After half-century, stolen coins back at museum

By

Published:

 

PHILOMATH, Ore. — The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office returned a collection of 35 coins — missing for perhaps 50 years — to the Horner Collection at the Benton County Historical Society & Museum this week.

The coins are a series of commemorative presidential tokens, stamped with the image of every president up to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in office from Jan. 20, 1953 to Jan. 20, 1961.

Hidden in obscurity for decades, the coins now are back on display at the museum.

The exact date the coins were stolen is unknown, but it could have been in the early 1960s.

Irene Zenev, the executive director of the museum, said Tuesday that the coins were part of the Horner Museum at Oregon State University, which was closed due to budget cuts in 1995. The Benton County Historical Society acquired the Horner Collection from OSU in 2005.

Zenev said that the collection's inventory listed the coins as missing, but the description of the coins lacked many details.

"We don't have a lot of data. They were obviously taken before we acquired the collection."

Zenev said she's seen coins like these selling for about $5 apiece online.

"Ironically, the fact that they don't have any value is why they survived," she said.

According to Zenev, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office recovered the coins as a part of a warranted search of a residence in Portland, but she doesn't know much more than that. The detectives investigating noticed that the decorative cardboard mount for the coins had a label on the back stating it belonged to the Horner Museum at Oregon State College, the name for OSU from 1937 to 1961.

The public information officer for the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office did not respond Tuesday to calls seeking for more information about the investigation that led to recovery of the coins.

And not much is known about the coins themselves; not when they were minted, why, or by whom.

According to the label on the coins, the donors were S.L. Burnaugh, Oregon Agricultural College Class of 1903, and S. Lyle Burnaugh of the OAC Class of 1923. Oregon Agricultural College was renamed Oregon State College in 1937.

Zenev said that after being contacted by detectives, she asked OSU and the Benton County Sheriff's Office whether there was any police report filed about the coins.

"They said 'Irene, we don't keep records back that far; It's not a murder,"' she said.

The coins arrived at the museum Monday.

"We're very happy to have them back where they belong," she said. ... "It's just such an intriguing idea that these coins were floating around in the universe for decades."