Symes's gallery — in Ormond Yard, an exclusive square in St James's — was a magnet for collectors, including the oil billionaire, J. Paul Getty. [...] He clearly knew his stuff. His gallery was the holy grail for collectors — all beige suede, with bronze cabinets and wonderful lights, the first really American-looking gallery.' [...] By the time liquidators came to sell off the remnants of Symes's collection, at Bonhams in Oxford, in 2009, he was a discredited man. The 250 lots in the sale, including old masters and a Picasso, had to be sold at rock bottom prices because, as Bonhams said, 'the liquidators make no warranty to title' — in other words, the antiquities might have been stolen. It was impossible to know where the treasures came from because all the paperwork had been destroyed — not quite what you expect of a reputable antiquities dealer.well, actually that is just what you'd expect in the antiquities market. You will have to look high and low for a long time to find a dealer who is offering upfront a full set of paperwork for any of his or her stock. To judge from the lack of such paperwork, one may surmise that getting rid of it has been frequent practice in order to allow the no-questions-asked market to fudge the difference between objects actually from old collections and those which "surfaced from underground" by less-than-licit means much more recently. Dealers disingenuously claim incidental "carelessness", but the end effects we see today really look like the cynical results of more deliberate and systematic action.
It was discovered before his trial that Symes had a huge stock of antiquities, reportedly he had squirrelled away 17,000 relics, thought to be worth £125 million. Many of these he managed to sell before his conviction. Who has them now, and where will they surface?