$12K reward offered for museum's stolen artifacts

January 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A reward is now officially being offered to anyone who helps recover valuable stolen pieces of the Golden State's history.

Thieves once again struck the Oakland Museum of California. This is the second burglary in as many months. This time the museum's director is refusing to put a price tag on the item, only describing it as "invaluable in telling the story of California."

From the room at the Oakland Museum of California, a historical gold rush-era quartz and gold encrusted jewel box was taken from the collection. The box is rare and is described as an "invaluable historical object for the state of California." The box depicts scenes of early pioneer life and is part of the museum's holding of California history.

Museum officials will not put a price tag on the box, only suggesting that you'll know it when you see it, "I think if anyone finds or has knowledge about a three pound, seven-by-nine-inch ornate, gold box that has images of early California history, and quartz on it, it will be unmistakable," OMCA Director Lori Fogarty said. She says the box was a wedding anniversary gift for the wife of a California pioneer who had come out West in the late 1800s.

Some estimates put the box at a value of more than $800,000.

This is the second theft in as many months at the museum. In November, police say a suspect matching the suspect in this theft made off with gold nuggets.

With this theft of the box on Monday, officials tell ABC7 News that another item was also taken. They declined to say what that item is, only noting that the value did not match that of the box.

The burglar was caught on surveillance video, and was described by police as a black male with a medium complexion who is 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall. At the time of the burglary, he was wearing a white mask, a dark hat, dark jacket and dark shoes.

Police are investigating whether Monday's burglary is connected to an overnight burglary at the museum that was discovered the morning of Nov. 13. In that case, several items, including gold nuggets, were taken from display cases.

"There were striking similarities between the two incidents," Oakland police Lt. Oliver Cunningham said at a news conference at the museum Wednesday morning.

In both burglaries, the suspect forced entry in a similar manner and ran off with items.

The museum does have guards, but they are not armed. They are trained to contact police and not make contact with the suspect(s). Officials say Oakland police were here within minutes, but the thief made off with the goods.

Anyone with information on the burglaries is asked to call the Police Department's Major Crimes Section at (510) 238-3951 or the tip line at (510) 777-2805.

The museum is offering a $12,000 reward for the safe recovery of the artifacts. For details on the reward, click here.

(Bay City News contributed to this report)


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