Rare Gold Rush-era nugget stolen at California show; $10,000 reward posted

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

Unfortunately for Campbell, gold also attracts thieves.

So Campbell is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who slipped his hand into a defective display case at the Long Beach Expo on Thursday, June 6, and stole an unusually large, 27-ounce gold nugget that Campbell had priced at $82,000.

The owner of the nugget says it was discovered in the Yolo River in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. https://t.co/angG2qlMzK

— KCAL News (@kcalnews) June 9, 2024

Campbell, 66, who owns the All About Coins shop in Salt Lake City, said the nugget’s value based on its gold content alone is $64,000, but he believes its history multiplies its true worth. Campbell said the nugget was mined out of the Yolo River during the Gold Rush era.

“We think it goes all the way back to the 49ers when they first struck gold. Very few nuggets survived from that time because most people melted them down,” Campbell said in an interview moments after arriving back at his shop Saturday.

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

Customer traffic at Campbell’s booth was busy on Thursday when the man took advantage of a broken hinge on the locked case, put his finger under a lip and pulled the case open. Surveillance images showed the man looking over his shoulder as he pocketed the nugget and walked away.

Other dealers told Campbell they had seen the thief at previous shows. Campbell said he believes the man likely had accomplices.

Campbell filed a report with the Long Beach Police Department. He said it would be difficult to resell the nugget without attracting attention because it is now infamous. But Campbell said he hopes the thief will try, instead of melting it down.

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

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

Campbell said he hopes to get another opportunity to place the nugget in his display case.

“I love to provide people with history in their hands,” he said. “There’s nothing like holding it and imagining who handled it before, going back to the actual miner who dug it out of the mine. This would have been talked about in mining camps for years.”

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