(WSVN) - They loved to collect beautiful pieces of art from around the world. Then they hired an auctioneer to sell some of their collection. What happened next led them to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When you open the doors to the Gertlers’ home, there’s a reason it resembles a museum.

Leona Gertle: “Whenever we travel, we go to every museum that we can.”

As they traveled the world, Leona and Bob bought one or two pieces from each place to put in their home.

Leona Gertle: “It’s a clock within a clock, and it plays beautiful symphony music.”

With Bob in his 90s and Leona in her 80s, they decided to start getting rid of some of their collection.

Their children didn’t want them.

Leona Gertle: “I bought it in Hong Kong.”

Then Leona saw this full color ad in a newspaper from Elite Auctioneers.

She called the owner. He came to their home.

Leona Gertle: “He was very friendly.”

They picked up 14 pieces to sell. Leona estimates they should have brought at least $15,000.

Leona Gertle: “They were marble and bronze and malachite. They were nice.”

That was in June. In August, the auctioneer said he sold eight pieces and sent Leona a check for $3,000.

Leona Gertle: “He got like pittance for certain things.”

After that, the auctioneer, still holding six pieces of Leona’s art, disappeared.

Leona Gertle: “We we did call him many times, but he never returned the call.”

Leona went to his Palm Beach County shop.

Leona Gertle: “And it was a walk-in store that was empty. Closed.”

Their six pieces of art are gone. It’s not about the money, Leona says. It’s the thought the art was taken from her.

Leona Gertle: “I could donate it to a charity, and I feel better than just throwing them away.”

Legally, what rights do you have when you turn something over to an auctioneer, which is basically a consignment shop. Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The only rights you have are what is in the contract, and in this case, there is nothing in the contract, meaning, the auctioneer can sell those pieces for whatever he can get. However, he has to return the unsold pieces of art. If he doesn’t, it’s a crime. He can go to jail, and he could his lose license to operate.”

The biggest problem: finding the art.

The auctioneer, Chris Hayes, said he didn’t know about Leona’s art. To call his wife.

Tracy told us to come get the art, then quit communicating with us.

We asked the Aventura Police to get involved. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but that day, Tracy Hayes said, “Come get the art.”

We went to a Palm Beach County house. It was in a storage shed out back.

Tracy Hayes (counting): “It’s this, this, this and this.”

We drove straight to Leona’s to bring the four pieces back to her.

Leona Gertle: “Wow. This is from Italy. You are like guardian angels.”

Two pieces are still missing. The auctioneers told us they were sold, and a check would be sent to Leona in late January.

Leona Gertle: “They are beautiful carvings. I mean, you wouldn’t know that they are wood.”

And Leona and Bob won’t have this problem again. They have a better plan for the dozens, maybe hundreds of pieces of their art.

Leona Gertle: “I have been giving out little things here and there, if I know somebody likes it or would appreciate it. So, when we are gone, they will remember crazy Leona and Bob.”

Leona, you’re just a wonderful personality.

Now, before you hire an auctioneer or a consignment shop, get all the details about things like minimum price and their commission in writing. And, of course, a deadline for when they have to return your items if they can’t sell them.

Had a problem so long it feels like it should be in a museum? Tired of getting carved up? Contact us. There’s an art to what we do. Just kidding. No one ever called us a masterpiece, but we try hard.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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