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$30,000 gold rock stolen from University of Arizona

$30,000 gold rock stolen from University of Arizona
The gold nugget is used with tour groups and at events to let people feel natural gold. (University of Arizona Police Department)

A chunk of gold valued at more than three times the going rate for a nugget of its size has been stolen from a University of Arizona museum.

University police announced Wednesday that the theft of the 3-inch, half-pound nugget, valued at $30,000, happened Friday afternoon. The futures price of gold would peg its value about $8,700, but the university said that the higher value included "the worth that collectors place on its unique, aesthetic and natural form."

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The university said the museum had never had a major theft before. The nugget was stored in an office and was not part of the University of Arizona Mineral Museum's 2,000-item permanent exhibit. Instead, it has been taken out for events and used during special occasions to show people what it's like to hold unprocessed gold.

"It is the most photographed specimen in the museum's collection because people like to have their picture taken while holding it," the university said in a statement.

According to local news reports, police have an idea about how it may have been stolen but are soliciting tips that can help them catch the thief and recover the rock.

The university reported 48 burglaries on campus in 2012, the most recent year for which federally mandated statistics have been released. But federal law doesn't require thefts to be publicly reported.

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