"It's like a basketball game, and we're in the fourth quarter," he said.
The trusteeship has targeted universities, museums and collectors as potential buyers, but so far no one has moved forward. The next step may be selling it in pieces. Eventually the debt must be settled.
For now, the Montague Collection remains intact and out of sight. Montague misses it.
CNN recently was granted access to the collection on the condition that the location and other details of the storage facility would not be disclosed. Montague was able to visit it, as well. With the exception of a few items -- Phillis Wheatley's book, Negro Nancy's contract, and a pincushion crafted by Patrick Reason -- all he was able to touch were the boxes.
He was satisfied, even chuckling at how he nearly didn't purchase the pincushion from a shop in Florida.
"This lady, she has this little pincushion. I say, 'What do I want with a pincushion?' and she says, 'Oh, you want this one. This one I think is important,'" he recalled.
He bought it, and later while thumbing through his history books came across Reason, a freeborn black abolitionist who expressed his anti-slavery sentiments through art.
The pincushion -- engraved with an image and the words "Black Man Kneeling in Chains" -- was sold by white abolitionists as a fundraiser.
"It's in good hands," Montague said of the piece and his collection. He speaks of it as if the only potential outcome is what he longs for, that it will stay together.
"They are able to do for it ... and present it and get it sold," he said, rubbing the boxes.
He says he has no regrets, and he sounds hopeful.
"If tomorrow it was said to me, 'Take it back; take it back; take it back. Everything is all right, take it back,' I would turn it down," he said.
"I can't do it justice. I've done my thing, and I've done it from my heart and soul. Now it deserves better than me. The hurt is surpassed by where it is going to go, and what it is going to be."
Meanwhile, Melech continues to search for a buyer who will keep it intact so it won't have to be sold piecemeal.
"Once you do that you're going to break two things," he said. "You're going to break the collection, and you're going to break his heart."