Newsday was alerted earlier this month that a Pulitzer Prize gold medal won by the newspaper appeared for sale on the eBay auction site. Although that medal turned out to be a replica, reporters found listing for three gold Pulitzer Prize Medals for auction at Heritage Auction Galleries.
Officials from Heritage Auctions listed the 1953, 1970, and 1974 medals that were awarded to Newsday which Heritage deemed as genuine gold award medals. These were the first three of 19 Pulitzer Prizes won by the newspaper. Heritage President Jim Halprin alleges that the medals were consigned from a Long Island coin dealer who claims to have purchased them from an estate sale. The coin dealer has hired an attorney and has not commented.
Newsday executives believed the original medals were stored in a safe in the newspaper’s Melville (Long Island) corporate offices while authorized replicas are on display at in their New York City offices. Executives opened the safe where they thought the medals were stored and found a locked box. When a key could not be located, Newsday hired a locksmith to drill the lock open. The box was empty.
Company officials contacted the FBI to report the theft. The FBI recovered two of the medals that were sold to someone in Florida who is cooperating with the investigation. The other medal will be returned from Heritage Galleries’ offices in Dallas, Texas. All three medals will undergo authentication by the Medallic Art Company, who created the medals for the Pulitzer Foundation.
Halprin defended the auctions claiming that it is Heritage’s policy to verify consignments, especially when they are from someone they have not done business with in the past. He noted that their procedures have been in place since 2001 after previous problems. Halprin did not comment further on this consignment except to say that Heritage will perform an internal investigation into this transaction.
Acquiring an original Pulitzer Gold Medal that was awarded to a newspaper still in existence should be suspicious. One would expect a firm like Heritage would scrutinize the attempt to consign such a prestigious award. Investigating the pedigree of this medal be easy. Since the name of the newspaper is engraved on the medal, the first first act would be to call Newsday to verify the medal’s pedigree. Heritage was probably so ecstatic to obtain such a prize that their eyes probably glazed over and rushed it to auction without doing their due diligence—at least this is how it appears!