The Saturday Evening Post

THE MOON ROCK HUNTER

IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE IN POSSESSION OF A STOLEN PIECE OF THE MOON, LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER.

Joe Gutheinz is after you.

Not that the moon misses those rocks — there’s plenty more where that came from — but Americans paid upwards of $25 billion to bring back just 842 pounds of soil and stones during six Apollo missions from 1969 through 1972, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be scooping up more any time soon.

Combine the exotic appeal of moon rocks with the limited supply of them, and you’ve got a commodity that’s a prime target for people looking to make a buck. “One guy was asking for $5 million for a few grams of moon rock,” says Gutheinz. “Five million! I wasn’t sure even a moon rock was worth that much money, so I checked around on the black market.

“Turns out, $5 million is just about right.”

They’re the ultimate hot rocks.

Following Apollo 11, America’s first lunar mission, the U.S. presented a few tiny moon rocks, embedded in Lucite balls, to every U.S. state and territory — and 135 more to every nation of the world. Each was mounted on a plaque bearing the name and flag of the state or country to which it was presented. You’d think all the lucky recipients would have taken good care of those infinitely rare specimens. And you’d be wrong.

For more than 20 years, Gutheinz has been known as the Moon Rock Hunter. He started out tracking down crooks selling fake lunar samples, but very soon found himself hot on the trail of actual stolen moon rocks and the shady characters who peddled them. Through hushed phone calls, clandestine meetings in distant cities, and expeditions to the

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