National Museum of Scotland

Police still searching for gold coins stolen from National Museum of Scotland

Jonathan Knott, 02.12.2015
Theft not reported for over 24 hours
Police are still searching for three renaissance gold coins that were stolen from the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) in September.

Police Scotland released images of the coins last week and appealed to people who could assist with the investigation to come forward. This followed the release of CCTV images of two males that police were keen to speak to in connection with the theft.

A police statement at the time the CCTV images were released named the date of the theft as 2 September. Police would not specify the time of day that the theft took place, but said they were called by the museum at 9:34am on 4 September. There has been speculation that the theft took place during staff strikes at the end of August, but a spokeswoman for NMS told Museums Journal that the theft was “entirely unconnected with the industrial dispute”.

The museum spokeswoman said: “We continue to provide appropriate levels of trained staff in our galleries. National Museums Scotland also has a wide range of other security arrangements in place which are regularly reviewed. Naturally we cannot discuss these arrangements in detail.”

Together, the coins are estimated to be worth about £20,000. They were minted in 1555, 1601 and 1604 during the reigns of Mary, Queen of Scots and James VI of Scotland. They were stolen from the Kings of Scotland gallery, which covers the development of the Scottish nation. Another theft from this gallery took place in 2014, when four oak panels were stolen.

Donna Yates, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow who specialises in the illicit antiquities trade, visited the gallery a few weeks after the theft. She said that it was not possible to say whether staffing levels had been a factor contributing to this theft, though in general she believes that low staffing and funding cuts “absolutely” contribute to museum thefts.

Yates told Museums Journal: “When I visited the gallery I had a lot of trouble finding a member of staff. However, I cannot possibly say whether this relates to staffing on the day of the theft.”

She said that it was “incredibly hard” to speculate on what may have happened to the coins or the motives of the thieves and that the likelihood of a link between the coin and oak panel thefts was “about zero”.

Yates added: “The coins only have resale value if the sellers are able to convince someone that these are not the coins from the NMS.”

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