In the competitive, sometimes cutthroat world of Alamo mania, a historical relic collector is claiming that artifacts stolen from him appear in a book written by musician and Alamo devotee Phil Collins.
The parade of writers, storytellers, collectors and other enthusiasts of the Texas shrine are known to wallow in personality disputes, accusing one another of stealing a concept, copying an illustration or reinventing an old theory. The addition of a high-profile celebrity like Collins to the scene is akin to pouring fuel on the quest to tell the Alamo story as never before.
But Don Ray Jank, 75, who is suing for damages and return of items photographed for the book "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey," said he doesn't blame Collins. He feels the popular singer, thought to have the world's largest private collection of Texas Revolution artifacts, doesn't know how much theft, greed and lying occurs in the collection trade.
"I feel sorry for the guy," said Jank, whose lawsuit was filed Monday in Bexar County.
"I'm not after Collins. ... I just want justice," Jank said.
Although questions about the authenticity of Collins' collection have quietly circulated among collectors, scholars and archaeologists, Jank's lawsuit is the first public challenge to his dealings in Texas.
Jim Guimarin, a Collins associate and owner of The History Shop, also is a defendant in the suit. He said Jank has falsely accused him of theft before.
"It goes on and on with this guy. I think he's trying to get a nuisance lawsuit going," said Guimarin, who runs the shop by the Alamo at 713 E. Houston St.
The lawsuit alleges Kevin Scott Adcock, a salesman at New World Car Imports in New Braunfels, went to Jank's home in Victoria, disarmed a vehicle anti-theft device and broke in. Adcock and New World are defendants in the suit.
Jank said Tuesday that $40,000 worth of items were stolen from his trunk. He said he spotted some of them, including buttons, and flaming bomb emblems and cap plates worn on Mexican army headgear, in Collins' book a few months ago.
There also was a corroded gun barrel, portrayed in the book as a "pocket pistol" found in Goliad, that Jank said is from Mexico. He said he confronted Guimarin, and tried to reach Collins through another source.
Guimarin, who has sold many items to Collins, dismissed the allegations. Flaming bomb emblems are common, he said.
Guimarin said he hadn't spoken about the suit to Collins, who lives in Switzerland. He said Victoria police questioned him but dropped the case "because there was no evidence that anything was stolen."
"The only reason he's suing is because of Phil Collins," Guimarin said.
Calls on Tuesday to New World and the Victoria detective in the case were not returned. Collins could not be reached for comment.
Collins has said he funded purchase of The History Shop and a 2007 excavation there that unearthed hundreds of buttons, buckles, knives, horseshoes and pieces of battle ordnance. A dig permit was not required. But one observer said the work was done without archaeological mapping — a tedious process.
"The whole evolution was very amateurish, and there is no doubt that items were misidentified," said the source, who did not want to be identified for fear of jeopardizing a relationship with Collins.
In preparing his book, Collins was taken to task on authenticity of some pieces, most notably a sword belt that he wrote was "thought to possibly" have been worn by William Barret Travis, Alamo commander, in the predawn assault on the Alamo in 1836.
The observer who spoke anonymously said Collins is too trusting of others.
"To put it very simply, Collins is being taken to the cleaners by his ‘friends' in San Antonio," the source said.