11 of the Most Expensive Things That Have Ever Been Stolen

Even though many of these items are extremely large and worth millions of dollars, these determined criminals still managed to steal them.

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PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 06, 2016: Visitors take photo of Leonardo DaVinci's "Mona Lisa" at the Louvre Museum
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The Mona Lisa

Ever heard of it? The answer is most likely yes, considering it is the most famous painting in the world. The criminal, Vincenzo Perugia, was a handyman working at the Louvre, where the painting is displayed. In 1911, he hid in a closet until the museum closed and then took off with it with two other handymen. It was finally recovered and returned to the Louvre in 1913 after Perugia attempted to sell it to an art dealer in Italy. This painting tops the list of the most expensive things ever stolen with a price tag of at least $2 billion.

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New York City. Manhattan downtown skyline with illuminated Empire State Building and skyscrapers at sunset.
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The Empire State Building

No, the Empire State Building wasn’t actually picked up and stolen, but the property was. In December of 2008, the New York Daily News stole the $1.89 billion dollar building by filing fake paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property. The journalists did it to prove that there was a loophole in the law when it came to the city’s way of recording transactions. The newspaper returned the building to its rightful owner and the law was tightened up.

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Picture of the old italian violin on a wall background
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The Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius

The Stradivarius is a $3.5 million violin that was stolen from the famous concert violinist Erica Morini. The violin was made in 1727 by Antonio Stradivari and was stolen from Morini’s apartment in New York City. At the time, Morini was 91 and she died shortly after her prized possession was stolen. The violin still hasn’t been found and is on the FBI’s top ten art crimes list. You’ll also want to read up on the 7 dumbest criminals of all time.

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The Wizard Of Oz - 1939

Dorothy’s ruby red slippers

Dorothy’s ruby red shoes that she famously clicks together to take her back home in the Wizard of Oz were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota in 2005. The shoes are said to be worth anywhere from $2 to $3 million. The slippers still haven’t been found today, but an anonymous donor from Arizona offered a $1 million prize to anyone who can state who stole the slippers and where they are. 

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A Visitor Eyes Edvard Munch's Painting 'The Scream' on Display at the Exhibiton 'Scream and Madonna - Revisited' at the Munch Museum in Oslo Norway 23 May 2088 Munch's Works of Art 'The Scream' and 'Madonna' Were Returned to the Munch Museum After Their Theft From the Museum in August 2004 the Paintings Have Been Restored and Conserved and Are Now Back on Display in the Exhibition That Runs Until 26 September 2008 Norway Oslo
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The Scream

There are four versions of this famous painting by Edvard Munch. The most famous of the four, worth $120 million, was finished in 1893 and is housed at the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. Thieves stole the painting in 1994 (and again in 2004!) and demanded $1 million in ransom. Their demands were rejected, the criminals were captured by the police in a sting mission, and the painting was returned to its museum.

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Dinosaur skeleton in ground stone Fossil Tyrannosaurus archaeological excavations. Prehistoric monster
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Dinosaur bones

Yes, you read that right—criminals have managed to steal dinosaurs. Eric Prokopi stole the skeletons of over half a dozen dinosaurs from Mongolia and smuggled them back to the U.S. The bones were said to have been worth over $1 million. Prokopi was caught by the FBI and sentenced to three months in jail. The dinosaur bones were returned to Mongolia.

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KYOTO, JAPAN - JULY 19, 2016: The bell tower of Kiyomizudera buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto.
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A 3,000-pound bell

In 2005, a Vietnamese copper bell was stolen from the Buddhist Monastery in Tacoma, Washington. The criminal stole it while the monks were deep in meditation. The police believe that the thief just came in with a forklift and stole it. The bell was recovered three years later when the thief tried to sell it, and it’s a good thing because the bell was priceless.

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Montreal, Canada - March 27, 2016: Close-up of Alexei Nikolaevich faberge egg, Tsarevich of Russia
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Seven fabergé eggs

The House of Fabergé created 50 jewel-encrusted eggs for the Russian royal family from 1885 up until the revolution in 1917. They were lost during the Bolshevik revolution and all but seven are now on display in museums (one was found—by a Midwestern scrap metal dealer at a market). Valued at more than $1 million each, the missing eggs are one of the most expensive things ever stolen.

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The Hands of Elisabeth Gehrer (r) and Interior Minister Liese Prokop (l) Hold the Recently Recovered 16th-century Sculpture 'La Saliera' by Benvenuto Cellinis at a Press Conference in Vienna on Sunday 22 January 2006 the Sculpture Worth More Than 50 Million Euros That was Found Yesterday Had Been Stolen From Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum in 2003 Austria Vienna
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The Saliera

The Saliera is a 10-inch gold sculpture made by the 16th-century artist Benvenuto Cellini for King Francis I of France. Not only is this a gorgeous sculpture, but it is also practical; it was made to hold salt and pepper. The sculpture, worth about $57 million, was stolen from a museum in Vienna in 2003. The thief was able to keep The Saliera in his possession for a few years before being caught by police.

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The Concert by Johannes Vermeer

The Concert

This incredibly famous painting by Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Eleven other paintings were also stolen at the time, but The Concert is the most famous and most expensive of them all, valued at $200 million. All twelve stolen paintings were collectively valued at more than $500 million.

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Amber Room

Many say that the Amber Room is the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It was built for Frederick, King of Prussia in the early 18th century. The gold chamber was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and moved to Königsberg Castle in Königsberg, East Prussia, now Kaliningrad, Russia. The room was supposedly destroyed along with the castle in 1945, but some experts still believe that it was saved and may be hiding somewhere. Next, read up on the strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest