What can the home owner do to minimise Bonsai theft?

A tree stolen recently by French bonsai artist François JEKER, as yet not recovered

Yet another Bonsai has been reported as stolen and the world of bonsai is rocked and the individual heartbroken. EVERY bonsai is precious to its owner as it is a living life force that has been nurtured, styled and cared for, in many cases over many years. My heart goes out to those who have lost. The very nature of Bonsai is peace and friendship and to have this tarnished by a theft kills a small part of what we cherish.

A couple of years ago A British artist had a LARGE collection of trees that I must have been stolen to order, The Artist had just won a Gold medal at the most prestigious gardening event in the UK, The Chelsea Flower Show. Stealing rare, unsellable items is done for a buyer, that rich buyer pays the thief, the buyer get the spoils, insurance pays out and everyone’s happy. BUT this is not the case with bonsai because the artist/grower usually has a close affinity with his work and ‘money’ is often not enough.

One of the main factors determining a bonsai value on the open market is a legitimate provenance, or ownership history. What thieves rarely recognize is that once bonsai’s have been stolen from a garden, they have no provenance. They can’t be sold, so they’re really worth nothing to a ‘legitimate’ collector, problem is he can’t show it to anyone. I am sure that sometimes the bonsai is so hard to get rid of that the thieves just have to dump it.

I have visited gardens where the owners has chained their trees to the bench, it ugly and not in harmony with the whole bonsai way of life. So be cautious when asked “how much is that tree worth” protect your address, know the people who visit your garden, be wary of workmen or visitors to your neighbours, have security lights and good fencing. Or as many do own a BIG DOG!

5 comments on “What can the home owner do to minimise Bonsai theft?

  1. Microchip your bonsai trees & pots. There is a system kit called BON-TAG which is available. It provides ‘tagging’ kits with labelling etc. It will help to act as a theft deterrent when used with the appropriate warning signage. Bonsai trees that have been tagged can positively identified via the unique ID number of its embedded microchip. To find out more info visit the website http://www.bon-tag.com.


  2. I think you will find that your insurance company will cancel you if they find out you have a “guard” dog. They are more a liability than an asset.
    Last summer here in the NW we had a major bonsai taken from our outdoor museum. Just a few days ago Bonsai NW and Asia Pacific Gardens reported bonsai theft. Heartbreaking.


  3. Fair enuff Tony. Getting them chipped is a starting point. BUT most importantly (IMHO) is having some basic protection. I have sadly been the victim of attempted theft on three occasions. Each has been thwarted due to some basic common sense obstacles. Clearly the internet is VERY useful for ‘scroats’ to find out where Bonsai are displayed; but also it can reep dividends in terms of communication. Just recently due to internet exposure a (rhymes with banker) was apprehended by Police due to internet activity via websites, Facebook et al. Long may we have this / these tool/s.

    Of course the truth is I’d happily like a few minutes alone with these thieving ‘bar-stewards.’ Even with full blown arthritis I’d have my way !


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