, an $ 8000.00 Paprok Tourmaline crystal, was lifted, in Tucson at the Inn Suites in 2008. The crystal was in a closed but not locked case. A couple of 'buyers' wanted to take photographs of our minerals. While one asked us to hold a specimen he was interested in, while he photographed it, the other helped himself to the Tourmaline crystal. A police report was filed, but no results as yet. That year, many dealers in Tucson at the Inn Suites were robbed.

We have now attached bells to the door of the shut cases. If anyone opens it, the ring of the bell gets our attention even if we are very busy. Additionally, we now install security cameras in all room locations & if the room gets too crowded, we request some to wait before entering. We also discourage photography, EXCEPT when Jolyon Ralph visits. His visits are always welcomed. A security advisor informed us that most thieves will photograph fine minerals to offer to buyers, before attempting theft.

Talking about old ladies with open bags....One came to my booth at a convention center show. She picked up a huge piece of rough Lapis & threw it into her bag. She hit the little dog on the head that was asleep in her bag, who woke up yelping! I noticed the Lapis was gone, called security, who discovered that she had been on a free shopping spree at the show. She was duly arrested

8th Sep 2010 20:13 BSTRay Hill Expert

Since I am not a buyer of huge $$ specimens, but do appreciate them, I take my camera and photograph a lot of specimens, with permissions of the booth holders. I have done this for as long as I can remember, often asking for the glass doors to be opened...I will do slide showings of what I photographed, and make sure , if I can to include the label of the booth in the pictures...and in this way help to pay back the booth for the privilege of recording their materials..

BUT NOW I fear that I might have to rethink this , since I have read in more than one entry that thieves photograph stuff they plan to steal and I don't want to be suspected of being one of those..

My only saving grace may be that I am now a familiar figure and I do the same thing at every show and every museum I attend...


8th Sep 2010 20:32 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

I've always been a bit sceptical of the story that thieves photograph specimens they want to steal, thereby leading to a fear of photographers at shows, and nasty glances cast at innocents like Ray. Are there really any confirmed cases of this, other than just hearsay? I suspect there are several quite different reasons that some dealers don't want photographers around (and I sympathise with some of those reasons myself), and that the fear of facilitating theft is just a pretext.

Theft of specimens at shows is opportunistic, by definition something that is hard to plan. A thief who photographs specimens for the purpose of offering them to clients... Huh? How does he know the specimen will still be there, and available to grab, when he comes back? Why take the risk of being recognized? It makes little sense. But I may well be wrong, and I won't complain if someone proves me wrong, but it had better be a first hand account and not just some hearsay ""It happened to a friend..." type of story, after which I'll still be a sceptic.

9th Sep 2010 13:55 BSTAisha Jan

With a personality like Ray's, I doubt anyone can cast a nasty glance at him with camera in hand, or otherwise. We too used to discredit the phobia about thieves with cameras, until we were hit in Tucson, in 2008.

I personally doubt that the reason for the photography is to come back and lift the specimen, but from experience, I do know that it can be used as a in our case.

Besides being advised by security experts who have nothing to do with the mineral industry, a show promoter

at the 2009 Tucson show (after many dealers were robbed in 2008) circulated a memo, advising dealers not to allow photography.

When we attempted to follow this rule, a visitor to our room became extremely agitated, threatened to run for the office of the Mayor to fight this rule.

We allow photography by everyone known to us and by those who request permission. For those that take it for granted, permission is granted or politely declined, depending on the situation in our room at the time,


Aisha & Arif Jan

9th Sep 2010 17:42 BSTAnonymous User

Clasping the hands behind the back for the duration of a show - in conjunction with refraining from leaning on display cases, tables, etc. - leads to a condition we call "rock show back" in my family.

Recently at the small local shows I've been to I have noticed a ban on photography. I assumed it was because dealers don't want anyone to copy their setups or displays.

This year at the big Breeder's Expo in Daytona (the "Tucson" of the reptile industry) a very expensive gecko was stolen from a table. (If you've never been to such a show, most animals are in deli cups.) It was close to a grand, I believe. Animals in this price range (and they go much higher) are bought almost exclusively by other breeders who see them as an investment (baby-makers). So the chances that it was stolen by a middle-aged lady or a scruffy kid are slim. My point is that surely in every hobby there are knowledgeable people who will stoop to theft.

Personally I never tried to touch an okenite. I may have done some unintentional injury to a millerite, though.

9th Sep 2010 19:34 BSTTimothy Greenland

I'm not a dealer and have only once shown some of my minerals in public - with no problems, but a fair number of years back I showed my collection to an acquaintance who seemed a bit interested. At one point he slipped a nice specimen of a fairly common mineral into his pocket. I told him that I did not want to give it away and his response was: "I'm just doing what you did to get them, but YOU call it 'collecting'!"... He refused to give it back and left, insulting me for 'despoiling the public wealth of humanity'. Needless to say he has not been back to my house - and I warned other friends of his attitude. For him it seemed to be a sort of political stance. Wierd - but he was much bigger than I, so I let it drop. Lucky it wasn't a really precious piece.



10th Sep 2010 01:01 BSTPhil Mesa

Wow, such horror stories. I have been fortunate enough to have dealers let me sift thorugh thier miniature and thumbnail collections that they typically have off display. I can see how easy it is for people to take advantage of this, unfortunately. I am always rediculously careful to hand off my backpack and camera case to my family that accompaines me to the shows....Better to have designated area within your suite or booth to store backpacks or bags for people sifting through off display stuff.

I always ask to take photos, but normally of stuff under locked display cabinets. And I only do this if there is a low presence of customers at the booth/room.

10th Sep 2010 15:22 BSTJason Evans

On a slightly lighter note, this talk of thefts reminds me of my school days, I had a freind, well were still freimnds but hes not as interested in minerals anymore, there was this other lad who was sort of interested in minerals, although i think it was more likely he was jeleous of our freindship so tried to join in by showing an interest, he was a bit of a idiot and stole my freinds bit of amber, then the msot stupid thing he did was to tell me he stole it but if i were to tell, then ide get puched, but i did tell becuase, well becuase i felt it was the right thing to do.

I told the head teacher and i remeber us all being in his office and the teacher asked why he stole it and the excuse was becuase he was jealous of it, well i didnt get puched, just shovbe up agaisnt the wall but it was worth it to see him humilated and having to give it back to my freind.

after a while we kinda forgot about it and then one day this individul came round my house, and my freind was there as well, the idiot stole some of my specimens whilst i went to the toilet, right in front of my freind and said the same thing to him, if he told he was going to get punched.

he actually didnt tell, instead did something far more amsuing, we went out for a bit and when we were coming back my freind said he was deperate for the loo so ran ahead, and he quickly "re-stole" my minerals from the culprits bag and hid them somewhere until he was gone then he told me what happened, and the funniest thing was the idiot didnt even guess what happejed becuase the next day apprently he said to my freind, those mineral i stiole were gone out of my bag when i got home, he was quite confused how that happened!

I had the last laugh though, in saying this i hope i dont give the impresion that i am a theif, but this individual brought some garnet in schist in to show us, and whikle i was looking at it the lesson bell rang, the persosn just grabbed his bag and ran off to get to the lesson, leaving me with his garnet still in my hand, and no he never got it back, a few hours later he was all annoyed he lost his garnet, we even helped him look for it knowing it was in my locker.

I now know that was not a nice thing to do but at the time i justified it as not stealing it becuase he just left it in my hands and forgot about it, and also i felt like it was only fair as he had stolen from both of us.

17th Sep 2010 01:22 BSTChris Foltz

Never had a theft problem @ a show but did have a large piece of Gel Williamsite stolen from me by Mark Kaufman of Kaufman Enterprises,San Diego Ca..I sent it to Mark who was to facet the stone for the Smithsonian's Gem Collection,told me it got LOST when he moved his shop.Never even returned the $100 deposit for the faceting he never preformed! Watch out for this thief he's still in business.Got the paper work to prove everything.

22nd Sep 2010 18:51 BSTEzekiel Hughes

At the Washington State Jade Rendezvous this weekend a lady known to have "sticky fingers" showed up the first day. the host casually mentioned we had armed security and she said "security, what are they here for?"...and he replied " they are here to shoot any thieves and bury them in the woods" or something like that...she jumped in her car and took off like a bat out of hell! she did steal one piece...but the joke was on was a piece of soapstone someone had brought to show newbies what not to pick up.

28th Sep 2010 04:19 BSTRonald Kendig


My wife and I have been show dealers for nearly 30 years. We have seen some specimens "disappear" over the years, and we find no common denominator as to who, when or at what show that it will happen. The first specimen we ever had taken was in Bufallo NY when a showy Pyrite crystal disappeared after a little, old, white-haired lady had been in the area (and she disappeared from the show shortly afterwards.) You just never know who to suspect.

For many years at the Northern Berkshire Club's show, there was a heavy-set American Indian woman in a wheelchair. A couple years, she was spotted stealing and called on it. She acted like she didn't know the specimens dropped into the folds of her blanket. The dealers believed her and were just happy to get their specimens back. She would hang around a show all day, and chatted with dealers and customers.

Whenever we suspect someone, we spread the word to other dealers. It is only polite to do so and I would hope that other dealers would have the same courtesy. That way there are several sets of eyes watching.

There are two habitual mineral thieves whom we have not been able to catch 'in the act'. They both have established rapports with dealers by buying, but steal from other dealers. One man is from upstate New York. We nicknamed him "squeaky" because he has a high squeaky voice; he is one very slick operator and works in tandem with two friends. My wife literally cringes every time we see him. We used to go to the Rochester Symposium (NY) where dealers sell out of their rooms. Every year we lost at least one high price specimen to this guy (finding the empty box after he left the room). We even had 4 sets of eyes watching him, but he still managed to take something without our seeing it. One year we brought an enclosed case to deter specifically him; we heard the thump on the case as he tried to reach into the back of the case. He could not see the case was totally enclosed. Red faced, he quickly left the room. Another year, we saw the "end signal, the tip of the hat"; when we approached the floor guard, he refused to frisk them. We were told unless we caught the guy in the act, there was nothing he could do; symposium personnel agreed. We no longer go there.

The other man used to buy and take at Pennsylvania shows. He wore a tan fishing vest with many bulging pockets. He drove a car with Delaware plates. No one ever caught him in the act, but dealers always complained of expensive specimens missing. He likes smaller pieces, like thumbnails and micromounts. He has a rapport with several dealers who think he is wonderful.

There are various types of thieves: there are those who steal outright at shows; those who steal from mineral collections, and those who steal by bogus transactions:

We were just at the Franklin, NJ Show this past weekend. I was pleased to hear an announcement to the dealers prior to the opening of the show. We were warned of a specific man who portrays himself as a retired U.S. Navy Colonel, who is known for being in a hurry and buying heavily from many dealers. But his checks bounce and his credit cards are bogus. There are warrants out for his arrest in many areas. We were unfortunate at the Monroe NY show this past June to meet him, and yes, we got taken by a bogus credit card. I recently learned another dealer lost over $400.00 at the same show, accepted a check from him.

Summary: go get them, pursue legal action, don't let them get away with taking anything.
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