Photo/IllutrationYasuaki Fujii, an official of the city’s education board who is in charge of culture promotion, shows how thieves snatched replica gold bars from an exhibition case. Three authentic, and highly valuable, silver bars were left behind at the Aikawa Local Museum in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, on April 18. (Yuji Hara)

  • Photo/Illustraion

SADO, Niigata Prefecture--Egg on the face rather than gold in the pocket was the only yellow thieves got away with after a bungled break-in at a history museum near the Sado Gold and Silver Mine.

The thieves made off with five fake gold bars, but ignored three huge authentic silver bars lying next to them worth 6.3 million yen ($58,000).

“If those golden bars were authentic, they would be worth about 15 million yen in total. We are lucky they are replicas,” said Yasuaki Fujii, an official of the city’s education board who is in charge of culture promotion.

The real silver bars weigh 90 kilograms in total while the fake gold bars are just gold-plated and made of lead and other materials.

The thieves broke in through a window at the Aikawa Local Museum's stockroom shortly after midnight on April 17.

When police officers arrived, they found the wooden door to the exhibition space where the bars were displayed bore a human arm-sized hole.

Fujii added: “Even though they are replicas, those golden bars are important public property. We need a better security system.”

The stolen replicas measure 118 millimeters by 54 mm by 8 mm and were exhibited to represent the last bullion made from gold quarried from the Sado Gold and Silver Mine before it shut down in 1989.

The Sado Gold and Silver Mine, which used to be the largest precious metals mine in Japan, yielded 78 tons of gold and 2,300 tons of silver over almost 400 years, significantly financing the Tokugawa government during the Edo Period (1603-1867).