collecting of money has been around since
money was invented. Some of us collect
more than others and we all have varied
interests however one thing we all share
in common whether we are dealers, collectors,
or investors is ideas on how we can be
more secure with our investments.
Steven Butternut has produced a series
of observations, opinions on security,
home security for the collector, self-defense
measures all related to how we as Coin
Dealers, Coin Collectors, Coin Investors
protect ourselves from the scourge of
society, thieves and worse , that would
not hesitate to relieve you, me, our families
of our valuables in whatever way possible
to do so. I have always taken this subject
seriously and have always made sure that
my home and Family are secure. It shocks
me to hear collectors loudly talking about
the days score at the coin show while
having a few drinks over dinner at a local
restaurant and sometimes there's a big
mouth coin dealer sitting at the table
loudly bragging about his exploits and
believe me, I'm not the only one that
overhears these things. PLEASE DON'T DO
THAT. Think about some of the posters
from a different era and apply them to
yourself when you are talking about your
please substitute the word Jewelry, Diamonds,
Money, Art, Gold, or any asset of value
for rare coins and start taking steps
today to create a safer environment for
you and your Family to enjoy the fruits
of your labors. After all you're supposed
to have fun with coins. This ain't the
stock market or the golf course!
is the second in the series, I'll be posting
them every week for a few weeks. If you
have any questions, opinions, suggestions
don't forget that while US Rare Coin Investments
generally displays a 7 figure online inventory
this does NOT represent all our coins.
We have coins that may never see the website
that we may be brokering, own in partnership
with others who do not wish their coins
displayed on the internet, specific inventory
we generally reserve for specific clients
sometimes don't see the website until
they are placed in the archives. So please
email me or call me with what you want
to pursue and I'll do my best to offer
to you, or help you confidentially hunt
it/those coins down.
with Coins by Col.
Steven Ellsworth - The Butternut Company
full time coin dealers with 10 years experience
have avoided being a victim of theft.
Some simply lost coins from shoplifting,
while others were victims of murder to
obtain their coins and collections. Some
make the headlines, but most are never
reported. Next to homes, vehicles are
the most likely place for a theft to occur.
I have previously written in an earlier
security article, “one out of three
collections will eventually be stolen.
The impact is not only financial, but
emotional as well. A sense of violation
occurs that is difficult to describe.
The loss has a negative impact to the
victim in particular and to our hobby
in general. Simply put, it’s bad
The age-old adage “An ounce of prevention
is worth a pound of cure” could
never be truer, than with security. The
easiest way to prevent crime is to avoid
it by not giving criminals the opportunity
to perpetrate crimes against you.
In hopes of keeping the "joys of
collecting" enjoyable and the dreams
alive, these guidelines hopefully will
help you reduce the risks of theft, for
collectors and dealers alike. After studying
hundreds of thefts, it is my belief that
nearly always, one or more of these guidelines
have been ignored. Security risks can
never be eliminated, but risks can be
managed to a tolerable level. Vigilance
must always be maintained, as security
is a constant. Be alert and aware of your
surroundings. This alone can be an excellent
defense, as criminals avoid vigilant persons.
of these suggestions you may already know
about but may not practice. Some suggestions
may be new, that you could put into practice.
Few people can do all that I recommend,
but the more you can implement, the lower
your risk of being a target, and perhaps
being a victim. My recommendations and
suggestions can be useful to most collectors
and dealers...if they will continually
practice and apply them to their own situations.
Most security can be divided, and developed
into four parts: operational security,
perimeter security, external security
and interior security.
Operational security would be how you
operate or referred to as "your mode
of operation” You need to ask yourself;
“What kind of target am I presenting?"
Perimeter security is considered in the
immediate area near the target...you,
and your valuables. As an example, while
in your car, the area that you can physically
observe in all four directions would be
considered the perimeter. External security
is considered the outside shell or walls
of your home or car. Internal security
would be inside your car or home, or anywhere
you can physically touch your coins. Your
objective should be to try to think in
ways you can improve and protect each
of these four areas.
Security is a personal responsibility.
Your security is not the responsibility
of the police, politicians or government.
They do not have the means or intentions
to protect every citizen. Unless you are
willing to cast your fate, and life, to
the wind, your first line of security
Insurance is an excellent idea for both
collectors and dealers. The normal costs
are approximately 1% a year. For professional
collectors and dealers, this cost is a
deductible expense. Most policies have
a number of restrictions and exceptions
including coins left in unattended vehicles.
Some homeowners’ policies will cover
a small coin theft, but many have exclusion
clauses. Read your insurance policy carefully.
At major coin shows, larger firms sometimes
use armored transport for inventories
and collections. At some, professional
numismatists use US Postal Service registered
mail or insured Federal Express to reduce
the risk of loss. Be sure to keep in mind
that the Postal service has a maximum
dollar amount for each registered piece
of mail of $25,000. This may require sending
multiple packages. Never send valuables
certified mail. There is no recovery process
on certified mail should it be lost. If
feasible, consider these options, even
if you use these services only occasionally.
It may be worth the extra effort and expense
to explore the logistics of them.
As with most types of security, traveling
with coins the five P’s are in effect;
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
leave coins unattended in a vehicle! This
is perhaps the single greatest security
mistake you can make. I have talked with
hundreds of dealers and collectors who
have made this mistake. I have learned
of collectors who parked their car in
clear view, while they dined having supper,
only to be able to see how fast the thieves
worked entering their car and stealing
their coins. Some professional car thieves
can enter your car faster than you can
with a key. Coins have been stolen out
of cars in the process of loading and
unloading them from the vehicle. Coins
have been stolen out of vehicles parked
at home, in a locked garage. Coins have
been stolen from stalled vehicles on the
roadways. The list of how and where coins
have been stolen from vehicles is countless.
If you get only one thing from this article,
remember...never, never leave coins or
valuables in an unattended in a vehicle!
When transporting coins and valuables
in a vehicle, put on your very best driving
hat. Be very alert, and drive defensively.
Try to keep night driving to a minimum.
Your reaction time is slower in most circumstances.
Study the road map and route you are planning
to drive. Plan checkpoints and safe havens,
and the distance to each. Keep on your
planned course or route. Decide early
where you plan to fuel, eat, (use only
a drive through eatery), or take a rest
break. Know where your choke points (where
you are most vulnerable) are, and have
a plan in mind should your worst fears
come to fruition. I would use backward
planning, beginning with your arrival
at home. Your home arrival may be the
most obvious and most vulnerable choke
point you have. Prioritize each so you
will be even more vigilant at the most
critical choke points.
If possible, try to avoid travel alone.
Traveling with a companion will lower
your risk of being a target by 70%. In
the U.S. Army’s Ranger School you
always travel with a “Ranger Buddy”,
even on survival excesses. Traveling with
a dog also will decrease your security
risk, (they also smell better than most
of my former Ranger Buddies after three
weeks without a bath).
to vary your routine. Avoid easily observed
routines. If every day you depart your
home at 9:35AM, drive the exact same route,
to the same destination, and return using
the same route, you’re broadcasting
to the dumbest thief they have an opportunity
for success. I had one dealer boast to
me that after every weekend show, the
first task he does on Monday morning is
to be at his bank as they open, right
at 9AM, to place his inventory in the
bank’s vault. When I mentioned that
a dirty little secret of the American
Banking Association is the staggering
number of robberies in bank parking lots
and at ATM’s, his reply was, “I
bank in a good neighborhood”. If
I were a bandit, I would prefer the better
neighborhoods to the poorer ones, as my
rate of return for my risk would more
likely be better.
If you ever have the opportunity to enroll
in a professional driving course, do it.
What you learn will not only be valuable
in your work, but will also make you a
better and safer driver on the roadway.
The premier course is the Bondurant School
of High Performance Driving, in Phoenix
Arizona. Many major corporations and government
agencies use them. In addition to teaching
racing and stunt driving, they also offer
a specialized program for executive protection
that works well for security transport
of valuables. Should you take a performance
driving school and advertise it on your
car with stickers or license plate holders
it will insure that you will never receive
just a warning ticket for a traffic infraction,
but an instant citation.
One thing you quickly learn in a professional
driving environment is that driving is
100% focus and concentration. Statistics
will tell you that driving an automobile
is the most dangerous task individuals
do on a daily basis. An insurance actuary
will tell you the single most dangerous
driving situation is driving in front,
behind or near a truck with a 40 ft. trailer.
If you are in the habit of driving down
the road, drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette,
tuning the radio and talking on a cell
phone, you can’t possibly drive
safely. You not only are at risk, but
you are putting at risk everyone else
on the highway.
you have mastered driving with both hands
on the wheel, you are now ready to improve
on the second most violated driving rule…following
too close behind another vehicle. At 25mph,
it is difficult to make a quick lane change
to avoid an accident with less than 4
car lengths. At 65mph, unless you are
a professional driver, you would be lucky
to perform the maneuver in 10 car lengths.
third major cause of accidents is too
high of speed for the existing conditions.
One of the greatest auto racers of all
time was Sterling Moss. His most famous
quote sums it up; “When approaching
a turn, slow in…fast out, or fast
speaking with numerous state troopers,
I would recommend that you follow the
“seven” rule. Try to avoid
driving more or less than seven miles
per hour from the posted speed limit.
Driving either faster or slower may attract
the attention of other drivers, or the
police. If you have used alcohol or taken
medications that may cause drowsiness,
simply do not drive. Using your seatbelt
prior to placing the car in gear is a
One clear advantage you will have over
potential perpetrators is that while you
are reading and putting into practice
this article on security, they are most
likely getting high on drugs and alcohol
in preparation, or building courage, to
perpetuate a crime against you.
it a practice driving in a right lane.
Do not drive in the left lane, except
to pass. You will not only impede faster
drivers, but could solicit road rage.
This is a situation that defiantly does
not qualify as a safe and secure trip.
Try to be as low key as possible while
traveling with valuables. Your objective
is to travel from point A to point B without
an incidence. Should you inadvertently
irritate another driver, avoid eye contact
and continue to drive. If you sense any
escalation in the situation, slow down
and let the other driver proceed. If you
are still concerned, let the other vehicle
precede you past an exit, then exit your
vehicle and reenter the hi-way at another
point, providing you can do it safely.
Under no circumstance should you involve
yourself further in a potential road rage
very cautious and aware of being followed
by another vehicle. When you are driving
on highways, travel at different speeds
for 20 to 30 minutes. A vehicle following
you while traveling at a slower rate is
more obvious than one traveling at a faster
rate. During the first hour of travel,
take an exit, and then return back on
the highway. If you are being followed,
it will make it difficult for a bandit
to follow. If you suspect you are being
followed, exit, and make a right turn.
If you are still concerned, make a second
right turn. If you are still followed,
you may have a problem. Should you make
a third right turn, and are still being
followed, you are! Do not stop. Under
no circumstances should you drive to your
home or hotel. If you feel your assailant
knows you are aware of being followed,
and your decision is to evade, place your
emergency flashers on as it will make
following more difficult. Night or day,
your breaking points on turns will be
disguised. If at all possible, drive directly
to the nearest police or fire station.
If in an extreme case where you are forced
off the road by an assailant, or are confronted
by an unauthorized roadblock, in all circumstances,
do not stop your vehicle. If you can’t
drive around or away from your assailants,
perform either a forward or reverse 180-degree
turn to avoid being forced to stop. This
maneuver is not as difficult as it may
look, if you have the proper training.
If you have no way to drive away, you
may be forced to drive through the roadblock.
Knowing where to make contact with another
vehicle to disable it and minimize damage
to your own vehicle is critical. Most
cars can sustain far more damage in the
rear of the vehicle than to the front,
and still be able to proceed. If the bandits
have gone to that extent to stop you,
your life will likely be expendable. Use
your cell phone to summon help, but under
no circumstance should you stop your vehicle.
Even if you are carrying a weapon, and
have been trained in it’s use, it
would be near impossible to use it while
driving a vehicle and still maintain control.
Your best form of defense is your own
an identifiable police car stop you, signal
and pull over and off of the far right
side of the road, out of traffic and place
your emergency flashers on. Turn your
engine off and remain in your vehicle
with both your hands on the wheel, clearly
If an unmarked police car signals you,
use your turn signal to move to the far
right lane (where you should be driving
to begin with), and use your arm to signal
the car to move up alone side of you.
If you can identify a uniformed police
officer, then signal and pull over and
off of the right side of the road, out
of traffic and place your emergency flashers
on. Leave your engine running; remain
in your vehicle with both your hands on
the wheel, clearly in view. Watch the
officer approach and insure the stop is
by an authorized law enforcement officer,
before shutting off your engine.
What if you cannot identify a uniformed
police officer, or the individual is also
in plain clothes? Put your emergency flashers
on but do not pull over. Use you car or
cell phone and dial 911 to insure that
the stop is authorized. If it is an authorized
stop, they will call for backup by a marked
police vehicle, driven by a uniformed
officer. Only after you are assured that
it is an authorized stop, should you pull
over and stop.
At this point, the officer has the right
to ask questions of you concerning the
operation of your vehicle. If the questions
go beyond operation of your vehicle, I
would be very cautious in answering them.
Simply informing the officer that you
wish to be represented by legal counsel
may refute a question that may elicit
self-incriminating information from you.
What if the officer asks for your voluntary
consent to search your vehicle? Many motorists
think that if they refuse permission,
it is a sign of guilt and willingly sign
a consent form. I would advise against
giving permission for a search. For an
officer to conduct a legitimate search
of a vehicle, they must have “probable
cause.” The courts have made it
clear that a routine traffic stop does
not provide the officer with enough probable
cause to search your vehicle without your
If the officer still were intent on searching
your vehicle, I would calmly explain that
you are couriering valuables and that
should an unauthorized search be conducted
that the insurance company will require
a complete written inventory. I would
provide a business card and make it clear
that you are couriering approximate 2,000
individual items, of which each will need
to be inventoried and signed by both you
and the investigating officers. The estimated
time of the required inventory will be
approximately 8 to 10 hours and will need
to be conducted in a secure facility,
not on the side of the roadway. Your insurance
company that insures your collection may
be willing to provide you with a letter,
identifying you as there insured, with
this requirement. I know of few patrol
officers that would look forward to 8
to 10 hours of paper work, unless there
were substantial probable cause.
a visual inspection of the exterior of
your vehicle to look for any signs of
tampering. Keep the vehicle clean so that
any new smudges or marks can be seen.
You can also use a small strip of clear
cellophane tape to detect openings or
tampering. Conduct a close visual inspection
of your tires as well as the tires pressure.
Look at the inside, edges and surfaces
for punctures or devices, which will disable
your vehicle latter. Look beneath the
car, under the engine to see if any fluids
are leaking. A favorite is for a bandit
to puncture a radiator hose with a nail
or awl. After 100 or so miles the rubber
expands, causing your coolant to flow
out, which will shortly overheat the vehicle,
requiring you to pull off the road. When
you are pulled off the road you are a
very vulnerable target.
you have traveled as far as possible with
the full tank of gas, and need to refuel,
select a location that you can fuel directly
at the pump with a credit card. Again,
keep your vehicle locked during the fueling
process. When you are at a secure facility,
use the restroom just prior to loading
your coins in the car, even if you don’t
need to. It may be hours till a secure
opportunity later allows it. If you must
use a restroom, and are traveling alone,
be sure to park in clear view of the attendant.
If you feel it appropriate ask them to
keep an eye on your car, while you use
the restroom, do so. Avoid state highway
designated rest stops. In the past, they
have attracted petty thieves. Do not stop
in a high traffic truck stop. These actually
may attract a higher rate of car and truck
break-ins. When parking your vehicle,
turn your front wheels to a sharp angle
to make it more difficult to tow away.
If you feel yourself getting tired, stop
at a national hotel/motel chain. The expense
is nothing, compared to the potential
loss of property or life. No matter where
or when you park your vehicle, always
back into the parking place. Should you
have to make a rapid departure, it is
faster than having to reverse first, which
is much slower.
you drive, try to leave yourself a way
out. Avoid getting boxed in so you do
not have an escape route. Stop signs and
lights are particularly dangerous. When
in city traffic, drive in the center lane,
or whichever lane gives you the best escape
route. When required to stop at stoplights
and signs, do not pull up directly behind
the cars bumper in front of you. If you
are stopped and are approached by someone
on foot whose hands are not in clear sight,
if you can safely do it, drive away to
avoid the incident, even if it requires
you to drive through the traffic light
or stop sign.
collectors have been victims of an intentional
accident in order to distract them to
steal their collection. “Car bumping”
has been most prevalent in California,
New York, Chicago, Miami and Houston.
Keep the doors locked and windows up and
pepper spray dispenser in close proximity.
If a pedestrian approaches you, have it
ready to use should the harmless pedestrian
turn out to be an attacker who may break
your window. However, you still would
be safer to drive out of potential dangerous
situation than to defend yourself.
you are involved in a car jacking, immediately
give up your car. Numerous people have
been injured trying to resist. If however,
during the car jacking, you are ordered
back into your vehicle, do not do it,
even if the bandit is armed. Your survival
statistics are better that you are injured
in a struggle to prevent kidnapping than
to be kidnapped which will nearly always
result in your being killed.
am sometimes asked what kind of vehicle
is the most secure. Few people can afford
to immediately go out and buy a new vehicle
to transport coins. However, it would
make good sense when purchasing a new
vehicle to consider the vehicles safety
and security systems, both passive and
active. Many government agencies use either
the GMC or Chevrolet Suburban. Both can
be easily modified with additional security
and safety options. Both the BMW and Mercedes
have optional locking systems and optional
non-breakable windows that make it very
difficult to penetrate. Somewhere between
driving down the highway in a convertible
with your hair in the wind, and your coins
on the back seat, or to the extreme of
traveling by an armored tank, is your
own personal security solution.
can you do to improve the security of
your present vehicle?
you have a full tank of gas in your vehicle,
prior to loading your coins, traveling
to or from a coin show. High-test fuel
gives you slightly better performance,
a consideration for the return trip. Use
a locking gas cap to prevent unwarranted
fuel contamination. If your hood does
not lock from the inside, get an internal
lock installed. Dark tinted glass also
helps to conceal your cargo. If your car
has a vanity plate, especially ones that
identifies you as a collector, replace
it. They are too easy to be remembered
and too easily followed. Remove all bumper
stickers that identify you with anything
that could be remotely controversial.
Join AAA or other roadside assistance
service. Don’t try to fix a flat
while transporting valuables, as that
may be the opportunity the bandits are
waiting for. Be sure to have your vehicle
maintained regularly. Replace the tires,
hoses and brakes a little earlier than
you normally would. The last thing you
need is a breakdown. Keep road flares,
flashlights and a fix-a-flat aerosol can
(it may be valuable in some dangerous
road situations), in easy access. There
are also some new brands of tires that
will allow you to continue to drive, even
after a puncture or blowout.
An auto alarm is excellent. Use an ignition
or computer shut-off switch type that
disables the car. This will prevent the
car's theft with your coins inside. A
thief will not have to unload your coins,
if they can simply steal your car. Place
the alarm warning stickers on two windows.
I know of two situations where coins were
a bonus to a common auto theft. One dealer
I know went into a 7-11 to get a cup of
coffee, left his keys in the car with
the engine running. When he returned,
his car with his coin inventory was gone.
He called the police, who later found
his car, with his entire inventory still
in the trunk of his car, undisturbed!
This may qualify for the most careless
case study I know, and also the luckiest.
A cell or car phone is a must. Pre-load
the Highway patrol emergency numbers of
the states that you will travel, for instant
assistance. It never ceases to amaze me
how quick state troupers respond, even
in what appears to be a remote areas.
Some of the newer cell phones have the
ability to scan the nearest 911 numbers
from your location. In an emergency, you
can even leave the phone on so the operator
can monitor your situation. Use some discretion
when using a cell phone discussing coin
business, as these can be easily scanned
with the use of simple electronic devices
purchased at most radio or electrical
When packing your vehicle, always remember,
"Coins in last when departing. Coins
out first, when arriving."
Try to keep the passenger compartment
or your car free of any loose article
that may become a missile in an accident.
Lock your coins and cases to your vehicle.
A simple eyebolt can easily be installed
in your trunk to the frame of your car
at any garage. Use a sheathed, coil bicycle
lock. It will make a bump, snatch and
run more difficult. Bolt cutters normally
can’t cut one. It will take most
thieves over an hour to cut through it
with a hacksaw. The handles of the cases
are the weakest point. But without a handle,
heavy cases are very difficult to carry.
Overload the cases to be as heavy as possible.
I figure that there may be 10,000 robbers
who could probably out-run me, but none
carrying a 100 lb. case using both their
sure to lock your car doors immediately
after entering your vehicle. An important
point to remember is that you are far
more likely to be a target returning home
from a coin show than traveling to one.
with firearms in vehicles presents numerous
problems for a citizen who desires to
comply with the law. Unfortunately, there
is little consistency in state firearms
laws in regards to travel. Well meaning
politicians have passed over 20,000 gun
laws in the United States that have little,
if any effect on the perpetrators of violent
crime, but enormous ramifications on the
average honest law abiding citizen who
wishes to defend themselves. If your decision
is to carry a firearm while traveling,
I would thoroughly research out the laws
in your state and local area, and any
areas you plan to travel prior to doing
so. You should do everything possible
to comply with the law and still maintain
your own comfort level of security. I
would then get proper training from a
certified National Rifle Association instructor
on the use of firearms. And only then
would I even consider the purchase of
a weapon. There is now available a portable
combination lock box which has a removable
base plate that can bolted to your vehicle,
to secure the weapon, making transport
of a gun legal in most states. An additional
base plate can also be used to secure
the unit safely in the home or office.
that your best defense is driving away,
around or through a situation, it may
pay to put your money in a drivers seat
designed for driving, with four point
adjustable seat belts rather than a weapon.