Rare gold nugget from the gold rush era stolen at show in California; $10,000 reward offered

“There is an old saying,” says longtime numismatic dealer Bob Campbell, “that gold brings people together like fire in a dark room.”

Unfortunately for Campbell, gold also attracts thieves.

That's why Campbell is now offering a $10,000 reward for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of the one that stuck his hand right into a broken display case on the Long Beach Expo on Thursday, June 6, and stole an unusually large, 27-ounce gold nugget that Campbell estimated was price $82,000.

Campbell, 66, owner of the All About Coins shop in Salt Lake City, said the nugget is price $64,000 based on its gold content alone, but he believes its history multiplies its true value. Campbell said the nugget was dug from the Yolo River in the course of the Gold Rush.

“We believe it goes back to the 49ers when they first found gold. Very few gold nuggets survive from that time because most people melted them down,” Campbell said in an interview shortly after returning to his shop on Saturday.

Collectors flock to the three-day show on the Long Beach Convention Center to purchase and sell coins, precious metals and trading cards.

Campbell's stand was busy with customers on Thursday when the person took advantage of a broken hinge on the locked display case, put his finger under a lip and opened the case. Surveillance images showed the person looking over his shoulder as he pocketed the nugget and walked away.

Other dealers told Campbell that they had seen the thief at previous shows. Campbell believes the person probably had accomplices.

Campbell filed a report with Long Beach police. He said it might be difficult to resell the nugget without attracting attention since it has turn out to be notorious. But Campbell said he hopes the thief will try it as a substitute of melting it down.

“Thieves get caught because they are stupid,” Campbell said.

Long Beach Police spokeswoman Hannah Ortiz confirmed that police are investigating the reported theft.

Campbell said he hopes to get one other opportunity to display the nugget in his display case.

“I love putting history in people's hands,” he said. “There's nothing better than holding it in your hand and imagining who held it before, all the way back to the miner who dug it out of the mine. That would have been talked about in the mining camps for years to come.”

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