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ATG has learned of at least half a dozen burglaries in recent months at well-known auctioneers in the Sussex area. The high melt value appears to have made silver a primary target at some raids, but others have been more indiscriminate.

The auctioneers who have fallen victim have been reluctant to seek publicity on the matter (so as not to unnerve vendors) but have subsequently confirmed with ATG that the raids have taken place.

They share similarities, particularly in the type of merchandise that is stolen (silver and clocks) and in the often audacious methods of break-in. On most occasions the thieves broke in through doors using a large block of concrete and adopted a smash-and-grab approach.

Seemingly aware of the police response times, they left well before the authorities arrived on the scene.

One auctioneer, who has been hit twice in as many months – most recently on the night of Tuesday, June 21 when silver valued at £1500 was stolen – said improved security including perimeter fencing and alarms proved little deterrent to a second raid.