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Betsy Ross sharktooth flag artwork taken from car

December 1, 2023
By Garland Pollard

A resident heading back home to Boca Grande had his most recent work of art, a Betsy Ross flag made of shark’s teeth, stolen while he stopped somewhere between Tampa and home.

“The flag was the best one I have ever made,” said Frank Koffend, a historian, fisherman, park volunteer, author and a lifetime collector of fishing gear. He has lived in Boca Grande for the last three decades.

The flag, which traveled safely between Wisconsin and Florida in a car, was to be shown professionally this spring. It was planned for both a show in Boca Grande and the Sanibel Shell Show, which is considered the best shell show in the nation. Most of the works in these shows are shells, but this piece was made of sharkteeth collected over the years. 

The 13 stars of the Betsy Ross flag displayed in the piece of art were of course symbols of the original 13 colonies. Because the teeth are either black or white, he could not make the shark flag in color.

For the last 15 or so years, Koffend has been making shell art, including so-called sailor’s valentines, in a class at the Boca Grande Art Center. The sailor’s valentine is a type of souvenir shell artwork made into designs. The souvenirs, popular in Nantucket, are named for a style of antique shell artwork that originated in Barbados in colonial times.

“I have to think whoever stole it, likes it,” said Koffend. “It was a beautiful piece.”