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The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 27, July 3, 2005, Article 3

STOLEN MILLION-DOLLAR STAMP COLLECTION RECOVERED

It's non-numismatic, but numismatists can appreciate the
tenacity and attention to detail which led to the recovery
of a stolen stamp collection stolen worth today nearly a
million dollars. The following excerpts are from an
Associated Press story which hit the wires just before
noon today:

"A Florida man with an eye for detail led the FBI to part of
a stamp collection that showed up on eBay more than two
decades after being stolen from the home of a collector.

Stamp collector Michael Perlman, of Fort Lauderdale, had
pored over the black-and-white records of Charles J. Starnes'
collection. The original collection, with distinct pen marks and
imperfections, was taken in 1983.

So when Perlman was browsing Internet auction site eBay in
May and saw some of the same pen marks and imperfections
in color, he knew he had found part of Starnes' collection,
which was worth an estimated $350,000 when taken.

"It was a thrill to see it," Perlman, who had used Starnes' book
on the collection as a reference for 15 years, told The Midland
Daily News for a story Sunday. "You could see the hand markings,
and you see pen strokes, and you could tell this thing was an
exact item."

After spotting the eBay listing May 21, Perlman called authorities
and was in touch with the FBI the next day. He decided to buy
the 16 items on sale  a small portion of the collection  to
help find the seller.

After making a $11,400 bid for the set, Perlman contacted the
seller, who told him that she had more items in Tampa. Perlman
withdrew cash from the bank and set out for Tampa with an FBI
agent.

The two entered the seller's home on May 24, while other FBI
agents waited outside. Perlman said the seller  a widow of a
deceased coin collector  acted surprised when told the stamps
had been stolen."

"FBI spokeswoman Sarah Oates in Tampa said she was told
the collection could be worth nearly $1 million."

The collection was expected to be returned to Starnes'
survivors."

To read the full story, see: Full Story

The AP article was based on a story that appeared this
morning in the Midland Daily News. Midland, Michigan
was the home of Charles Starnes, who assembled the
collection.

"The collection comprised six volumes made up of over
400 "covers," or envelopes with rare stamps and markings,
his most notable collections including U.S. "officials" --
stamps that had been issued by various departments of U.S.
government, and "destinations" -- covers that had traveled
to and from the U.S. and showed foreign rates from the
mid-1800s.

The thief or thieves who robbed Starnes's home must have
staked out his property for some time, said Starnes's friend
Robert Belfit, since the robbery occurred while Starnes was
hospitalized for severe arthritis. The thieves ripped open his
safe and stole nothing from his home but the covers, Belfit
said, and police never found a suspect.

But Starnes knew that one day the stamps would surface.
He turned over a complete set of black and white copies to
the FBI and told Belfit that in 20 years a collector would
recognize the set and in turn notify the authorities.

His prophecy was fulfilled May 21."

"Although Perlman got to keep his bag of cash, he didn't bat
an eye at the risk of losing almost $12,000, plus airfare and
travel costs.

"Stamp collecting is like a fraternity, and we all have a lot of
mutual respect for each other," he said. "I'd like to think if I
were a guy (who had lost stamps), and some 40-year-old
guy had the chance to recover my collection, he'd take the
initiative. We're like that."

No arrests have yet been made, but the FBI is currently
investigating."

To read the full story, see: Full Story

[OK, I thought of a numismatic connection. On one of my
many visits to Jules Reiver's home in Wilmington, Delaware
in the mid-90s, he related a story about the handling of a
coin estate. The bank handling the estate was told of Jules'
expertise, and they brought him in to inventory and appraise
the collection. When finished, Jules asked the trust officer,
"where are the other coins?"

On being told there were no others, Jules said that he had
seen the collection before the gentleman died and noted
several valuable pieces were missing. After being reassured
that there were no other coins, Jules off-handedly said,
"It doesn't matter - if they were lost or stolen we'll find them
when they turn up."

When the trust officer asked him what he meant, Jules
said that since he was the national expert in these coins,
no matter where they turned up in the country, the coins
would ultimately be sent to him for attribution. And since
the coins were unique, Jules would know instantly that
they were stolen and from whom. "Don't worry - no one
will get away with stealing those coins."

Well surprise!, surprise!, surprise!, as Gomer Pyle would
say. The trust officer "remembered" that there was one
place he'd forgotten to look. He came back with another
package containing the coins.

Both Charles Starnes and Michael Perlman are true collector's
heroes, and numismatists would be well advised to follow
their lead: Starnes for documenting and publishing his
collection, and Perlman for putting two-and-two together
and acting quickly on his discovery. Perhaps Perlman, a
Florida native, could be asked to speak at next year's
F.U.N. show as a shining example to numismatists
everywhere. -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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