The Biggest Things Ever Stolen

By Anna Collins 1 year ago

1. The Mona Lisa

Image Source: theguardian
In 1908, an Italian man, Vincenzo Peruggia, moved to France and got a job at the Louvre.  As a handyman, he installed protective glass onto paintings, meaning that he had almost unlimited access to some extremely precious works of art, including the Mona Lisa which is speculated to be worth over $1 Billion. So, in the Summer of 1911, Peruggia stole the most famous painting in the world.

2.  20% of Europe's Artwork

Image Source: time
Hitler's rise to power gave rise to a highly organized plunder of art objects which saw 20 percent of Europe's treasured artworks stolen.  It is said that upwards of 650,000 works of art were looted by the Nazis by the end of World War II and most of these have never been recovered.  In fact, in 2012, just 1280 paintings, drawings, and prints worth over $1 Billion were found in a Munich apartment.

3.  Two Priceless Crowns

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In 2018, two priceless, 17th-century crowns, adorned in gold, jewels, and pearls were lifted from a Swedish Cathedral by two men who sped away on a motorboat!  The crowns belonged to Charles VIIII and Queen Christina and have been described as incredibly unique.  The motive of the robbery is still unclear as the thieves would have found it impossible to sell the treasure on without getting caught.  In fact, they were found just a year later in a trash can in Stockholm!

4.  Ancient Egyptian Coffins

Image Source: bbc
Dubbed "The Green Coffin", this Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus dates all the way back to the Late Dynastic Period from 664 BC to 332 BC, and is thought to have contained the remains of the Ancient Egyptian priest, Ankhenmaat.  It was stolen from North Egypt by a global art trafficking network and smuggled through Germany to America where it was displayed in a museum until its recent return to Cairo from the US.

5.  Iraqi Artifacts

Image Source: theindependent
The Iraq Museum contains thousands of extremely precious artifacts from some of the earliest civilizations, such as the Mesopotamian, Abbasid, and Persian.  These artifacts include various ancient statues and carvings and even the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, which is said to contain the oldest known work of literature ever discovered.  These precious relics were looted during the Iraq War back in 2003 and made their way onto the international art market.

6.  A 3000 Pound Bell

Image Source: grunge
An astonishingly heavy three-thousand-pound bell and its wooden frame completely vanished from an open-sided meditation pavilion of a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in the year 2005.  The bell is so enormous and heavy that it is said that it would have taken a forklift truck to even move it!  The bell is said to be extremely important in the practice of Buddhism and the monetary value of the bell is impossible to calculate.

7.  The Empire State Building

Image Source: Reddit
Yes - you did read that correctly!  But how does one go about stealing an entire humongous $2 billion skyscraper?  Well, it was quite easy for a group of journalists at the New York Daily News in 2008 who managed it in just 90 minutes!  All they did was create a batch of false documents that make it possible to transfer the ownership of the iconic building from the original owners to another company - simple!

8.  Imperial Faberge Eggs

Image Source: theartssociety
From 1855 up until the Russian Revolution in 1917, the House of Faberge crafted fifty jewel-encrusted eggs and gifted them to the Russian royal family.  During the Bolshevik Revolution, eight of the eggs were lost and seven of those have never been seen again.  The third egg was found by a scrap metal dealer at a market and is estimated to be worth around $33 million.   All but seven of the eggs are now displayed in museums and it is thought that each one is worth $1 million.

9.  Laundry Detergent

Image Source: Reddit
A survey in 2022 found that laundry detergent is among the most stolen products in organized retail crime.  In fact, this has contributed to an absolutely eyewatering $94.6 billion inventory shrinkage issue for the industry, but instead of a lone shoplifter stealing the goods, criminal organizations are actually stealing huge amounts and managing to sell it on for a profit!

10.  Meat

Image Source: Reddit
It is estimated that Walmart loses approximately $3 billion every year as a result of theft, both through organized criminal activity and also through lone shoplifters pinching products off the shelves.  And amongst the most stolen items, like beauty products, booze, lighters and razors, meat leads the way as being the most stolen item from Walmart!

11.  Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Artwork

Image Source: Reddit
Isabella Stewart Gardner spent lots of time carefully collecting and displaying a collection of more than 7500 works of art.  In 1990, thirteen of these artworks were stolen by two men dressed up and posing as police officers.  The thieves managed to tie the security guards up and loot the pieces.  It is said that, altogether, the works could add up to be worth up to $600 million!

12.  The Hope Diamond

Image Source: Reddit
Sometimes, a jewel so precious can carry a dreadful story that impacts all of its owners.  In 1792, during the French Revolution, the Hope Diamond, with an estimated value of somewhere between $200 million - $350 million was stolen from the house that stored the crown jewels and re-cut.  Ancient stories tell that the diamond belonged in the statue of a Hindi Goddess and some believe that the diamond is cursed.  It is thought that whoever owns it, suffers terrible misfortunes.

13.  Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Image Source: Reddit
This mesmerizing, gold-flecked painting sold at a record price of $135 million in 2006.  It was one of five of Klimt's paintings that were stolen by the Nazis from a Jewish family during World War II.  It was finally returned by a Vienna museum to its rightful heir, Adele Bloch Bauer's niece, a resident of Los Angeles.

14.  The Amber Room

Image Source: Reddit
Constructed in the 18th century in Prussia, The Amber Room was located in a palace near St. Petersburg.  It was a chamber that was decorated with amber panels that were backed in gold leaf and mirrors, so dazzling and grand that it was impressively named "The Eighth Wonder of the World.  The room was dismantled and mysteriously disappeared without a trace during World War II.  In the late seventies, the Soviet government ordered a replica of the room to be built which took 24 years and cost over $11 million!

15.  Edvard Munch's The Scream

Image Source: Reddit
There are two paintings of Munch's The Scream, one at the Oslo National Gallery and one at the Munch Museum.  One of these was sold at just over a whopping $91 million.  The Scream has not only been stolen once, but twice!  First in 1994 from the gallery in Oslo and then again ten years later when armed gunmen broke into the Munch Museum.  Luckily, the first time, the fragile painting was returned within three months but the second time, it was not found again until 2006!

16.  Paul Cezanne's The Boy in the Red Vest

Image Source: Reddit
In 2012, four men were charged in Serbia with the robbery of Paul Cezanne's painting which was stolen in Switzerland four years earlier.  At the time, the theft was known in Europe as the biggest heist of all time.  The $129 million painting was eventually recovered when police found it in the back of a car after chasing down a suspect in Belgrade.

17.  Davinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder

Image Source: Reddit
Said to be one of the most valuable pieces ever stolen in Britain, Da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder was lifted in the summer of 2003 by two men posing as tourists.  The painting, which was valued at $65 million back in 2003, was nicked off the wall by the two men who overpowered a tour guide and sped off in a VW Golf!

18.  A Golden Salt Cellar

Image Source: Reddit
Florentine goldsmith, sculptor, and author, Benvenuto Cellini crafted this extraordinary gold-plated salt cellar in 1543 and it is said to be worth over $58 million.  It was stolen in 2003 from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Austria and the thieves did not have to work hard to seize it!  They entered the museum at 4 am, set off the alarm which was reset by security thinking it was a glitch, and escaped with the masterpiece into the night.  It was four hours before anyone even noticed the empty space it once occupied!

19.  Van Gogh's Poppy Flowers

Image Source: Reddit
Van Gogh's astonishing Poppy Flowers has certainly not had a terribly easy life.  Described as one of his finest paintings and valued at $55 million, it was stolen from a museum in Cairo in 1977, only to resurface again ten years later in Kuwait.  Tragically, in 2010, thieves targeted the painting again, cutting it from the wall where it was displayed and casually leaving the museum in broad daylight!

20.  The Patiala Necklace

Image Source: Reddit
This amazing and gigantic necklace, which contains 2930 diamonds, rubies, and jewels and is said to be worth $25 million, mysteriously went missing from Patiala's Royal Treasury in 1943.  Decades later, parts of the necklace were traced and the remains were purchased.  However, many of the gemstones were found to be missing.

21.  A Self-Portrait by Rembrandt

Image Source: Reddit
The Nationalmuseum robbery was the infamous robbery of three historic paintings.  Those paintings included two artworks by the French artist Renoir and a small self-portrait on copper by the Dutch Golden Age painter, Rembrandt.  The theft of the three paintings totaled up to a huge $30 million to $45 million.

22.  One of Picasso's Iconic Paintings

Image Source: Reddit
Picasso's 1911 painting, Le Pigeon aux Petit-Pois (sometimes referred to as The Dove with Green Peas), was one of five paintings to be stolen from an iconic Paris museum back in 2010.  Altogether, their suggested worth was over 108 million dollars.  The thief seemed to panic because before long, they admitted to the police that they had thrown Picasso's painting, along with the other stolen works in a nearby Paris trashcan.

23.  Johannes Vermeer's The Concert

Image Source: Reddit
The Concert by Vermeer was one of the paintings stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and is considered one of the rarest, most treasured, and most valuable of the lost works.  Valued at $250 million, experts believe that this is the most valuable stolen object in the history of the world.

24.  Caravaggio's Nativity

Image Source: Reddit
Cavaggio's Nativity has been missing since the 1960s and its disappearance remains a mystery.  This incredible masterpiece was stolen in 1969 from Palermo, where it hung for 350 years above the altar inside the Oratory of San Lorenzo.  It is believed that thieves used a razor to cut the canvas containing the work with a razor, rolled it up, and disappeared.

25.  The World's Most Expensive Violin

Image Source: Reddit
The Gibson Stradivarius violin was crafted in 1713 and is one of the world's most valuable violins worth a staggering $15 million.  Owned currently by world-famous violinist, Joshua Bell, this violin has been stolen twice: once in 1919 when it was quickly recovered, and then once in 1936 by musician, Julian Altman.  Despite being regularly played in public, it was not recovered again until Altman confessed to his crime on his deathbed in 1988!

26.  A Giant Gold Coin

Image Source: Reddit
This huge 220-pound Canadian gold coin, worth over $4 million, was stolen by a crime family in 2020.  It was alleged at the time that the family was part of a ring that obtained stolen gold in order to melt it down and use it to forge new collector coins.  Two cousins, Ahmed Remmo and Wissan Remmo, and their friend who was actually a security guard at the museum were arrested for the robbery.

27.  Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Image Source: Reddit
"There's no place like home" goes the famous line, and it is true for Dorothy's iconic Ruby Slippers that lived in the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids.  Interestingly, there were multiple pairs made for the set, and today, there are actually only four pairs of these sparkly shoes left in existence.  In August 2005, the £3 million slippers disappeared from the museum and finally returned to their home over a decade later when somebody called and attempted to extort the owners!

28.  Tagore's Nobel Prize

Image Source: Reddit
In 1913, Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his collection of poems, "Gitanjali".  He was, in fact, the very first non-European to win the prestigious prize and also the first Indian person to bring one home.  In 2004, the prize and citation were stolen from the safety vault of the Visva Bharati Museum.

29.  A Dinosaur

Image Source: Reddit
In the picturesque village of Buxton in the Peak District, UK, a robbery took place where thieves stole two guitars, a mandolin, some jewelry, some power tools, and... a dinosaur!  During the break-in, dinosaur bones and fossils, worth $1 million were taken and sold in an auction in New York not long after the crime.

30.  The Sword of Tipu Sultan

Image Source: Reddit
Tipu Sultan, also known as the "Tiger of Mysore", ruled in Mysore in India from 1782 to 1799.  In 1799, a British Army officer stole his sword from Tipu's palace after his defeat by The Duke of Wellington.  The sword and other items were passed down through generations and generations of family members until 2019 when a family from Berkshire in the UK found them in their attic!  The sword itself sold at auction for almost $150,000.

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