Blackwell Auctions, Clearwater, Florida, returned several dozen antique silver items, including an 1804 Saunders Pitman coin silver pitcher and tumbler set, after the auction house discovered that the collection had been looted from a Baltimore silver dealer, Imperial Half Bushel, in 2011.
“A retired dealer consigned a box of assorted silver items to us,” said Edwin Bailey, managing partner at Blackwell, “and in the course of researching the items, we discovered the Pitman coin silver set—and everything else in the box—was stolen from Imperial Half Bushel.”
Part of the antique silver collection recovered eight years after it was stolen.
According to a press release, Bailey first contacted the consignor to ask about where he had obtained the items. “I had to tread lightly, of course,” he said. “The consignor had taken the collection in several years ago when he ran a Baltimore pawn shop. He was only now getting around to selling off the shop’s contents, which he’d been storing since he closed the shop down.” When Bailey told him about having discovered that the items were stolen, the consignor was appalled and more than happy to have the collection restored to its rightful owners.
“He told me to handle it any way I felt to be appropriate—to call the police, to call the owners, or whatever,” Bailey said. “He just didn’t want to have anything to do with the stolen merchandise. We confirmed—piece by piece—that the entire collection belonged to Imperial prior to returning it.”
Imperial Half Bushel’s owners, Fred and Nancy Duggan, and their son, Patrick, were pleased at the return of their pieces after nearly eight years.
“We were overjoyed that things had been located after such a long time,” said Fred Duggan, “because we were sure in our hearts that the items had been melted down for scrap.”
The Duggans estimated that the retail value of what Blackwell returned was about $75,000, including $25,000 for the coin silver pitcher and cups set.
“We bought the Pitman set at Sotheby’s in the early 1970s—before we opened our shop in 1976,” Duggan remembered. “Blackwell Auctions handled this situation beautifully. We were lucky they did the sleuthing and discovered what happened, and we’re just elated to have our property back.”
Originally published in the September 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest