July 19 , 2019 – In Breaking News – The New York Times
In the early 1980s, when Philip Poniz moved to New Jersey from Colorado, he needed a well-protected place to stash his collection of rare watches.
He had been gathering unusual pieces since he was a teenager in 1960s Poland, fascinated by their intricate mechanics.
His hobby became his profession, and by the time of his relocation, Mr. Poniz was an internationally known expert in the history and restoration of high-end timepieces.
(Family had box at Bank of America in San Ysidro. Courtesy of ABC 10 News and YouTube. Posted on Feb 4, 2018.)
At first, he kept his personal collection in his house, but as it grew, he wanted something more secure. The vault at his neighborhood bank seemed ideal.
In 1983, he signed a one-page lease agreement with First National State Bank of Edison in Highland Park, N.J., for a safe deposit box.
Over the next few decades, the bank — a squat brick building on a low-rise suburban street — changed hands many times.
First National became First Union, which was sold to Wachovia, which was then bought by Wells Fargo.
But its vault remained the same. A foot-thick steel door sheltered cabinets filled with hundreds of stacked metal boxes, each protected by two keys.
The bank kept one; the customer held the other. Both were required to open a box.
(Learn More. Safe deposit boxes are a secure place for you to store your valuables, but some recent heists have people wondering if they’re really that safe. Last year, a team of thieves took off with $400 million in loot from a vault in England and earlier this year, there were two safe deposit box heists at banks in Queens, New York. But banking experts say despite the risks, a safe deposit box is still the best place to store your valuables. However, some safe deposit boxes are more secure than others. Courtesy of Inside Edition and YouTube. Posted on Sep 21, 2016.)
In 1998, Mr. Poniz rented several additional boxes, and stored in them various items related to his work.
He separated a batch of personal effects — photographs, coins he had inherited from his grandfather, dozens of watches — into a box labeled 105.
Every time he opened it, he saw the glinting accumulation of his life’s work.
Then, on April 7, 2014, he lifted the thin metal lid. Box 105 was empty.
“I thought my heart would fail,” Mr. Poniz said. He paused in his retelling of the memory.
At age 67, he has a strong Polish accent and speaks English carefully.
He struggled to find the right words to describe the day he discovered his watches were missing. “I was devastated,” he said.
Continue reading… Safe Deposit Boxes Aren’t Safe
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