By Vic Bozarth - The Rare Coin Road Warrior .....
Dear Rare Coin Enthusiasts.....
Many of you may have wondered what happened to Vic Bozarth-The Rare Coin Road Warrior. Sherri and I are still traveling 200 nights per year to coin shows and on coin buying trips all over the continental U.S. We are still active rare coin dealers and our website and Ebay Store are both updated with new listings each week. Stuart, our brother in law and office manager, is still busily processing coins, answering both phone and emails, and ‘holding down the fort’ at our office in Brenham, TX.
So what gives Vic? Why did you quit writing your Rare Coin Road Warrior Blog? Although I have searched for an answer myself, the truth is that I haven’t been able to put out a POSITIVE story for over a year. Maybe this TRUE story will help explain ‘what is rattling around in my head’-HA!
Do you believe in The Golden Rule, Karma, or simply right versus wrong? Both Sherri and I do. We really try to treat others as we would like to be treated. Sherri is an angel, but I have my shortcomings. I have a short fuse and have often had to apologize for my transgressions. Personally, I think one of the biggest factors in the ‘Right vs. Wrong’ dilemma is whether a WRONG results in anxiety, worry, or pain on the part of the perpetrator. IF I have done someone wrong, I can’t sleep. That is one of the ways I know I have done wrong and I try to make amends.
The story I am about to tell you is true. The name of the perpetrator and the GOOD guys I will reveal in the story. The name of the thief and details of the conviction are all part of PUBLIC court records. Some of the bad guys will not be revealed, but they know what they have done and I hope their sleep is haunted sufficient to their wrong doing. The neatest part of this story is HOW MANY GOOD GUYS are involved.
Most dealers will agree that the Whitman Baltimore Coin Show is the BEST (non-club) coin show in the U.S. Not only do the folks at Whitman Publishing strive to put on a great show for the public, but unlike the ANA, they are dealer friendly. I have attended every Baltimore Show since the early nineties as well as quite a few prior to then when the show was still in the old pavilion style building. The Whitman Baltimore Coin Show is held three times a year-most often in March, June, and November.
During the November 2013 Baltimore Show we had eight coins stolen from our wholesale sell boxes. Because Sherri runs an incredibly ‘tight ship’, we knew exactly WHAT was stolen by early Sunday morning after returning home from the show. The eight slab coins valued at nearly $16,000 were ALL PCGS or NGC slabbed coins with unique serial numbers. PLEASE NOTE that this fact is a VERY important part of the story.
Not only did we have a record of the unique serial number on each coin, we also had high resolution scans of each coin, as well as bar coded inventory stickers we use for our internal inventory control on each coin at the point of the theft. We were able to narrow down the point of the theft to a very short window of time at the show. In other words, we had a very good idea of who the thief was!
Let me back track just a bit. During the late October Denver Coin Show two weeks before the Baltimore Show in 2013, Leonard Standley and Chick McCormick (both dealers from Colorado) had coins stolen by an individual who Mr. Standley thought he knew and Chick McCormick KNEW he could identify. Mr. McCormick had a paper trail. Unbeknownst to us, this individual who was so BOLD as to register at the Denver show with his name, address, and email address-to possibly win a door prize-also left a paper trail with the folks who run the Denver Coin Show-namely Jaben Broach who also owns Collectons Coins in Boulder, CO.
At the Denver Show an employee of Leonard Standley, a very talented numismatist named Sarah Miller-who has since taken a position with Heritage Rare Coins in their NYC office-also showed coins to this individual and both she and Leonard believed that he had stolen coins from their sell boxes by substituting less expensive coins (MS63 Morgan Dollars in slabs) for more expensive coins in similar slabs. Mr. Standley and Ms. Miller could not prove this thief took coins from them, but they retained the knowledge to warn other dealers of this individual.
Mr. McCormick actually took a check from the thief for coins the thief bought, but the thief also took coins from Mr. McCormick-unbeknownst to him at the time-while using the other transaction to distract him.
At the Baltimore Show the thief approached our table initially with a proposed trade for a coin we had in one of our show cases. Although I show coins to dealers I know well-in large double row slab boxes-we generally don’t show the public these more wholesale oriented sell boxes. I will pull out specific items they are interested in. This is just prudent security. The thief proposed a trade for a coin in one of our show cases and wanted to trade a coin that was the EXACT same date and denomination, but in a lower grade. This TRADE wasn’t unusual, but the numbers just didn’t make sense for him.
While it does make sense to upgrade your coin to a higher grade, these coins were both $20 Saints and the numbers were NOT favorable for the thief. I was suspicious, but after sitting, talking, and explaining this deal wasn’t a great deal for the ‘thief’ I traded my coin for his coin and a couple of hundred dollars. I wrote up a manual invoice detailing the trade and asked the thief if he would like to be on our mailing list?
Curiously, the thief, Mark White Miller of Montrose, Co wrote his name and email address on the top of the manual invoice and we consummated the transaction. But, before he could leave the table, I asked him to SPELL his name-the writing was nearly illegible-and verbally confirm to me his email address. What’s the point of having a name and email address if you can’t read it? RIGHT!
Friday afternoons at the Baltimore Show can be hectic-especially the November Baltimore Show. Roughly an hour later, the thief returned to our table and asked if he could look through our wholesale sell boxes. I requested that Mike Clark, our staff numismatist who works all larger coins shows with both Sherri and I to SIT with the thief and show him boxes. The thief had gotten me to ‘let down my guard’. Because he had some coin knowledge and ‘talked the talk’, my suspicion was compromised.
What do they often call con men? Confidence men!
During the time the thief was looking at our coins we had several customers approach our table. We turned our back to Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller, the thief, was the ONLY individual who looked through our wholesale sell boxes at the show who I didn’t know well, or who hadn’t been introduced to me by another dealer who vouched for him.
Because of the large amount of coins that we buy and sell, I wasn’t 100% certain what was missing, but I knew we had a problem. We inventory all coins taken to and from a coin show before we leave for the show and after we return home. Our inventory system allows us to put coins for a show in a different ‘location’ and then return them to our ‘office’ inventory location once we return home. By early Sunday morning, after returning home from the show, we knew we had eight coins missing. Early Monday morning we put a list of the stolen coins on several large coin information websites including the PNG-Professional Numismatists Guild website, The Certified Coin Exchange website, Coininfo.com and the Numismatic Crime Information Center.
At 11:00 a.m. on ‘that’ Monday following the theft, I got a phone call from a fellow dealer (and incidentally a good friend) James Sego of JMS coins. James said he was sending me an email and to please look at the attachments to the email and call him back. How do you describe the feeling when you KNOW what has happened! The two images James sent were of an individual I knew as Mark Miller who had looked through our sell boxes Friday afternoon. Mr. Miller, whose name and email address we had, had SOLD two of our STOLEN coins to James late Friday afternoon for ‘as James explained’ LESS than what they were worth.
James Sego also told us that Mr. Miller had at least four of our other missing coins and had offered these to James too. At this point I asked James where he got the two photo images of Mr. Miller. James then told me the story of the Denver coin thefts and that Sarah Miller (NO relation to the thief Mark Miller of course) had taken these images because both she and Leonard Standley were virtually certain he had stolen coins from them in Denver (they were also aware of the Chick McCormick thefts at the Denver Show) and they wanted a picture of Mark Miller for Mr. McCormick.
James Sego also suggested I talk to Jaben Broach-the owner of Collectons Coins in Boulder, CO. Both Sarah Miller and James knew that Jaben might have more information on Mr. Miller. I called Jaben, another friend and colleague, and he immediately pulled the registration information from the Denver coin show and asked me if I had anything identifying Mr. Miller. I told him I had an email address. BINGO, we were able to NOT only independently confirm that this was the SAME Mr. Miller who had stolen coins in Denver, but Jaben had Mark White Miller’s home address in Montrose, CO!
At this point, on Monday morning after the thefts, I had talked to Doug Davis with Numismatic Crime Information Center. Doug, who is a retired Texas lawman, is the director of NCIC. NCIC has and does a fabulous job of reporting, networking, and investigating numismatic crimes for the rare coin and bullion industries. He had taken my call early Monday morning and immediately started to see if he could discern whether any of our coins had been listed ‘for sale’ on any of the many internet sales sights-including Ebay. I called Doug back after talking to Jaben and James. He noted the new information and told me he would continue his investigation on his end.
At this point, we had several phone calls, CCE-Certified Coin Exchange direct messages, and emails with information on our theft. Evidently several dealers had seen at least one or more of our stolen coins Friday afternoon at the Baltimore Show. In fact, at least one dealer, Phil Darby from Alabama told us Mr. Miller had stolen an 1893-S Morgan Dollar from him at the show.
He had also seen our 1891 Morgan Dollar in MS65 PCGS that Mr. Miller was trying to sell at a large discount. Phil Darby’s 1893-S Morgan was later sold to Allen Rowe at Northern Nevada Rare Coins by the thief Mr. Miller. Northern Nevada Rare Coins later returned this coin to Mr. Darby.
Most reputable coin dealers know stolen merchandise is taboo. Stolen merchandise BY LAW is to be returned to the rightful owner with NO questions asked. Often times, a dealer whose judgement is clouded by greed or at worst is just dishonest, will buy a coin he knows may be stolen because he can buy the coin at much less than market value. Unscrupulous dealers like this affect the coin business like leprosy, by rotting the business from the inside out.
Late Monday afternoon (still the first business day after the Baltimore Show) we got a phone call from Doug Davis with NCIC. One of our stolen coins had just ‘pinged’ in his internet searches and was listed on Ebay for sale. The dealer, Steve Teal owner of Stateline Coin in Indiana, had listed one of our coins on his Ebay store. Before Doug could give me any more information, I interrupted him and let him know that I knew Steve well and would call him.
I got off the phone with Doug after thanking him several times and called Steve. Steve was, of course, flabbergasted! Not only had he purchased this coin, a Proof Seated Quarter in a PCGS holder, from Mark White Miller, but he was pretty certain Mr. Miller had stolen coins from him while using the sale of our stolen merchandise to distract Steve! In addition, Steve had purchased two other coins Mr. Miller had stolen from us-all on Friday afternoon around the time of Mr. Sego’s purchases. He too had been offered our 1891 Morgan Dollar in MS65 PCGS by Mr. Miller. Steve took our coin off Ebay and said he would put ALL three coins on hold to return to us. I immediately called Doug Davis, with NCIC, back and let him know that with his help (and the help of the others mentioned above) we had already located five of our eight stolen coins.
During my phone calls Monday to set up listings of our stolen merchandise, I had left messages with Lori Hamrick with the Whitman Baltimore Coin Show and Kenny Mullins with Positive Protection, Inc. a security service who handles security at the show in coordination with the Baltimore Police Department. Sometime Tuesday (both were in transit home following the show), I was able to talk to Lori personally and she was thrilled with the news. She was able to contact Mr. Mullins too and we set up a time to talk on Wednesday.
Mr. Mullins-Kenny to most of the dealers on the coin show circuit-is a NO nonsense former NYPD detective who is well known and the VERY highly thought of head of Positive Protection. Kenny recovered a computer bag for me nearly twenty years ago at a show in an Atlanta suburb, when I ‘flat’ forgot it while loading coins into my rental vehicle. I was focused on the coins. Needless to say, Kenny is the MAN.
Kenny and I talked Wednesday and he was thrilled and amazed that we had been able to make so much headway into our theft. He also talked to Doug Davis and immediately called Detective Wayne Sponsky with the Baltimore Police Department. Not surprisingly, Mark White Miller had been on their radar at the Baltimore Coin Show because of both Leonard Standley and Sarah Miller. They were unable to actually CATCH him doing anything illegal at the show. NOW we had a SOLID trail.
Sometime Wednesday after the show, I talked to Detective Wayne Sponsky for the first time. WOW! Not only does Detective Sponsky like and have an interest in rare coins, but he takes crime in HIS city personally-especially at the Whitman Baltimore Coin Show! He is heavily involved in preventing theft and crime at the show. After telling Detective Sponsky our story and what we had been able to learn, he confirmed our information with Kenny Mullins and Doug Davis and helped us file felony theft charges against Mark White Miller. The total value of our stolen coins was just under $16,000.
This story is NOT over yet. In early January 2014, at the best CLUB run coin show in the U.S, the FUN Show, we recovered the sixth of our eight stolen coins. A Chicago area dealer, Brett saw one of our coins (the 1891 Morgan Dollar MS65 PCGS) in another dealer’s sell boxes prior to the show. When Brett told Mike Bianco, a well known and respected California dealer whose coins he was viewing that this was probably the stolen Bozarth Numismatics coins, Mike immediately called me on my cell phone.
Not only did Mike return the coin to me the next day, he told me he had purchased the coin from STEVE CAMPAU with Renton Coin in Renton, WA. Mr. Campau has YET to cooperate with us or Detective Sponsky with the Baltimore Police Department although he has been contacted numerous times. Although we know this coin was stolen by Mr. Miller, we would like to know if there are OTHER parties involved in the handling of this stolen coin. As a result, I would recommend avoiding any business with Mr. Campau.
The wheels of justice grind slowly, but the system works. At the June Baltimore Show, we met with the Maryland State’s attorney Mr. Josh Felsen and one of his associates at the Baltimore Convention Center. Detective Sponsky, Kenny Mullins, James Sego, and Steve Teal as well as Sherri and I were present. James, Steve, Sherri, and I confirmed the facts of the case and Mr. Felsen let us know what our options were. In the interim, Mr. Miller had been arrested on the Denver Coin Show theft charges for Chick McCormick. He was convicted for the Denver charges and was ordered to pay restitution and received a suspended sentence.
On October 31st, Halloween Day 2014, a hearing was held in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Mr. Miller pled guilty to the charges of felony theft. He was sentenced to a five year suspended sentence, a payment of $15,974 in restitution, and a FIVE year ban on attendance at ANY coin or currency show. Mr. Felsen, the Maryland State’s attorney has requested that we publish this photo of Mr. Mark White Miller. Both Mr. Felsen and Detective Wayne Sponsky would appreciate ANY information on Mr. Miller if you see him at ANY coin of currency show. I too would be happy to forward any information to Mr. Felsen on Mr. Miller.
As I have told so many of my colleagues, in regard to this theft, we were extremely lucky. In nearly thirty years full time in the rare coin business I have only personally known of a handful of coin thieves that were apprehended and then ACTUALLY sentenced for their crimes. With the restitution check we were able to repay in full all those victimized by Mr. Miller in our coin theft-even Mr. Campau. Both Sherri and I would have preferred Mr. Miller serve some actual jail time, but this-IN NO WAY-is a criticism of the fantastic work that both the Baltimore Police Department and the Maryland State Attorney’s Offices were able to do for us. Both Detective Sponsky and Mr. Josh Felsen are ‘ACES’ in our book.
Bozarth Numismatics Inc is a full service rare coin dealer. We buy and sell PCGS, NGC, and CAC graded and approved high grade U.S. coins. We sell coins at shows and on both our website bozarthcoins.com and in our Ebay store bozarthnumismaticsinc. Because of our extensive show and buying travel schedule we can often locate those ‘hard to find’ items. We offer free confidential want list services and will call or email you ‘first’ if we locate an item for you. Thanks and Best Regards, Vic Bozarth/The Rare Coin Road Warrior.