PLAINVIEW, Texas — After his collection was stolen nearly a month ago, a local coin collector finally has his antique coins back. It’s all thanks to some community watch groups and law enforcement across Northwest Texas.
Fonty Carthel has been collecting coins since he was nine. For him, it’s all about the history.
“Who’s to say that this old bill right here didn’t pass through the hands of Billy the Kid or Abraham Lincoln for that matter?” Carthel said, laughing.
He kept a collection on display at the front of his store Fonty’s Rental in Plainview, Texas, until someone broke in the night of January 29, smashing his store’s front window only to steal the coin collection alone. Carthel said it’s worth about $6,000.
“As soon as [the store door] shut, I knew something wasn’t right … You know, who would do this? That’s the first thing that goes through your head,” Carthel said on discovering the theft the morning after.
He filed a police report with the Plainview Police Department, and he searched pawn shops and enlisted the help of the Lubbock Coin Club too. Understandably, he added that the robbery made him feel “like a victim” and really upset him.
“I really figured I would never see them again,” Carthel said.
That was until Chief Deputy Tommy Hughes, with the Hartley County Sheriff’s Office, made what he thought would just be a routine traffic stop about 45 minutes north of Amarillo. He pulled a man over for going 100 miles per hour on January 30 — the day after the coins were stolen — and as he searched the car, Chief Deputy Hughes found hard drugs, a loaded firearm and Carthel’s coin collection scattered throughout the seats and floor.
“It was obvious to me that a coin collector would take better care of his stuff,” Hughes said.
Hughes added that he suspected the coin theft was a crime of opportunity, and the driver was on his way to sell the coins in Colorado.
The Hartley County Sheriff’s Office posted about the coin recovery on Facebook, and with the help of some local Facebook crime watch groups, the department was able to connect with Carthel and return the coins. Hughes said the department has a 98 to 99 percent success rate on recovering stolen property.
“It’s a really good feeling both professionally and personally … It just feels good to be able to get his stuff back to him and get everybody’s property back to them,” Hughes said.
On Wednesday, a representative from the Hartley County Sheriff’s Office met with a representative from the Plainview police department who then presented Carthel with his coins. Carthel emphasized how grateful he was to have them back and for the help of the officers and his community.
“It’s kind of like winning the lottery really … This doesn’t happen. You don’t get [your stolen property] back. But I did,” Carthel said.