The family of a deceased stamp collector said they would not take action after an envelope with a rare commemorative stamp believed to have been stolen from the collector 20 years ago went up for auction.
The collector, Weng Ting-huai (翁廷懷), had been planning to sell his collection in 2000, but before the sale could be finalized, the collection — worth an estimated NT$5 million (US$176,442 at the current exchange rate) — was stolen in Taichung, and police at the time failed to find any leads.
Family members voiced concern after an envelope appearing to be one of the collection’s more valuable items recently went up for auction on an Internet forum.
Screen grab from auction platform Panlung’s Web site
The envelope bears commemorative stamps from the year of a visit to Taiwan by former US president Dwight Eisenhower.
The envelope, which had a starting price of NT$100,000 on the auction site, is particularly valuable because it has a misprinted commemorative stamp that was printed upside down, Weng’s nephew said on Friday.
However, due to the statute of limitations, the seller at the auction cannot be investigated on suspicion of theft, the nephew said, adding that they had no interest in pursuing the matter further.
“We have no more interest in the matter, but we just wish the collection could be preserved for historical purposes for people to enjoy,” the nephew said.
Stamp collector Hsu Chiu-chi (許求麒), who had been in talks with Weng in 2000 to buy the collection, said he appraised the collection and had been interested in purchasing it, but the sale was halted over a misunderstanding between himself, and Weng and Weng’s assistant.
Weng’s family was initially suspicious of him following the theft, Hsu said, adding that although he felt their suspicion was reasonable, he was not involved in the crime.
Panlung (蟠龍拍賣網), the auction platform where the envelope was sold, said it is familiar with the theft of Weng’s collection, but was not aware of any connection between the theft and the envelope.
Weng’s nephew said his uncle had taken an interest in collecting stamps related to Taiwan-US relations after the two countries broke diplomatic ties, feeling that the stamps would increase in value over time.
Weng had become well-known among stamp collectors, as his collection had grown so large, the nephew said.
“About two weeks after the talks on the sale were halted, someone broke into my uncle’s office where the collection was stored, and stole a portion of it,” the nephew said, adding that the thieves broke in again four days later and stole the remainder of the collection.
“The collection was hidden, but the thieves found it very quickly,” he said.
The nephew said only three other copies of the misprinted stamps are known to exist, as the Chunghwa Post office where they were being sold stopped selling them after the mistake was noticed.
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