The Surfer Dude Behind a Famous Jewel Heist


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Good morning. It’s Friday. Today we’ll look at how a trove of letters and art belonging to a famous jewel thief ended up at New York’s antiquarian book fair.

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

When Murph the Surf rolled up from Florida in 1964 to pull off the biggest jewel heist in New York City history, he did it in a flashy white Cadillac.

When Mike Cotter made the same trip earlier this week, he slogged his way up in a beleaguered minivan loaded with books.

Murph (real name: Jack Roland Murphy) slipped through an open fourth-floor window to enter the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Gems. He tucked the stunning Star of India sapphire and other prize stones into a shoulder bag and then split to make the scene at some jazz clubs, the epitome of cool.

Cotter, on the other hand, is a rare-book nerd. And so he is in New York this week for the annual rare-book-nerd convention (real name: the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair).

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