NEW YORK.- In early May 2008, Paula and Howard Ellman, dealers in Tiffany glass for the past forty years, purchased several items of art glass at auction in Philadelphia. It was a routine transaction until the items arrived: in the process of unwrapping the pieces, they realized that four of the pieces already bore the labels of their business, affixed over thirty years ago before they were stolen from their own shop in 1971. They had, in effect, purchased items that already belonged to them.
Astounded by the coincidence, and unsure of their rights, they called the Art Loss Register (ALR). The ALR assured the Ellmans that they deserved to have their purchase price refunded. After examining the sale catalog, the Ellmans discovered that there were twelve additional items that had been stolen from their business in the same theft. Due to the Ellmans' thorough records, including purchase receipts going back to the mid 1960s, the ALR was able to prove to the auction house that all sixteen items rightfully belonged to the couple. Though the sale had already occurred, the ALR was able to secure the return of many of the items, or failing that, the proceeds from the sale.
The theft, which occurred at the Antique Center of America on East 53rd Street, New York, on the night of January 13, 1971, remains unsolved. Of the 110 dealers' stands within the center, only those specializing in art glass, especially Tiffany, were targeted. The Art Loss Register is encouraging other victims of the 1971 theft to add their losses to the ALR's database of lost and stolen artwork in hopes of recovering more stolen items.