You would think that expensive items, whether they are at a home, a museum or even a religious institution, should be highly guarded. The problem is that many times, they are not, and as a result, over the years, items that have a value of “priceless” or pretty close to it, have been stolen. Here are ten of the most expensive things ever stolen. These items range from art to an iconic building. By the way, it’s easier to steel a building than you would imagine. The most surprising thing about all of these items being stolen is that most of them are so famous; there isn’t even a black market for them. If the thieves were to try and sell many of the things on this list on the black market, they would most certainly be caught. In fact, many of them have and the items have been safely returned.
10. The Scream
Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is one of the World’s most recognizable pieces of art. Munch lived from 1863 to 1944, and painted several versions of the portrait. In 2004, it was stolen from the wall of the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway by two armed men, wearing black ski masks. One of the robbers threatened a guard with a gun and ran off. The painting went missing for two years and nine days, until it was recovered. However, the mystery of how it was recovered still remains and isn’t public knowledge. What can we do about it? Scream?
9. The Mona Lisa
The famed Leonardo da Vinci painting, the Mona Lisa, was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, on August 21, 1911. Strangely, no one even noticed it was gone until the next day. It was ultimately discovered that a handyman, Vincenzo Peruggia, who was hired by the museum to make glass cases, stole it. So how did he pull it off? It was a very simple plan: he hid in a closet overnight, took the painting off the wall when the museum was closed, hid it under his cloak, and walked out with it. During that time period, security wasn’t the museum’s highest priority. The police were just as inept as the security team. Vincenzo Peruggia was questioned as a suspect twice before authorities realized it was him, and at one point, artist Pablo Picasso was even a suspect. Two years later, Peruggia tried to sell the painting and the police set up a sting operation. He was arrested and sentenced to seven months in jail.
8. Dorethy’s Ruby Red Slippers
If you thought Manolo Blahnik shoes were expensive, they pale in comparison to Dorothy’s iconic Ruby Red slippers, from The Wizard of Oz, which are worth between $1-2 million. On August 27th, 2005, a pair was being displayed at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. In December 2013, investigators in Minnesota stated that there were two prime suspects, but no further information has been released since. So, who stole the Ruby Red Slippers? No one knows for sure, but filmmaker Theodore James is making a documentary about it, which he funded through Kickstarter. Maybe he has the answer.
7. Art From The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum In Boston
In 1990, two robbers dressed as cops stole 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The men conned the guards and told them they were there to investigate a disturbance. Then they forced the guards into the basement and tied them up with duct tape. There were many famous works stolen, including art by Rembrandt, Manet and Vermeer. A $5 million reward was offered on the 23rd anniversary of the heist, but to no avail. The total value of the artwork stolen was estimated to be anywhere between $500 million and priceless. However, the case isn’t cold and FBI agents are still investigating.
6. The Saliera
The Saliera, which was a 10 inch gold sculpture made by 16th century artist, Benvenuto Cellini, was stolen from a Vienna museum in 2003. It is known as the “Mona Lisa of Sculptures” and is estimated to be worth about $57 million. How did this happen? Quite simply, the thief climbed a scaffold and despite motion detectors, smashed the glass and climbed through the window in the middle of the night. A few years later, the thief tried to negotiate the sculpture’s ransom with the museum’s insurance company, but he was caught and it was returned relatively unharmed.
5. A Bell
In 2005, a 3,000 lb copper Vietnamese bell was stolen from a Buddhist Monastery, in Tacoma, Washington. The cost of this zen, priceless! How could an object so large and heavy get stolen? Apparently, the monks at the monastery really get into their meditation because no one heard the bell being stolen. The police believe someone came in with a forklift and just took it. Three years later, the bell was recovered when the thieves tried to sell it for scrap. The police also discovered the thief had stolen a myriad of other goods, including 6 cars, 2 tow trucks, a tractor, two flatbed trucks, several car engines, eagle talons, an eagle’s head and 4 cases of pseudoephedrine.
4. A Closet
One of the most recent crimes on this list is a stolen closet, or rather, tons of luxury handbags, accessories, clothing, shoes and jewelry, from a closet with a total value of approximately $1 million. This closet belongs to former beauty queen and entrepreneur, Theresa Roemer. This closet held 3,000 square feet of fabulous wear, and was dubbed “The Biggest Closet in America.” The closet actually wasn’t too hard to steal from. The burglar was able to get in through a bathroom window. So how did this target happen? The owner of the closet, which is larger than the average American home, forgot to lock the door and set the alarm. In a twist, the alleged thief called into The Houston Chronicle and said, using a voice modulator, that everything in Roemer’s closet was counterfeit.
It’s pretty bold to steal something as large as a dinosaur, but perhaps the thief, Eric Prokopi of Florida, had an ego as large as a T-Rex. Prokopi stole the skeletons of over half a dozen dinosaurs, worth over $1 million from Mongolia, and then smuggled them into the US. He almost got away with this crime until he tried to sell one of the skeletons at an auction. When the FBI caught on, they dubbed Prokopi “a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils,” but he called himself a “commercial paleontologist.” In 2012, Propoki pled guilty and was sentenced, very leniently, just three months in jail. The bones have since been returned to Mongolia.
2. the Empire State Building
Yes, the Empire State Building was once stolen. Currently worth $1.89 billion, it was taken by the New York Daily News to expose a loophole in New York City’s system for recording deeds and mortgages. So, how did they do it? They made fake documents, a fake notary stamp and filed papers with the city. The names on the document were laughable, listing actress Fay Wray (from King Kong), as the witness and Willie Sutton (a famous bank robber), as the notary. In only 90 minutes, the city approved the transfer of the building from Empire State Land Associates, to Nelots Properties LLC (Nelots is ‘stolen’ spelled backward). The building was returned the next day.
1. The Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius
In October 1995, a $3.5 million violin was stolen. Known as the “Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius,” it was made in 1727, by Antonio Stradivari. Taken from the New York City apartment of renowned concert violinist Erica Morini, this incident is on the FBI’s Top Ten Art Crimes List. The most bizarre part of this story is that a black market for these kinds of violins doesn’t really exist. No one knows exactly why it was taken. Morini, who has since passed away, was 91 years old when the crime happened. The theft was discovered by a friend of hers who was preparing for Morini to return home from the hospital. Today, the mystery still remains unsolved.