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Old 02-21-2013, 10:44 AM   #1
Kaleidoscopes
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Most valuable items to steal?

I swear I will not use this info to rob you. c:
I'm writing a novel where the main characters are thieves, and they've burglarized a couple of houses - but I can't figure out what the most valuable items to steal would be - I think jewelry would be one, but i'm not even sure about that.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:49 AM   #2
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Is this modern world, of some speculative/fantasy?

First, they would target someone who has valuables. Not everyone keep riches on them.

Money is easy, paper and coins. Silverware. Jewelry. Small antiques (need a valuable eye here). Electronics.
Most thieves do sell information, or use it, like social security numbers, credit cards, checks. A computer is a well of this.

If you stage it correctly, you can clean out a person's house with a moving truck.


And thieves steal a target. Riches, not just valuables. They target someone, make up a plan, take a single item because they wish (sometimes without need of selling it).
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:54 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Kaleidoscopes View Post
I swear I will not use this info to rob you. c:
I'm writing a novel where the main characters are thieves, and they've burglarized a couple of houses - but I can't figure out what the most valuable items to steal would be - I think jewelry would be one, but i'm not even sure about that.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
It's certainly one - I think your answer is that it depends on many factors not included here.

What kind of thieves are they? Why're they burglarizing homes? What types of homes? Where are the homes? Are they targetting specific homes? Etc.

There are addicts who break into places and grab whatever's easy to sell for some cash, like televisions, computers, gadgets like ipads, cash itself, etc. At the lower end, people will steal stuff like copper anyplace it can be found, like in pipes or wiring for stuff.

There are professional thieves who target certain areas and know what stuff is worth and what stuff is saleable without a problem and might look for jewlery, cash kept in the home, silver (silverware, silver services, coins), etc.

There are also thieves who target certain people who may have art collections, specific levels or types of jewlery, some types of bearer instruments, whatever.

So depends who your thieves and targets are?
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:59 AM   #4
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I agree with Will.

Money and jewelry would be the first targets. Then small electronics like cameras or cell phones. Possibly clothes and purses if the thief knows they might be worth a lot. Musical instruments that are in their cases. Prescription medicine, too. (I learned that last one from personal experience.)
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Old 02-21-2013, 12:32 PM   #5
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Personally, electronics would be my target. Like Will said, those can be like hitting the bank, and they're so easy to carry out. My friends and I have enough know-how that I could probably very easily get account information to their Facebook, email, work mail, and probably even bank accounts and credit card accounts if I had someone's laptop or computer or cellphone or iPad. All it takes is some smooth talking and I could scam a whole load of people with just that information.

Not that I would. But you know. Fun to think about.

My main concern would be whether or not these things I'm stealing are easily traceable. Which brings up the question of what I plan to do with them. If I want to pawn them off at a local shop, I'm going to have to be very careful that they can't be traced--cops can always just get a description of what was stolen and then check around the pawn shops for a description of the item, which is all the easier if said item is identifiable by looks or serial number.

Note on musical instruments just because seeing it mentioned made me think about it: I have pictures of my carry-able musical instruments from a variety of different angles. I've written down all the details and have the serial number in a safe place in case it gets stolen. It's a bit extreme, but seriously, those things cost a lot.
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Old 02-21-2013, 12:38 PM   #6
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Diamonds. Not exactly jewelry, because individual items of jewelry are traceable, because so many really valuable ones are unique. But diamonds, as stones, are the perfect fenceable and smuggleable items. Small, concealable, no aromas or other detectable characteristics. That's why they have become such important commodities to fund third-world warfare.

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Old 02-21-2013, 01:32 PM   #7
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Collections are good - stamps, coins.
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Old 02-21-2013, 01:41 PM   #8
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Collections are good - stamps, coins.
Collections present problems. Really really rare and valuable items are like unique pieces of art: hard to sell on the open market because they are too recognizable. You steal Da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, who ya gonna sell it to?

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Old 02-21-2013, 02:52 PM   #9
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You steal Da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, who ya gonna sell it to?

caw

This. Identifying a buyer is more important, imo, than the item/s being stolen. Pointless taking anything unless there is someone willing to buy it. Selling stolen items puts the thief in the hands of the buyer in so many ways - what the buyer will pay and being able to identify a thief.

The value of items changes as they go in and out of fashion. Gold prices rocketed last year and the value of some items I sold made my jaw drop. Thieves will go for small and easily portable - when my home was robbed the thief took a load of junk. Any one of my teddy bears is more valuable than the junk taken, but the thief probably had a buyer for the junk and knew nothing about bears.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:07 PM   #10
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At least in my region (northeastern US), copper pipe and even wire is popular, generally taken from vacation homes or houses that are otherwise vacant. Thieves rip open walls, pull it out, cart it away for sale as scrap metal.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:14 PM   #11
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How good are these thieves?

I know a man who took a week long vacation but the newspaper carrier left a newspaper on his lawn every day. When he came home, his house had been stripped. Giant TV, gone. Suits and watches, gone. Nice shoes, gone. Safe in his closet, gone. Bottles of wine, gone. Computer, gone. Some of the furniture, gone.

His lives in an upscale gated community and the robbers had hit several of the houses.

Alternatively, there are 'bust into your house and grab your jar of coins and your xbox' types. Usually druggies or teenagers.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:15 PM   #12
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Small statues, 'market-sale' style mantlepiece items. They tend to be small, the owner can go for awhile without noticing the item is gone, and the person who owns it often has no idea of its worth.

I'm not a criminal, trust me
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Old 02-21-2013, 04:43 PM   #13
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Gold and silver items can be cashed-in at any pawn shop and some jewelry shops. The price of gold and sliver are high, just like the price for copper. Guns will be a hot commodity with criminals. Personal electronics/laptop computers can be turned around quickly. Anything else that catches the eye of the intruder, which can be easily carried away, will be grabbed. Some items may appeal due to the resale value, others may be attractive for the thief to keep. Some thieves keep some souvenir of the break-in.

It really depends on the time element (how long does the thief feel comfortable in the house), the convenience element (does the thief have a truck that can hold furniture or is he/she on foot), the needs of the thief (quick money for drugs or a more patient fence schedule), and the intelligence of the thief (one who plans the break-in or is just a stupid meth-head or a deranged glue sniffer looking to support a habit).
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Old 02-21-2013, 05:28 PM   #14
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What is sold is going to depend on the thieves and what channels they have for cashing in items. High-end art thieves often have clients who want specific pieces for personal collection. On the other end, some drug dealers will take just about anything in trade.

There's also the question of how they operate. some will toss a place quick while the owners are away. Some will sneak in and pick up things while people are home. some wait for the owners to be away for a while and will clean out a house over a few days.

A lot of Money is the best thing to get. Instantly usable, no ID needed.

Credit cards/debit cards can be used to get cash if the thief knows the PIN number, or to make a purchase, but only if it's done quickly. These are also sometimes sold on the streets. This would be a small target beacuse they are likely to be reported and shut down quickly, police can trace where and when they are used, and because the thief is likely to be caught in camera using them.

Jewelry can be a good target. Stones under a half-karat won't net much. Metal market is always strong. Nowdays, anywhere you go to resell, pawn shop, metal market, etc, are going to be required to get an ID, even for small transactions (US). Coin collections work about the same.

Laptops can contain valuable information. If the thieves know how to get past security, they can get financial access, credit card numbers and enough information to steal an identity. Other easily transportable electronics could be a target. Video games are very easy to sell without going through stores which would require ID.

Birth certificates, social security cards, picture IDs and anything else that can be used toward stealing an ID would be a good thing to hit. they can go toward cons or fraud, or sold to criminals and illegal immigrants looking for documents to allow them to work in the US.

Firearms are always a good pick. Strong resale value on the streets.

I think the best thing to do is understand your characters, what they want and how they cash in the stolen items.
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Old 02-21-2013, 05:30 PM   #15
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Collections present problems. Really really rare and valuable items are like unique pieces of art: hard to sell on the open market because they are too recognizable. You steal Da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, who ya gonna sell it to?

caw

Yes, this. I had a discussion about this with the hubs not long ago, specifically about stealing valuable comics. He said it would be pretty pointless to do so, because you couldn't resell it at most stores or on Ebay; people distribute lists and look out for that stuff.

But, if you have a buyer lined up, someone who wouldn't show the items to people or resell them, you could still do it. It depends on how "connected" your thieves are.
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:01 PM   #16
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Collections present problems. Really really rare and valuable items are like unique pieces of art: hard to sell on the open market because they are too recognizable. You steal Da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, who ya gonna sell it to?

caw
A fair number of private collectors around the world will buy any stolen art, and more famous, the better. The problem isn't the buyer, it's the thief who knows who the buyer is. This means a specialized thief who's stealing to order.

But you can also sell such art back to the insurance company, and with no questions asked. Which would you rather do, pay a thief ten percent of the value, or pay the museum one hundred percent?
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:44 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Kaleidoscopes View Post
I swear I will not use this info to rob you. c:
I'm writing a novel where the main characters are thieves, and they've burglarized a couple of houses - but I can't figure out what the most valuable items to steal would be - I think jewelry would be one, but i'm not even sure about that.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Depends on whether this is contemporary or historical or fantasy, but if it's a modern setting, what thieves typically look for is cash, jewelry, laptops, and guns. In a more primitive setting, they might steal food, tools, weapons.
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:23 PM   #18
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If they're breaking into houses, and so far, it seems they've only broken into a couple, they should be going for any gold or silver jewelry--there's a place that will buy your gold nowadays on every street corner. Guns, laptops, wallets and purses lying around. Electronics. Anything pawnable. Maybe give an idea of who these thieves are? and that will determine what they're likely to steal. Expensive bicycles are hot items.
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:36 PM   #19
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When burglars broke into our house, they stole about 600 DVDs and 40 Xbox and Wii Games, all the cash they could find (including my kids' piggy banks), video camera, digital cameras, cell phones and jewelry.

They left behind the TVs, VCRs, TiVos, the XBox and Wii, 4 tower computers, family silver, artwork of moderate value and signed collectables - some of them quite valuable.

According to the investigating detective, the items they took are among the least traceable, most easily fenced items in the average home. He had been tracking a team of what he thought were 2-4 burglars working the suburban neighborhoods with that same MO. He wasn't optimistic on catching them, nor on ever recovering any of our property. They were smart enough not to take the big things or items we could easily identify as ours.

Sure enough, as far as I know, they were never caught, and we definitely never got a single item back.
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:53 PM   #20
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Chocolate. Good thieves steal chocolate.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:13 PM   #21
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Collections present problems. Really really rare and valuable items are like unique pieces of art: hard to sell on the open market because they are too recognizable. You steal Da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, who ya gonna sell it to?

caw
Yeah, but you don't take anything too rare. You take a collection of coins where there are, say, a thousand of each coin in circulation - rare enough to be valuable, not rare enough that everyone knows where each one is. At least, that's what Bernie Rhodenbarr always told me.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:16 PM   #22
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I agree it's not so much what's most valuable as what's going to get the best value for the least hassle. I read an autobiography by an art thief who, while connected with a few high-profile thefts of "big" items, actually did most of his stealing by posing as a collector or researcher, asking to see the stuff in storage, then making off with the smaller things in there that weren't tagged (and often weren't even properly archived) and could be concealed on-person.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:34 PM   #23
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I've read that thieves will often search your top dresser drawers, because apparently a lot of people keep their valuables there. Cash, expensive jewelry, etc. So perhaps your thieves could search the underwear drawers for a velvet jewelry box, or extra credit cards, or an envelope full of cash?

I second the idea of prescription medicines. My biploar meds (without insurance) cost at least $1,000 a month. I don't know if there's a black market for anti-psychotic/anti-depressant drugs, but it's worth looking into. Also consider pain medications, as well as stimulants, like Ritalin. I'm on a lot of pills for various health problems and when I throw the empty bottles away, I either tear off the labels or black out my name and address, in case there are junkies wandering through the dump. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I would hate for them to pick up an empty pill bottle and decide to come to my house looking for more prescription meds.

I've never been robbed, but one of our neighbors had his house broken into a few years ago. He went down the street to Starbucks, only planning to be gone a few minutes, so he didn't set his security alarm. While there, he ran into an old friend, so he was gone longer than he expected. When he returned, there were DVDs scattered all over his lawn and the front door was open. They'd taken an expensive watch collection, worth tens of thousands of dollars, along with a bunch of DVDs. It was a gated community, but because they were building new houses, the gates were open to allow construction trucks through.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:32 PM   #24
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Down the way from my place, tweakers stole the entire house. No, I'm not kidding; it's an A-frame, and they've taken everything but the roof and the concrete foundation. They even took the 2nd floor and the front and back walls.

Copper wire is one of the most profitable things to steal right now, and salvage yards still often wink at it even tho it's pretty obvious a whole new coil of wire was lifted, not salvaged. This is why some construction sites have armed guards at night.
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:12 PM   #25
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Generally speaking, anything really valuable, from jewelry to top end guns to valuable coin collections, will be in a safe. Most burglers are just addicts, or out of work people looking for a quick buck. They'll grab a bottle pills, a TV, or anything else. They often don't even take the time to read the label on a prescription bottle. I had thieves steal a bottle of blood pressure medication, and a bottle of antibiotics last year.

Really good burglers usually know what's in the house, and pretty much exactly what they intend to steal, before going in. One top target is silverware, hallmarked silver tea service, etc.
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