Rex Stark, a dealer, collector and recognized authority on Americana, said he had known Landau for 20 years and said he has the "premier" collection of presidential inaugural tickets, invitations, menus and programs. He said Landau often name-dropped his various connections, so much so that Stark said he got "tired of listening to it a lot of the time."

Stark said that he was not aware of Landau ever acting as a dealer, though he said he contacted him two months ago and said that he was "interested in selling things," and had mentioned rare and expensive autographs of Beethoven and Marie Antoinette.

"We follow what goes on in the industry, in this world," Paul Brachfeld, the inspector general for the National Archives, said on Monday before his agency became involved in the investigation. "If they do it one place, they may very well do it in another."

Brachfeld declined to comment Tuesday on the steps his agency was taking or why it had become involved.

At the Maryland Historical Society, President Burt Kummerow gave a reporter a tour of a new exhibit set to open soon that shows off War of 1812 artifacts and paintings by Charles Willson Peale, among other items. The museum, located two blocks west of Baltimore's Washington Monument, mixes historically significant items with modern architecture and has the largest collection of Maryland history in the world.

Kummerow said records show that Landau and Savedoff had visited the historical society in June. He would not comment on whether other items were missing. "We're checking that out," he said.

Though Kummerow said the society has been growing, it remains short on funds and staff. That puts it in a potentially vulnerable position as it allows access to its collection of 7 million documents contained within its library.

Coale, the former board member for the Maryland Historic Trust, said he doesn't believe archives will be able to continue to allow access to original documents. "They don't have the staff to do it, especially nowadays with societies more or less operating with skeleton crews," he said.

But Kummerow says his staff is also not in a financial position to digitize its archives or provide photocopies of the volumes of material researchers may want to see.

Kummerow is reassured, however, that the alleged weekend theft was detected by staff members, who called the police officers who reported finding five dozen documents that had been checked out by Landau and tucked into a laptop case inside a locker belonging to Savedoff.

"The library really did its job," Kummerow said.

Sun reporter Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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