Antiques scandal rocking the U.K. biz

When the story broke last week about a restorer, Dennis Buggins, in England who alleges that many dealers, including one very high-end dealer in London, John Hobbs, had been selling his restored pieces at highly inflated prices as rare antiques, I wrote something hastily and put it on the Web.

Quickly after posting that, I took it down out of deference to the whole business of antiques, and to Mr. Hobbs, his family, friends and associates. The claims are, at this point after all, only allegations. We have to remember that, sensationalism aside, all parties are innocent until proven guilty.

I’ve received numerous emails and queries from readers looking for a response to this, wondering what it means, what it could mean on this side of the pond and how far the ramifications might go. The truth is, who knows? The Times of London broke the story, and BADA has temporarily suspended Hobbs’s membership pending an investigation, so I really can’t have an opinion either way.

It’s hard to imagine that Buggins didn’t know what was going on, as he was making a good deal of money out of his restorations, and it’s hard to imagine that all the dealers that will eventually be implicated – many more than Mr. Hobbs, that’s for sure – didn’t know what they were selling. Were some of them in the dark? Probably. All? No. Let’s see what other names surface before pointing fingers and rushing to judgment.

John Hobbs didn’t get to where he is in the business by being a scammer, so I prefer – after researching and watching the situation – to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why is Dennis Buggins just coming out with his allegations now, and why single out Hobbs if he’s sold to many people? Is there an axe to grind?

Who knows. Let’s keep watching, stop saying the sky is falling, and wait for a proper investigation to reveal the truth. There’s a tremendous amount of money at stake here, the livelihoods and lives of many more, and the overall reputation of the antiques business itself to consider.

Allegations are one thing and a guilty verdict another. Right now all we have are allegations.

I, for one, will refrain from casting stones until I know the truth.