New Zealander oriental antiquities collector Kenneth Blair reckons I've got it all wrong about the significance of the ivory ban, so wrong in fact he has cross posted this information not only on the ancient artifacts Forum, but also (for reasons that are beyond me) to the antiquitists' plodding happy-slapping Unidroit-L. Well, Mr Blair obviously has not read what I wrote nor thought too deeply about it, so I'm not really too bothered to discuss it with him in detail. If you read what he wrote, its the same old mantras, the same old personal comments rustled up in defence of a bunch of attitudes which are increasingly obviously becoming indefensible.
It's odd isn't it that the antiquities trade is said some of the time by collectors and dealers to act like any other supply and demand market... until that is supply and demand arguments are used to criticise it. Then we are told that of course we "simply do not understand" how this mysterious market works, it's not like a normal supply and demand market. Well, there certainly is a LOT of secrecy about and this lack of transparency hinders determining its workings - but the areas that dealers and collectors keep most quiet about are of course rather telling in themselves, I think in reality most observers have a pretty good idea what it is they are trying to hide and trying to deny. The parallel with the trade in illicit and mis-provenenced ivory is too close for comfort I guess.
The point is that ebay's ivory ban IS in response to a demand. The demand from decent conservation minded and concerned people that, in order that its reputation is not further tarnished, eBay do something about the way it is currently apparently being used to disseminate misprovenanced ivory goods which has the potential of being used as a cover for the sale of illicitly-obtained material. Despite the ban, nobody is in any doubt that some nasty, thoughtless and self-centred people will still continue to buy and sell their sliced up bits of freshly slaughtered elephant, but not on ebay alongside decent people. There will be less ambiguity about who they are and precisely what they are doing. EBay realises that decent normal folk will not want want to mix with them, and do not want the reputation of a place where "elephant killing by keystrokes" happens. Perhaps it is time for them to likewise sort out some of the other controversial areas such as their involvement in the trade in poorly-provenanced and fake antiquities which also heavily tarnishes its corporate reputation.
Vignette: taotie mask from the type of Chinese bronze terribly popular with collectors.