The owner of an Edmonton antiques store is returning a stolen top hat to a Quebec museum.

Clinton Beck bought the hat 12 years ago, saying that the man who sold it told him it may have belonged to Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

"People often add stories to their antiquities in order to embellish the value if possible. When I looked at the hat there was no sign of it being anything other than a nice quality hat for its period," said Beck.

He believes the beaver-felt hat was made in London between 1850 and 1870.

"As the man was leaving after he sold me the hat, he goes 'oh and by the way, it may have been stolen from a museum,'" said Beck.

"We started looking all over the hat to find a serial number, because all museum objects would have a reference number somewhere on them."

Beck never spotted any sign that the hat was ever in a museum, so he put the hat on a shelf and it sat there for 12 years waiting for a buyer.

A few weeks ago, he was at a cocktail party when a friend told the story of how Macdonald's hat had been stolen from a museum and been traded in Vancouver.

Remembering the item in his store he asked one of his senior appraisers to gave it another look.

"He was going over it for about half an hour, no sign of anything, and as a last resort... he pulled back the rim and there was the serial number," said Beck.

He then sent messages to museums across the country and got a response from the Canadian Museum of History.

"This is one of their items and it was stolen in 1975," said Beck.

The museum believes the top hat was swiped by a teenager visiting as part of a class trip.

The hat will be returned this week, but unfortunately there's no proof that it ever belonged to Macdonald.

"They don't have reference to it being Sir John A. Macdonald's hat, but it is still a Canadian piece of treasure."