top of page
Silver Museum Logo

About Us The Full Story

On this page you will get the full story about  how The Silver Museum got its start.   From 1972, and on there were a lot of factors that made this museum what it is today. 

Our Ratings
SM-Gold-Logo_edited.png
Francis 1 Reed Barton Sterling Kettle on Stand

How it all began in 1972

It all began In 1972 when Master Sergeant Art Arbutine retired from the Air Force. He had collected British Crown Coins  for 20 years while in the service and decided that he wanted to pursue the coin business full time.  He opened a small  700 square foot store in Belleair Bluffs, Florida and named it Belleair Coins.  He turned his once hobby into a full time profession. In the first years, he enlisted his wife Patricia Arbutine along with his three sons Greg, Chris and Jay into the business. He later hired his brother Gil Arbutine and nieces Beth Arbutine Race and Kathy Arbutine Edwards.

Belleair Coins
Art and Patricia Arbutine
Art, Jay, Chris, Greg Abutine

The little coin shop started to diversify over the years and branched off into jewelry, silverware, collectibles, watches and other areas of fine art.  Art's wife Patricia Arbutine  became especially interested in the estate sterling flatware and holloware and recognized  that these items were worth far more than just the scrap out prices that the family had  been previously selling them for.   She decided to do a spin off company  and thus The Silver Queen Inc. was born.  

 

From the very beginning of the business, Patricia would set aside in the showcase some finer pieces of silverware that she deemed to be too nice for resale.    Customers would ask for a price almost daily on some of those untagged items,  but they  would get a prompt and firm rebuff from her saying "I'm sorry but those particular pieces are not for sale."   Even though Patrica did not yet know it at the time, this accumulating of "not for sale" silver was the birth of "The Silver Museum." 

Sterling Servers
Tiffany-Trio-of-Servers-Marble
Patrica Arbutine

From 1978 to 1986:

Patricia began aggresively buying and selling  sterling silver flatware and initially was just selling  to other wholesalers but eventually started branching out by advertising nationally in "The  Antique Trader" and  other magazines.   She established a firm retail and wholesale mail order business and customers started calling her and her right hand person  Beth Arbutine Race to help assist them with matching their patterns and to find the pieces missing to their flatware services.

In 1982, one her first great Museum Piece finds was an absolutely exquisite Woodard and Grosjean early Tiffany coin silver tea & coffee service with Chinoiserie figures.    She made the local customer an offer, but the client told her that she had a higher offer.  However, the customer also told her that she liked Patricia better and that if she matched the other buyer's offer, then the set was hers.   Patricia bought it and it become another "not for sale piece" that the store would put on display.

Tiffany Coffee Set
Belleair Coins

In 1983, a few years after the 1980 gold and silver rush created by the  Hunt Brothers, the  store needed to move out of its cramped quarters.  The adjacent property next door was purchased and a new 1,750 square foot store front was built.  

In the larger store, it was decided that a complete bank of shelving units would be dedicated to Patricia's collected silver pieces and unofficially named "The Silver Museum" of The Silver Queen Inc.

Belleair Coins

The Silver Museum's first fully dedicated display case back in 1983

Museum Case of Silver
Silver Queen
Beth Race

Year 1987

Enter Greg Arbutine Full Time
After graduating from The  University of South Florida in 1987, the oldest son Greg Arbutine also caught the passion for silver and  went to work full time for the two companies.   Made the President and CEO of The Silver Queen Inc.  in 1990, Greg made the business grow by leaps and bounds through his aggressive national marketing, internet and computerization skills, catalog designing ability, buying expertise, improvements in efficiencies, and excellence in customer service throughout the years.    From 1987 to 2002 the store experienced expansive growth.    This was a golden era for the company.

 

Greg was also hugely interested in maintaining and expanding "The Silver Museum" collection that his mother Patricia had started.    Like Patricia, Greg would set aside some of the very best pieces and not offer these for resale.

 

One of his best additions to The Silver Museum came in 1998 when he rescued an authentic Paul Revere silver spoon from being sent off to the refinery.    
See more on this story at:

https://www.silvermuseum.org/post/paul-revere-silver-spoon-boston-massachusetts-usa-quite-the-serendipitous-find

 

Paul Revere Silver Spoon
Greg Arbutine
Lion Sterling
Patricia Arbutine Greg Arbutine Beth Race Janet Woodhouse Alan Johnson Pat Yaeger Kathy Arbutine Edwards

Photo from 1992 pictured:  Patricia Arbutine, Greg Arbutine, Beth Race, Janet Woodhouse, Alan Johnson, Pat Yaeger, Kathy Edwards

Savannah Sterling

Pictured: Savannah Sterling by Reed & Barton.   In the 1990's The Siver Queen Inc. did a lot of made to order sterling patterns in bulk orders of 200 or more settings that were exclusive to the store.  It marketed: Savannah, Florentine Lace, Debussy, Lion, Lancaster and a few others. 

Francis 1 Reed & Barton Sterling Coffee & Tea Service

Pictured:  Pictured: Francis 1 Sterling Silver Tea and Coffee Set 

Greg purchased the store's first Francis the 1st sterling Tea and Coffee Service in the 1990's.   Although, this pattern is not actually considered museum quality since it is relatively abundant in the marketplace, this is still once of the most handsome hollowware patterns in sterling silver that was ever manufactured.     Greg would have kept a lot more for the museum if he had unlimited money, but alas, he was also running a business and buying and then selling for a profit was the name of the game, which he was extremely adept at doing and still is.

 

See Francis Tea & Coffee Sets on Ebay:

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2380057.m570.l1313&_nkw=francis+1+sterling+tea+coffee+set&_sacat=0

Silver Queen Catalog
Silver Queen Catalog
Silver Queen Catalog
Silver Queen Catalog

Print Catalogs

1990 Greg Launched the first printed catalog at The Silver Queen Inc..  For almost 20 years the catalog was the main driving force for bringing in the sales.  However, as the internet age of e-commerce and shopping became solidified the catalogs started to take a back seat to the internet sales.      

 

Silver Queen Catalog Wholesale Book

There was also a wholesale book sent out from 1990 to year 2013 that had the complete inventory of the sterling inventory of The Silver Queen.  It was sent out periodically to dealers who would use the book to sell to their customers inside of their antique shops and at antique shows.   However,  after the advent of Ebay and on-line stores, there was no room left in the market for middlemen distributors since customers could now deal direct with the source.
Plus, a lot of the mom and pop antique shops went out of business.   There was hardly anyone left to mail the wholesale book to and the response rate fell dramatically.

Despite some of the changes in the marketplace, all of the marketing combined really propelled forward the business at The Silver Queen and also brought in a flood of museum quality pieces that Greg continued to add to The Silver Museum.    Greg even expanded The Silver Museum with an additional Gold painted  display case that showcased several of the new additions to the collection.

Serving Piece Silver
Silver Plated Ice Water Pitcher

China and Crystal

In 1998, Greg decided to add fine china and crystal to the products mix at The Silver Queen.  It seemed like every other customer calling to ask if the store carried tableware, so Greg figured why not?  The store added Waterford, Lenox and  Royal Doulton initially and later on added many many more brands.

Subsequently to the category of china and crystal being added, the store purchased this incredible Syracuse Senatorial China Service and added it to The Silver Museum.   This elegant dinnerware service was given by the Senate as a retirement gift to Joseph C. Duke, Sergeant of Arms of The U.S. Senate from 1955-1965 (The Camelot Era.).   

Syracuse Presidential China
Lion Sterling Silver Wallace
Silver Queen Largo Florida
Silver Queen Largo Florida

The New Location in Year 2002

After 4 years of planning, in year 2002, CEO Greg Arbutine and his Husband Alan Johnson  re-located the Silver Queen, Belleair Coins Gold & Diamonds  and The Silver Museum  to 1350 West Bay Drive, Largo, FL 33770.    

 

The  move was a huge success overall for the businesses.  This phenomenal location had 10 times more drive by traffic than where it was previously  in Belleair Bluffs.   The 14,500 square foot building turned out beautifully.   There was an immediate result and a long lasting permanent boost in sales.

Silver Queen Largo Florida
Silver Queen Largo Florida
Silver Queen Largo Florida

The Silver Museum becomes official
In  the new location, we were also finally able to open our Silver Museum as a real attraction and just not as a side gig.   Greg spent the entire summer of year 2023 curating the 4 huge display cabinets that were dedicated to it.   He put professional labels on each item and organized each shelf with different themes.

 

Greg also had a new logo designed along with a printed brochure.    The printed materials were then marketed locally through a tourist kiosk hotel and hospitality distribution company.   The brochures were elegant and drove in several thousand visitors per year to visit the beautiful Silver Museum Collection.


 

Silver-Museum-Brochure
Greg-&-Pat-Museum-Shot
Silver Museum Inventory Item
Silver Museum Inventory Item
Martele-Water-Pitcher

Greg and Patricia Arbutine
(Mother and Son)  Picture in year 2003

Co-Founders of The Silver Museum
 

Silver Museum Logo

Moving forward after being settled in:

The new location and the improved displays at The Silver Museum propelled the collection forward and gained it a lot of local notoriety for its importance to the community.    There were several groups of antique collecting clubs that would come in and take a tour of the store and the museum.    Customers of The Silver Queen were absolutely delighted to see the gorgeous displays of museum grade silver at The Silver Museum and would give the store managers a lot of positive feedback.

Martele-Gorham-Exhibition-Silver
Martele-Gorham-Exhibition-Silver-Greg-Arbutine

Greg Arbutine

Marvelous Martele Exhibition in 2006

With its raised prominence, The Silver Museum was invited in year 2006 to be a host of a local Gorham Martele traveling silver exhibition at The Florida International Museum.

Excerpt from local newspaper in year 2006
Florida International Museum, St. Petersburg, FL


On Saturday, November 4th year 2006,  Pat & Greg Arbutine of The Silver Queen Inc. presented an elegant speech on “The History of Silverware in America.”
     The Florida International museum is currently exhibiting “Magnificent, Marvelous, Martle.” American Art Nouveau silver from the period of 1897 to 1911.   As the major corporate presenting sponsor, the pair of Silver Queen speakers dazzled the crowd by bringing along several key pieces from their own in store museum collection to illustrate a historical perspective as told through those pieces.   Featured were early colonial silver, Gorham items, Tiffany servers and Reed & Barton hollowware.

The Arbutines were also very enlightening about the Gorham Martele silver.   They brought along a Martele piece of their own to explain the process of how each Martele piece is 100% made by hand from a single hunk of metal, formed into a beautiful decorative accessory  and then designs chased by hand to form amazing art nouveau patterns.  These rare pieces can take up to hundreds of hours to make.  Martele is the French word for hand hammered, and it was a short lived program where only 8000 pieces total were made.  It had rigid restrictions requiring that no major machine equipment be used and today these pieces are the rarest on the market, even far exceeding the values of the rarest Tiffany pieces.
Marvleous-Martele-Gorham

In year 2017  we acquired this

Gorham Martele Flatware on Ebay

Martele-Gorham-Exhibition-Silver-Patricia-Arbuutine

Patricia Arbutine

Running The Silver Queen and The Silver Museum simultaneously

Greg continued to grow and increase the prominence of The Silver Museum, however he also still had a huge business to run in The Silver Queen.   Greg along with his cousin Kathy Arbutine Edwards helped grow The Silver Queen's  jewelry department from a small mom and pop coin shop business that only did $350,000 per year in sales of retail estate jewelry into a $2,500,000 annual local full service professional grade jewelry store operation.   

Greg produced from scratch the 6 annual jewelry sale flyer brochures that propelled the marketing as well as designed and developed the entire jewelry website operation.
 

Jan Smith Nancy Trager Kathy Arbutine Edwards

Jan Smith, Nancy Trager, Kathy Edwards

Jewelry
Jewelry
Jewelry

Upscaling the Silver Museum Collection

In the new building, from year 2002 and beyond, the store was offered much more magnificent collections than ever before.   Greg would upon occasion keep a treasure here and there for The Silver Museum.   Plus, Greg also decided to start filling in the gaps of the collection by seeking out pieces on Ebay, Heritage Auctions and Live Auctioneers.    

Tiffany Sterling Water Pitcher
William Joseph II African American Silversmith and Artist

In year 2017 we acquired this William Joseph II
item in Tampa Bay, Florida

In year 2012 we acquired this Tiffany piece locally in Tampa Bay, Florida

Changing times in the silver retailers industry

Ironically, The Silver Queen portion of the overall business which had done 7 million annually in the previous location slowly over the years declined to about 3 million in annual sales per year with a gross profit of $1,500,000 per year.   Greg had projected to do 10-12 million, but with the advent of Ebay, increased on-line competition, and a continued down trend from formal dining these factors all weighed in heavily in the retrenchment.   


Fortunately, out of the three sides of the business, the other two which were the jewelry and coin & bullion departments of the business really took off.   The jewelry side of the business went from $350,000 a year to $2,500,000 in sales with a gross profit of $1,250,000 annually and the coins and bullion side of the business went from $4,000,000 in sales to $35,000,000 annually with a gross profit of $1,500,000 annually.

This was great news, but over time, Greg found himself to be a bit disappointed that his two brothers Chris and Jay who ran those other two departments were now getting the lion's share of the credit, pay and recognition for something that Greg had orchestrated.
 

They're started to become a growing rift in the relationships of the three brothers (now 1/3rd owners each) in the  business.    The two brothers never wanted to credit Greg for having brought the store to the new location which enabled the other two sides of the business to propel forward because of the great new location and the incredible job that Greg and his husband Alan had done in designing the new building and the incredible showroom.   The store didn't even have to advertise as much anymore because of how prominent the building stood out and the number of the amount of drive by walk in customers the business the store now got for free. Profits soared.

Greg also pioneered the websites for the three departments in the business  and got the store ranked up hugely high in Google, where again the store didn't need to advertise anymore because of the free leads generation increasing profits with lowered advertising costs.   Yet..... Greg again was not credited for his achievements by his brothers or family.

After a while of a frustrating number of years with constant contentiousness with his family in the business, in around the year 2015,  Greg started  to seriously contemplate leaving The Silver Queen and Belleair Coins Gold and Diamonds and take The Silver Museum with him.     It would remain to be seen if that would happen or not.   Greg really loved the business and the silver retail industry and did not want to leave it.   Perhaps if the right opportunity came up, well then maybe?  

Jayson Christopher Gregory Arbutine
Belleair Coins

Jay Arbutine, Chris Arbutine, Greg Arbutine

The three brother owners of The Silver Queen and Belleair Coins, Gold & and Diamonds

Picture from year 2011

Belleair Coins
Belleair Coins

Continuing to achieve

In the meanwhile while making his decision to stay on, Greg continued to produce annual print catalogs for The Silver Queen.   The catalogs now had an average of 40-48 pages and were distributed to 150,000 customers.   Greg did all the photography, graphics layout, conceptualization and  product  purchasing to create the catalogs.   He also did the managing of the customer mailing lists.

Greg also continued to man the web sites for the store as well as made a huge splash with all social media bringing the store's followers on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube to around 250,000  by around year 2016.

Silver Queen Catalog Largo Florida
Silver Queen Catalog Largo Florida
Silver Queen Catalog Largo Florida

The following news story in "The Antique Shoppe" Newspaper came out in year 2016 showcasing The Silver Museum.

Silver Museum Feature Article
Silver Museum Feature Article

2019

In year 2019, the three brother owners went down to just two.   The youngest brother of the company had to exit the company due to medical reasons and subsequently the  company took a hit financially as a result.   This was very tough time in the history of the companies and for The Silver Museum.   Fortunately, The Silver Museum did not have to liquidate any of its pieces in order to keep the place solvent.   

 

Ironically, when Covid 19 came along in March of 2020, the three major departments of the store all took off simultaneously which had never happened previously.

Everyone needed extra money to pay their bills so the gold and bullion department was rocking it.  
Everyone wanted to treat themselves with jewelry since they had to stay at home and could not travel.

Everyone wanted to order silverware on-line to do home dining.    

This incredible unexpected boost to business filled back up the coffers of the business from it's low point from the year prior.

Greg was able to add some very nice pieces to The Silver Museum also in that time period.


 

Tane Silver Nugget Water Pitcher
Scottish Silver Coffee Pot

In year 2020,  we acquired this Tane piece on Ebay from Silver Perfect

In year 2020, we acquired this Scottish Silver  piece on Ebay

Patricia and Art Arbutine

Patricia and Art Arbutine

in year 2019

The company founders of
The Silver Queen Inc. and

Belleair Coins,  Gold & Diamonds Inc.

Beth Race Chris Arbutine Jayson Arbutine Gregory Arbutine Kathy Arbutine Edwards

Staff shot of The Silver Queen and Belleair Coins Gold & Diamonds from year 2014

2021 to 2022

In year 2021, it became very apparent to Greg and he and his remaining brother partner Chris were not meant to be business partners for the long run.    Greg and Chris did not also see eye to eye on the day to day operations of the business in particular with the finances, computer tech, accounting systems, HR decisions, internet marketing and social media, and many many other business items.     Greg concluded that if he stayed, he'd only live another 10 more years to live due to the stresses of this arranged business marriage between him and his brother with whom he did not get along with whatsoever.

At the end of 2021,  after being The CEO of The Silver Queen for 32 years and having worked there for 50 years, Greg and brother Chris completed a business deal to buy out Greg and make Chris Arbutine the sole owner of The Silver Queen and Belleair Coins, Gold and Diamonds.

However..........

The Silver Museum would stay with Greg.

In 2022, The Silver Museum was removed from its location of 20 years and put into storage at a secure site.

It was with very deep regret that Greg could no longer house the collection inside of the store and the place that it had called home for 50 years.  However, even after Greg got bought out, the brothers continued to quarrel, bicker and war with each other.    Greg did not feel comfortable displaying the collection in a place where he was now unwelcome.  

The business divorce was an ugly one to say the least.  The family and brothers are are now in currently a healing process and hoping to put the drama of all this in the past.


 

Greg and Chris Arbutine

Photo of brothers Greg and Chris Arbutine in August of 2022

IMG_7999 copy.jpg
Silver Museum

Moving Forward

The Silver Museum Owner Greg Arbutine plans to continue to move forward with continuing to educate the public about fine and rare antique silver through his Silver Museum both in person physically and virtually through the website, you tube videos and plethora of social media platforms.   He will also continue to buy and sell silver items along the way until if and when he reaches his ultimate goals.

The Silver Museum Future Goals:

  1. Find a new permanent home to house the collection.  

  2. Receive a government grant of  50 million dollars or similar amount from an angel donor.

  3. Build a 20,000 square foot building at a budget of $15,000,000.00.    15,000 square foot for the collection  2,500 square feet for an educational center and 2,500 square foot for administration and gift shop

  4. Purchase $25,000,000 of more items for the collection.  Greg wants to display more Paul Revere, Tiffany Mixed Metals, Pieces by Paul Storr and Paul de Lamerie, Gorham Martele and more elaborate historical presentation pieces of silver items.

  5. Start an initial endowment of $10,000,000  to guarantee the longevity of the collection.

  6. Scout potential locations in:   Park City, Salt Lake City, Provo, Denver, Colorado  Springs, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, Washington D.C. or New York.

  7. Look at potential partnerships with already established museums such as in The Smithsonian, The Met, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, etc. etc.   Perhaps an additional Silver Museum Building can be erected on a campus or a dedicated wing added within such an institution.     Greg doesn't want this to be just a temporary exhibit, but a permanent fixture guaranteed in perpetuity.

  8. Open a short term corporate head quarters and executive office where we will work on the above goals, do research, do photography and video to support our social media and continue to acquire new pieces for the collection both nationally and occasional from local sellers in the nearby geographic area where the office is located.     #8. Accomplished in late 2023 

There is honestly not a really good all encompassing comprehensive Silver Museum Collection on the planet that exists today.   There are plenty of major museums with a smattering of silver, but no museums that are solely dedicated to this incredible lost art form.   We want to build a place that preserves this medium and its history for generations to come and make the public aware of what a wonderful art form that the silversmithing and manufacturing of sterling silver flatware and holloware  truly is and has been for centuries and millennia.    

 

Greg Arbutine wants to use his 50 years experience in the antique silver industry as well as his art, design, business skills and technological talents to dedicate his potential last 30+  years of remaining life to see his dream of upscaling The Silver Museum to become a reality.

 

Can you help us out to achieve our goals of turning The Silver Museum into a true long term legacy project that will be a lasting gift to generations to come?  
If so, contact us at:   gregory@silvermuseum.org or at:  gregarbutine@gmail.com.

 

Wish us luck!

Thanks,
Greg Arbutine

 
 

The Silver Museum Greg Arbutine
The Silver Museum
The Silver Museum Greg Arbutine

Thanks for reading about The Silver Museum

We hope to have the items back on display somewhere soon in the future.
Check here for updates.

The Silver Museum
The Silver Museum
Retail Superstars Greg Arbutine

Greg Arbutine featured in George Whalin's Book Retail Superstars

Greg Arbutine

Greg Arbutine featured in Southern Living Magazine in Year  2003

Southern Living

Greg Arbutine featured in Southern Living Magazine in Year  2003

Patricia Arbutine

Patricia

Arbutine

in

Year

1993

Beth Race Silver Queen

Beth Race featured in Southern Living in year 

2003

The Silver Museum Greg Arbutine

Greg Arbutine Owner of The Silver Museum

Holding the World's Largest Sterling Silver Spoon

The Silver Museum Greg and Patricia Arbutine

Mother and Son 

Greg and Patricia Arbutine

The Silver Museum 

Co-Founders

The Silver Museum Patricia Arbutine

Patricia Arbutine
at age 81 in year 2016

Silver Museum Logo
bottom of page