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The issue was brought to the attention of Antiques Trade Gazette coins and medals correspondent Richard Falkiner by a number of dealers after the catalogue raised more questions in the trade than it answered.

Firstly, it listed the venue for the sale as the Radisson Empire Hotel, New York. However, a director of the hotel assured Mr Falkiner that not only had no such sale taken place there on the date stated, July 11, 2002, but the hotel’s name had been changed in 1998 and it was no longer known as the Radisson. In addition, the function room in the hotel where such events would have taken place was closed in October 2001 and has not re-opened.

The simple answer, explained Mr Paolucci in a letter to Mr Falkiner, was that the sale had actually taken place in his own company’s New York office. Listing the hotel’s address in the catalogue had been “a mistake”, he wrote.

But this did not explain how he could have in his possession and be selling coins that CNG and Spink insisted were in their possession at the time.

Mr Falkiner explained that some and perhaps all of the coins illustrated in the catalogue “are the very same examples as were in the possession of at least two dealers at the alleged time of the sale”. In addition, he explained that the provenances given by Mr Paolucci confirm this.

Provenances for other coins included in the catalogue show that they were in several different collections known to CNG and Spink and so could not have been present in Mr Paolucci’s New York sale.

Mr Falkiner also put it to Mr Paolucci that the illustrations of at least some of the coins in his catalogue appeared to have been scanned in from other catalogues mentioned in provenances for the lots – in other words, Mr Paolucci’s catalogue could not be taken as evidence that he had ever had the coins in his possession.

But Mr Paolucci insists that his catalogue included genuine photographs of the original coins. In answer to Mr Falkiner’s queries, he wrote: “The illustrations on the catalogue are not electronically scanned, and our photographer can witness this.”

As to the coins themselves, Mr Paolucci explained that he had bought them from a widow in the US on April 15. “Each coin was accompanied by a card wrote [sic] by the collector. On these cards we have found all the notes that we have wrote [sic] down on the catalogue.” If there were any mistakes, therefore, they were made by the consignor who had sold the coins to them, he explained.

Reviewing the catalogue, Mr Falkiner told the Gazette: “The illustrations show that these coins Mr Paolucci claims he sold in New York were not merely the same type of coins as those held in London but the exact same examples themselves. It simply does not add up.”