Sometimes the key issue with a discovery is not always the most
Take for example the recent “flea market discovery” of a small
1879 painting by the French Impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir.
The landscape, identified as a Renoir on the name plate on the
ornate gilt frame, was allegedly purchased for $7 in a box of junk at
a West Virginia flea market.
Initially most reports focused on the value and authenticity of
the picture. The Virginia auction house that was set to offer it in a
Sept. 29 auction at a low estimate of $75,000 confirmed that it was
authentic after vetting it with outside experts.
Turns out authenticity wasn’t the issue: The painting was likely
stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951.
While the picture was not included in several databases that track
stolen and missing art, the museum received an insurance payout of
$2,500 for the picture sometime after the theft. The painting’s sale
has been halted pending the conclusion of an FBI investigation to
determine the rightful ownership of the painting.
As thefts continue in the numismatic world — this week’s issue
tells the story of one at a museum and another at a coin shop — an
issue that lingers long after a theft is what becomes of the stolen
property after the theft is forgotten and the items trickle into the marketplace.
As stolen coins from the collections of the American Numismatic
Association and American Numismatic Society continue to have the
potential to enter rare coin collections, one is reminded that the
aftershock of a theft may continue long after the initial bad act.