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Author Topic:   After burglary, showcases are bare at city silver shop
Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 10-20-2011 05:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After burglary, showcases are bare at city silver shop
Jacques Kelly
September 30, 2011 6:53 p.m. EDT,

Thieves took $100,000 worth of items from Howard Street store

The door at 831 N. Howard St. swings open to one of Baltimore's more charming salesrooms. But Friday, when I stopped by the place known as the Imperial Half Bushel, it was a dispiriting and depressing sight.

The 19th-century walnut and oak showcases were empty. Gone were the silver forks and spoons made by Baltimore silversmiths. The water pitchers, the cups, the napkin holders had disappeared. Sometime between Sept. 17 and Sept. 20, thieves looted $100,000 worth of silver from this little shop located on a stretch known as Antiques Row.

Fred and Nancy Duggan and their son, Patrick, opened their silver business in 1976. They operate an old-fashioned Baltimore shop, complete with marble steps and a brass rail and a set of louvered green shutters at the front door. They offered an inventory of estate silver — used and antique pieces — neatly displayed and well-polished in showcases you might encounter in an old museum or a great-aunt's dining room.

Patrick Duggan said that on Saturday, Sept. 17, he locked the front door and turned on the burglar alarm when he closed the shop for the weekend. When he went to reopen it the following Tuesday morning, the alarm did not sound momentarily, as it normally would. He walked in and saw that his showcases were virtually empty. The thieves had entered through a back window and cut the alarm telephone lines. When rifling through the showcases, they left the knives behind, apparently knowing the blades are not silver.

None of the antique showcases was smashed. Patrick Duggan keeps a detailed inventory, including photos, of what the burglars took. The Duggans carried only $5,000 in insurance.

The place was as much a museum as it was a retail business. The Duggans had assembled their inventory over the decades. And as precious metals escalated in value this year, the little Howard Street shop obviously became a target.

The Duggans stayed entrenched on Howard Street as other dealers closed their shops. They weathered other break-ins — like the time a thief heaved a parking meter pole through the front window. Another time, a hammer came through, then a paving block.

Even if I was not going to buy a silver liquor hip flask, the array of them at the Half Bushel was always fascinating. I often observed the children's christening cups, snuffboxes, tea balls, cigarette cases and needle cases. There were coin silver spoons from the 19th century.

I dropped by there for gifts that recipients unfailingly appreciated. Baltimoreans whose grandmothers had silver made by the city's own Samuel Kirk or Schofield always appreciate an extra dessert spoon. We are still lucky enough to have the Stieff Silver building near Remington. The Half Bushel was the place you went to pick up authentic Stieff salad forks. A wedding gift? How about asparagus or bacon servers, tomato servers, ice tongs or an oyster fork?

"Think of all that Maryland silver that's been melted down," lamented Nancy Duggan. "I want to use what happened to us as a warning that with silver prices being as high as they are, people need to be careful."

Nancy Duggan told me that her Imperial Half Bushel will remain. "I am planning to retire and turn the business over to my sons," she said. "But we'll make it through, maybe with a different line of antiques."

In the meantime, the Baltimore Police Department continues to investigate. The shop's website gives the details of what was stolen.

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iconnumber posted 10-21-2011 12:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jersey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

So sad, but I must congratulate the shop for keeping such accurate records & descriptions with photos of the items that were stolen. Unfortunately my guess would be they went to the melting pot to avoid detection, or sent out of the USA. BTW it Sounds like an inside job to me.


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iconnumber posted 10-22-2011 08:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How terrible - especially if the thieves just melted it down. They are going to have bad karma that one day will catch up to them if the police don't get them first.

Only $5,000 of insurance - what were they thinking? With that kind of negligible amount on what sounds like at least 100 times greater value my guess is they may have also gone stingy on the alarm system which may account for the fact that someone simply broke a back window and cut the telephone line to defeat it. THese are two very imporant and expensive lessons for others who have such large amounts of cash equivalents on display for strangers to come in and view every day and not lock in a store safe at night.

[This message has been edited by Kimo (edited 10-23-2011).]

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iconnumber posted 10-22-2011 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have known dealers who had been robbed shortly after taking out insurance, and no longer do so, preferring not to "advertise" the value of their holdings. This place's holdings, however, were well known to the public, so it seem they could have done so. Some smelters are honest enough to recognize stolen property, but unfortunately, all are not, and the loss of historical objects in incalculable.

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iconnumber posted 10-22-2011 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for argentum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I lived in Mississippi for a short while in the 1960's There was a gun shop at a country crossroads, sort of out in the boondocks. The owner had a pet exotic cat, a big pet exotic cat. That was his alarm system and insurance. Back then down south instead of getting sued everyone had the attitude 'served em right'.

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iconnumber posted 10-23-2011 11:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very sad. I wouldn’t be too rough on the owners regarding the insurance, though. I remember from my years in antiques retail that jewelry & silver stores are notoriously difficult to insure, so much so that really only one company – Jeweler’s Mutual – will undertake the task. Such insurance is expensive, with a very high deductible and numerous restrictions and requirements, which themselves can be expensive: security systems, cameras, vaults. The location, too, can be a great variable in the cost, with clusters of businesses – “antiques rows” - often commanding the most expensuve premiums (since that where the greatest thefts/losses occur). Unlike jewelry, which can all be neatly packed away in a safe, silver is almost never stored securely since most owners can’t afford the necessary huge vault. (One of the biggest factors in determining the insurance premium is the percentage of wares is locked in a safe during closed hours.) Likewise, a jewelry snatch-and-grab (far and away the most common theft) can bring tens of thousands for a mere handful; how much would a handful of silver forks or a teapot be? Probably well under $5,000. The late-night full-scale heist is extremely rare.

So was it a gamble? Assuredly. But among skyrocketing rents, costly insurance, the until very recently low price of scrap silver and – let’s face it – the rapidly dwindling number of silver collectors who keep stores like this in business, it’s probably one they were forced to take.

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