Map Theft ‘All Too Easy’
ARCAblog, the blog of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, has a translation of a year-old Spanish news article (the original is here) about map thefts; the article mentions the notorious cases of Cesar Gomez Rivero and Forbes Smiley, but also engages in a discussion of a very interesting question: what makes map thefts different from the theft of other works of art?
Unlike fine art, which is most often unique, instantly recognizable and traceable, illicit rare maps may be sold at a legitimate level. Gomez Rivero sold some through eBay, for instance. The greatest difficulty in most art crime is not in the stealing but in the selling. Maps, most of which are printed on paper, are far easier to carry, to smuggle, and to sell. …
Map theft is all too easy for several reasons. Compared to art, maps, books, and manuscripts tend to receive little or no protection. Maps tend to be housed in libraries, archives, or offices where researchers are inherently trusted.