In December, 1987 a convoy of police vehicles arrived at the remote mountain home of Daniel Dalai and ransacked the 3 buildings there while Daniel and his daughter were away. They were looking for evidence to arrest Daniel and left with many boxes of personal papers, photographs, guns, ammo and a passport showing extensive world travel.
But what surprised them most, according to a statement by Tehama County Detective Earl Richter who led the Alameda County police to the site, was the treasure they found in the house. The small 2 storey building with all metal siding was a ďminiature Fort KnoxĒ, packed inside with metal boxes containing Danielís 30 years of gold, silver, and antiquities acquisitions. Daniel, artist, goldsmith, and avid connoisseur of beauty, had put every cent he earned into antiquities from his sojourns in England, Germany, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey Guatemala and North Africa in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and was using the unnoticed remote home to store them until he had a better place.
The metal lock-boxes, covered with rugs, served as tables and seats with life in the little home going on with no sign to a casual visitor of the valuable treasure under the carpeted surfaces. But the police who used a power saw to open the two hardened padlocks on the door were no casual visitors, they were there to tear the house apart, and they opened every box they found, scattering the contents. Three hand-made Tsarist Russian metal treasure chests with secret locks, used to carry an unknown noblemanís jewels and gold to Afghanistan when fleeing the Bolsheviks in 1917 were among the items lost.
Hand-painted Russian icons, Early Koran manuscript pages, embroidered nomadic wedding gowns, orders and decorations, swords and 19th century military accoutrements were thrown out of their storage boxes onto the floor. One air-tight large ammo box contained rare medieval hand-written manuscript pages, early illustrated 16th and 17th century leather-bound books and a collection of manuscripts in the finest handwriting of the 18th century, to be used in teaching caligraphy, all lost that day. Another sealed ammo box contained original school books, manuals, awards, magazines, and documents from the third Reich collected in the ten years Daniel lived in Germany. A large silver-colored steel lock-chest made for the sea voyages between Victorian England and India that Daniel bought in Afghanistan held a collection of exceptionally beautiful daggers and swords from the 16th to 19th centuries, including a Damascus steel carved dagger reworked from a royal Mogul sword of the Akbar era.
During his 8 different trips to Afghanistan from Germany in the 70s, Daniel especially sought old embroidery work of the Central Asian tribal nomads, considered among the finest weaving in the world. Also embroidery from imperial China, fragments of Byzantine and Venetian textiles, and pre-Inca Peruvian textiles represented what he saw as the peak of beauty in cloth. Daniel explained that he had put ever cent he had into these items, foregoing luxury and never using restaurants or hotels in his travels, preferring to put his money into objects of more lasting value. But the treasure was not lasting. The entire lot was robbed before Daniel returned to his house after 2 weeks forced detention by police.
The largest metal lock-box was as big as a dinner table and held a Central Asian nomad rug and the American Indian collection, art displaying exceptional motives and designs used by American Indians. Daniel practiced gold and silversmithing, and all his tools and hand carved steel dies were lost that day. He lost a full 25 lbs. of sterling silver pre-1920 English coins, collected durring his three years in England (valued today, 2012, around 14 thousand dollars), as well asfine-gold sheets, planchets and trial strikes from his dies irreplaceable today. Danielís entire wealth was in his collection. He had no bank accounts, stocks or other funds. He was a believer in physical gold and silver, and was planning his retirement and childrenís education on this collection. He dreamed of creating a community before retiring, using the remarkable beauty and historicity these treasures.
But the highest valued of what was lost in the robbery were the COINS:
8,000 ancient and medieval coins in gold and silver. Islamic dynasties, Sassanid, Mongol, Medieval Europe, etc.
Three pounds (about 40 ounces) of modern GOLD COINS, mostly 19th century Russian and European, selected for their special beauty and condition. Value today, (2012), around $80,000
A small collection of excepionally attractive Tsarist Russian coins.
A small group of bronze Byzantine ikons bought in the primitive antique markets of Afghanistan in the 70s, prized remains of White Russian immigrants who fled there to escape the Bolsheviks.
An old family album of daguerreotypes and early photographs of Danielís forefathers handed down by his great grandfather, through his father, to him.
Daniel had worked 4 years on a book on the coins of the Mongol dynasties in Asia, taking photos of coins in the major European Museums. The manuscript was almost ready for publication but was taken by police and never returned.
This was one of the biggest robberies in recent Californian history and went unnoticed to the press or law enforcement. When Daniel arrived home after 2 weeks in jail he saw fresh pickup truck tracks in the snow and all the treasure gone. There is no knowledge yet of the whereabouts of the valuables. Daniel was left penniless, his life work gone, his family taken, and when he was told the Tehama county police were coming to arrest him again he left, and went to Bolivia.
If anyone should come accross these stolen items, we would be grateful if you notified Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org