A detective from Massachusetts is trying to track down thousands of dollars worth of stolen gold, silver and rare coins that may be in southern Maine, but the person who knew where to find them is dead.

The man who was accused of stealing $75,000 in collectible coins and jewelry from a home in Wayland, Mass., killed himself after he was arrested by sheriff’s deputies and state drug agents in a hotel room in Edgecomb on Sept. 30.

Alexander Farnsworth, 25, was charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin after police recovered guns, close to $9,000 worth of heroin and a large number of gold coins, according to police and press reports.

Three days later, before Massachusetts authorities could question him, Farnsworth hanged himself at the Two Bridges Regional Jail. He died Oct. 9 at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Wayland Detective Ruth Backman has retraced Farnsworth’s movements in the days after he left Massachusetts, and has been in touch with associates of his. They told her that he stayed in Portland for a short time.

“We were able to talk to people who knew him and gave him rides,” she said. “That’s how we were able to verify three coins were sold in Auburn, Maine, on Sept. 27.”

Those coins — two Krugerrands and a 1984 Olympics commemorative coin — were sold at a pawn shop and apparently were melted down for bullion, she said.

“We were about a week too late,” she said.

Backman said she hopes that publicity about the case might shake loose some new clues.

“What I’m interested in is, on the street, they may have been traded for drugs. If we could recover them, that would be great,” she said.

Some of the items are unusual enough to draw attention. Still missing are six silver goblets, more Olympic commemorative gold coins and four gold Canadian coins, as well as gold coins honoring the wives of presidents Washington and Polk.

Also missing are large sets of Kennedy half-dollars, old quarters, perhaps 10,000 silver dimes, a pear-shaped half-carat diamond solitaire, and proof sets of mint condition coins sealed in plastic.

Backman estimated that at least $25,000 worth of stolen items have yet to be recovered.

Recovering stolen coins can be a challenge, said Portland’s assistant police chief, Michael Sauschuck.

Gold coins can be melted down for bullion, making them virtually impossible to trace, and they can be spent for their face value. Legitimate pawn shops and jewelry stores collect identifying information from sellers to reduce their chances of buying stolen items, he said.

Thieves may try to sell them on eBay or Craigslist, which provide a national market that makes stolen goods hard to recover, Sauschuck said.

Sophisticated thieves who target collectibles usually have buyers in mind, he said.

“With anything that’s truly a collectible or an antique, in many cases they have a very small niche or group that would be interested in purchasing them, and that group may not ask a lot of questions about where they come from,” Sauschuck said.

That’s not likely to be the case with Farnsworth. He was working with a painting crew at a home in his native Massachusetts last summer.

The homeowner — whom Backman would not identify — had flooding at the house last summer and moved the coins from a secure storage area to an upstairs bedroom, and never returned them.

Farnsworth’s criminal history and access to the house quickly labeled him a suspect, Backman said.

As far as she knows, the coins were not insured. The owner is offering a reward of 10 percent of the value of any returned items from the collection, she said.

Backman said she worries that thousands of silver dimes and other collectible coins, such as old quarters and buffalo nickels, were dumped into an automatic change counting machine at the front of a grocery store.

She asked that anyone with information call Wayland police at (508) 359-4721.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]