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The whistles, with new hallmarks, are being sold as Georgian and Victorian ‘duty dodgers’.

The Garth and Alison Doubleday collection of more than 130 British and Continental boatswain whistles, or bosun’s calls, was assembled between 1965-72. It appeared for sale at London coin auctioneers Baldwin’s in May 2008 but a rare intervention by the London Assay Office resulted in the wholesale withdrawal of all 124 lots.

At the time, members of the committee that advises the Assay Office on the question of silver fakes and forgeries notified the auction house that they had suspicions about 51 items, namely that “some had fake English marks, some had keels that appeared to be made from hallmarked dessert knives, and others appeared to have other types of illegal adaptations”.

The committee later ordered the original hallmarks on the pieces to be overstruck and a new set of hallmarks added (including the date letter ‘k’ for 2009) before they were returned to the consignor.

Although their whereabouts across the intervening years is unknown, a dozen ‘Doubleday’ whistles have reappeared for sale online in recent months.

Len McDowell of The Whistle Gallery in Oregon bought four examples for reference – two on eBay and two via a retail website – from a seller who continues to offer others for sale from outlets in France and the UK. McDowell’s full research will be published on his website in the near future.

A member of the Plate Committe told ATG these whistles appear to be 20th century creations made using fragments of older hallmarked silver.

Although now with overstruck marks, they are catalogued with much the same descriptions they received in the Baldwin’s sale, including names of well-known 18th and 19th century English and Scottish silversmiths. The later marks are explained by the addition “believed to be a piece of duty dodging silver”.

Georgian and Victorian bosun’s calls are rare collectors’ items with prices upwards of £300 each.