In a message on the Unidroit-L list, the indefatigable contributor to the debate going on there, Eftis Paraskevaides delivers his verdict on the new regulations of German, Swiss and Austrian eBay:"These new eBay regulations will have tremendous implications on buying and selling antiquities on eBay. I predict that if they are implemented in a stringent fashion, this will finish off the antiquities trading on eBay. In many ways this was quite predictable, as eBay have in my opinion been very careless with their sales of ancient art. On the UK site for example, I have periodically seen over the years, English treasure material offered for sale...". Well the material falling under the scope of the UK's Treasure laws is being dealt with (well at least as far as material from England and Wales are concerned) by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Well, to check out Mr Paraskevaides' predictions I took a look at german ebay, and there were a number of auctions of what seem to be genuine antiquities WITH photos of the required documentation. There were also a lot without, most of them recognisably tourist fakes and other suchlike modern pseudo-antiqui-fantasies. Possibly the beginner collector looking for a 'bargain' may not even realise that the lack of documentation is now a clear warning sign (either that in bidding they are getting involved in a potentially illegal transaction, or buying an out-and-out fake). So far from "finishing off" the legitimate antiquities trade, these regulations can only have the effect of highlighting it and introducing new standards which it is hoped responsible portable antiquity collectors will value and demand elsewhere. What will of course find it harder to keep its head above water in such a market is the element of the antiquities market peopled by the cowboys who have no doocumented proveneince for the objects they peddle. Here we can all hope Mr Paraskevaides is right. Let us see such a system applied in the UK too.