ooh check these sites out!
"I don't know if it's possible to pinpoint the earliest instance of gnome-napping, but the first reported case of a 'roaming gnome' took place in the mid-1980s," says Mr. Emery. "It was documented by an Australian folklorist named Bill Scott, who wrote of a gnome disappearing from the front lawn of a Sydney family." Shortly thereafter, the family received a postcard from the gnome saying he was vacationing in Queensland. The gnome returned two weeks later, coated with brown shoe polish - a souvenir suntan."