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May 31, 2012

Driving With Rare Coins - Rare Coins & Security

Dear Client and Fellow Numismatist,

The 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.

Col. 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 coins.

And 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!

This is the second in the series, I'll be posting them every week for a few weeks. If you have any questions, opinions, suggestions please contact me

And 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.

Happy Collecting !

Tom Pilitowski
Toll Free:
Email: TomPilitowski@yahoo.com

Driving with Coins
Col. Steven Ellsworth - The Butternut Company

Few 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.

As 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 for business.

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.

Some 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 is you.

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.


Never, 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).

Try 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.

After 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.

The 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 in…dead out”.

After 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 given.

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.


Make 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 situation.

Be 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 driving ability.

Should 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 in view.

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 permission.

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.


Do 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.

After 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.

As 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.

Some 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.

If 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.


I 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.

What can you do to improve the security of your present vehicle?

Insure 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 outlets.

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 arms.

Be 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.


Traveling 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.

Knowing 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.