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Troy — Someone made off with more than $100,000 in historic political campaign pins and items this past weekend that were part of a collectibles and pop culture show at a hotel.

The organizer of the event, Ken Hosner, a retired history teacher from Kalamazoo, said he had loaded up eight display tables with items in a locked ballroom at the Met Troy Hotel on Crooks, before going up to his room about 11 p.m. Friday.

When he opened the ballroom doors about 6:45 a.m., before the scheduled 9 a.m. public opening, Hosner said he knew “instantly” thousands of items, some dating back to the 1800s, were gone.

“I’ve been doing this for 46 years — the past five years at this same hotel without any problems,” said Hosner, known in collectible circles as “Mr. Buttons” for his vast collection of coveted buttons, pins, badges and ribbons.

“I should have known better than to set this up the night before. I normally do it the morning of the show when most of the other dealers show up.

“But at 69 years old, its not as easy as it used to be. I was stupid.”

About 35 dealers, several from out of state, showed collectibles during the one-day show. Only one, from Avon, N.Y., had set up the night before, Hosner said. That dealer reported about $500 in silver spoons once owned by former presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley, had been stolen overnight “probably to be melted down for the silver,” Hosner guessed.

Hosner said the doors were locked but “it doesn’t take much jiggling to get them to open.” No one saw anything suspicious, he said, and the hotel’s surveillance cameras are not of any help.

“For some reason, the security cameras were not operating,” he sighed.

Troy Police Capt. Robert Redmond could not provide any additional details Monday but confirmed an investigator has been assigned the case which was “still pretty fresh.”

“This was not in a secure area and there were no cameras,” Redmond said of the ballroom area where the reported theft occurred. “There was also open access to the area.”

A hotel spokesman was not available for comment Monday.

The collectibles show, which also included World War II memorabilia and popular culture items, drew more than 200 visitors.

Word of the theft passed quickly between dealers, whom Hosner described as a tight circle of acquaintances that will in turn spread the word among pawn shops and jewelry stores where the stolen property might soon show up.

“A collector near the Michigan-Ohio border had his entire collection stolen about 10 years ago and the word got out to the community and the thief felt so bad or so worried he was going to be caught trying to get rid of the stuff he turned it all over to his minister,” Hosner said. “I can only hope something like that happens here. I figured I have lost in the neighborhood of $100,000 in property.”

After spending nearly 11 hours Sunday recalling and itemizing his losses for police, Hosner figured the thief or thieves grabbed enough of his property to fill “at least three banker boxes and a large plastic tub.”

And those responsible were selective, Hosner said, bypassing lower priced items and grabbing the most valuable from his displays including five Abraham Lincoln presidential campaign pins valued at $500 each. He said “hundreds” of much sought-after collectible presidential pins including of Theodore Roosevelt and McKinley, were also snatched.

Hosner said he will provide a reward for information leading to the return of his property and asked tipsters to contact the Troy police with any leads.

Redmond said anyone who might have information about the theft can contact police at (248) 524-3447.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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