Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2019 Issue

Utah Man Charged in Large Thefts and Frauds Concerning Collectible Mormon Books and Artifacts

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Photograph of Orson Whitney.

Kevin Mark Ronald Schuwer finds himself in a lot of trouble today. Schuwer, a former student at Brigham Young University, has plied the lucrative trade of selling artifacts related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church. Its historic books and artifacts are highly collectible and known to bring high prices. There was one problem with Schuwer's participation in the trade. He was selling stolen or fraudulent material.

 

He drew the attention of authorities on the basis of one particular theft, which was documented by video cameras. According to an arrest warrant, Schuwer entered the special collections room at the library of Utah State University. Cameras show him filling out a registration form that allows him to gain access to some historic photographs. The affidavit for the arrest warrant continues, "Kevin Schuwer is then seen on camera at 3:31 PM on 10/19/2018 examining a picture later identified as a portrait of a prominent LDS apostle, Orson F. Whitney." Continuing, it says, "Schuwer then manipulates a storage box containing other pictures in what appears to be an effort to obstruct the view of passers-by. Kevin Schuwer then acts as if he is going to put the picture back into its protective envelope. He instead passes the photo under the envelope and slides it into his gray laptop case which is on the table next to him." The video shows Schuwer then putting the empty envelope back in the pile of photos, and at 4:00, he leaves the library.

 

Schuwer didn't waste any time attempting to cash in on his illicitly acquired photograph. That same evening, he contacts two potential buyers. "Victim A" quickly purchases the photograph. However, he also begins researching the signed photograph and discovers it was listed as belonging to the collection of the Utah State Historical Society. Realizing they rarely sell artifacts from their collection, he returns the photograph for a refund.

 

Schuwer again doesn't waste any time. He now sells it and four other photos to "Victim B," in California, for $1,500. Meanwhile, "Victim A" contacts Ron Fox, an expert in LDS (Latter Day Saints) artifacts, who in turn contacts Utah State University about the photograph. The Utah State Library checks its collection and finds the empty envelope. They have the registration form filled out by Schuwer and the video of his actions. "Victim B" sends the photograph back and they identify it as the one missing from their collection.

 

It turns out this was just the tip of the iceberg. "Victim B" had also purchased a rare photograph of Porter Rockwell (Joseph Smith's bodyguard) for $11,500 from Schuwer. That picture belongs to the Daughters of the Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, he quickly agreed to a judgment in a case brought by Tracy Rawle, in which Rawle was awarded $694,701 for purchasing various fake items, including a counterfeit 1835 hymnal for $65,000 and a counterfeit Mormon gold coin for $60,000.

 

Additionally, Schuwer was charged with selling various items for others but pocketing the proceeds himself. That included a King James Bible once owned by King James for $105,000 and an 1830 Book of Mormon for $105,000. The latter had belonged to the aforementioned collector Tracy Rawle. Rawle was getting defrauded coming and going. Court documents indicate that Schuwer consented to this judgment to avoid paying costs of litigation and likely punitive damages on top of returning the wrongfully withheld funds.

 

This is not all the crimes alleged against Schuwer. He is said to have stolen eight books from the Brigham Young University Library by borrowing them, and then removing their bar codes, placing the bar codes on different books, and then returning those substitute books instead. He is alleged to have also taken a photograph from BYU and replaced it with a photograph of the photograph.

 

Schuwer has been charged with three felonies, with potential prison sentences of 5, 5, and 10 years. Meanwhile, he still faces charges in other jurisdictions as well.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> MITCHELL, John (1711-1768). A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. Copperplate engraving with original hand color. London, 1755. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Brown Pelican (Standing), Plate 251. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $175,000 to $225,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London: 1827-1838. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> GONZALES DE MENDOZA, Juan (1545 - 1618). <i>The Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China…</i> London, 1588. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> VERBIEST, Ferdinand (1623-1688). [World Map] Kun-Yu Ch'uan-Tu. Engraved twelve sheet map with vertical sections joined to form six sheets. Korea, Seoul, c. 1860. $100,000 to $150,000.
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    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>April Auction<br>April 4, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Apr. 4:</b> AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Plate 66. Aquatint engraving with original hand color. London, 1827-1838. $80,000 to $120,000.
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