On Valentine’s Day, a thief entered the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and stole three antique firearms, including a rifle and two revolvers that belonged the Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War Simon Cameron. According to ABC27, the weapons were part of the NRA’s exhibit “Guns and Lace,” which showcased the firearms and apparel of the Civil war. Cameron’s guns were among the headlining pieces of the exhibition, and also among the most valuable. Experts estimated the firearms to fetch roughly $650,000 or more at auction.
Yet it is doubtful that the burglar—or burglars—will ever sell the guns for that price. Antique firearms are difficult to sell on the black market, and James D. Julia, a prominent auctioneer and expert in valuable firearms, said that the firearms are worth only a fraction of their price if provenance could not be established.
“It’s like having the Hope Diamond,” Julia told PennLive. “You can’t take it to Sotheby’s. The world knows this Simon Cameron rifle was stolen, so you can only sell it to another crook, who won’t give you much money for it.”
If the thief decides to alter the guns so they are less recognizable, such as defacing the serial numbers or engravings, Julia said the value could slip to as low as $25,000. The auctioneer also added that unlike other certain other collectibles, those who want to purchase historic or noteworthy firearms have little interest in buying a stolen gun.
“The bottom line is, this is a dumb thief,” Julia said. “He’s stealing something where the whole value is dependent on who owns it…If he tries to sell it, he’s going to get caught eventually.”
Of course, police are hoping to catch the thief before he manages to sell anything. Officials say they are currently reviewing security footage, which showed a man breaking into the building and taking the guns. Mysteriously, the alarms either malfunctioned or were disabled during the burglary.
You can hear a brief statement from the director of the museum, Wayne Motts, below:
Image courtesy Harrisburg Police Department