.In the posts below the rewording of the Code of Ethics of the US-based Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is discussed. It seems that the ACCG is basically saying that anything not illegal in the US is "ethical", and seem genuinely perplexed by the notion that this is not what a code of ethics is about.
There is of course a lot of discussion about ethical codes in businesses and other activities these days and reference to any of the literature (even the selection of it readily available online) shows that the ACCG text falls far short of anything that would be acceptable in any other field. Just for example, the compilers of this document might have looked at what Chris McDonald on Ethicsweb says in his "why have a Code of Ethics?". In particular I liked the extract from the Life Skills Coaches Association of British Columbia code of ethics:
"Why have a Code of Ethics?It seems to me that to meet any of these aims the vague, patchy and brief ACCG code falls far short. It is a mishmash of separate ideas not welded into a whole to do any of these things in the field of collection of antiquities, most of them refer to the SELLING of antiquities. I sincerely doubt whether its author(s) actually sent this text out among the membership for consultation, if they had they might have found they had collector members who in their professional lives were bound by much better and fuller codes of ethics, which would have prompted consideration of a far rounder document. Even the counter staff at McDonalds have a Code of Ethics far superior in general layout and narrow issues touched upon to the Collectors' Guild.
- to define accepted/acceptable behaviours;
- to promote high standards of practice;
- to provide a benchmark for members to use for self evaluation;
- to establish a framework for professional behaviour and responsibilities;
- as a vehicle for occupational identity;
- as a mark of occupational maturity [...];"
It is interesting to study the ACCG document as a COLLECTORS' code in the particular context of ethical colection of antiquities. Since collectors are claiming to give the artefacts in their care a good "home", it seems to me not without reason to compare the Collectors' Guild Code of Ethics with the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. Here we can see at once a whole series of principles connected with providing the object a good home. These are in fact completely missing from the ACCG Collectors' code. It is not that the domestic museums of collectors are set lower standards, the whole aspect of the ethics of collecting is completely ignored. Nothing here about premises and suitable conditions, conservation and documentation. Of the eight core issues covered by the ICOM code, legal propriety (which is the main focus of the ACCG Code) is the seventh.
This is an important comparison because not only do collectors present their curation of objects as if it were a viable alternative to museums, but even suggest items should be removed from the care of museums to enter the market. In this case therefore the ethical standards set by collectors for their collections cannot be below those of museum, collections. It would make no sense to remove items from being under care guided by clearly formulated and igh ethical standards to an environment almost entirely lacking in comparable standards.
Indeed, one might compare the ancient coin collectors' code of ethics with the codes of ethics of collectors of other types of material from finite resources, such as the best examples from palaeontology for example.
In comparison with what we expect a code of ethics to actually consist of, the ACCG document looks incredibly amateurish and really does not deserve the title of a code of ethics at all. But then what can we expect from the trade in ancient coins in its current form?