Saturday, 4 September 2010

Keeping an Eye on the ACCG donors (1): Holyland Numismatics, Michigan and Dubai


I am looking through the ACCG Third Benefit Auction (a post on this coming up soon) and paying attention to who is giving what and the possible implications of this. There are several interesting things coming out (how could there not be?) but one of the donors of items in particular caught my attention this morning in relation to another long-running thread on this blog, but of that in a moment. First, let's take a look at this, from a forum which has open access, so please look through the whole thread. This was posted by a coin-collecting designer from Houston Texas calling himself "Drusus" on 1st August 2007 and he is extolling the benefits (sic) of collecting ancient dugup coins. the point he is making is that there are already lots and lots on the market (I think he means the US market):
I have borrowed these photo from a guy on another forum who shares with us when he gets new shipments in directly from the source... I believe these are coming from the ME... this is just one guy's hoards... and I believe he mostly is a middle man in that he receives them from the source... cleans them... then sends them on to a buyer or buyers buying back some for his own store... there are others who post finds on the forum from eastern Europe, Britain, etc...
I suspect the forum he means is UncleanedAncientCoins, or maybe AncientBulkMarketplace but that is not important. There is this guy who gets "new shipments" of coin hoards from the source, cleans them in bulk and passes the ones he does not want on to other dealers. The classic case of a middleman, importing antiquities and supplying the market. We might ask ourselves, which Middle Eastern countries allow the free export of bulk antiquities like this?

Drusus describes the photos he has posted of these groups of "Late Roman imperial bronze/copper coins fresh from the ground and ready to be cleaned". "These are several different hoards posted by only one guy... and he is far from the only guy bringing coins to market". No mention here of any "old collection" then. Look at the photos:

So what "Middle Eastern" country might they have come from then? Well...

The Egyptian style bronze statuettes might give a clue (let's keep an eye open for them later)... So where did these coins come from? Who recorded these finds (and where can we see this record) before they were released for sale? Who is importing them and how? Well "Drusus" at least answers the first question further down the thread, when we see the same (?) coins after cleaning:
Because I used his hoard pictures to illustrate... if its okay I would like to say that these coins are courtesy of Salem Alshdaifat and Holy Land Coins and examples can be seen here: At that link you can find hoards of Roman, Greek, and Persian coins...most are sold as fast as they come in...
yes, I bet they are. So Salem Alshdaifat (apparently of Jordanian origin with Canadian citizenship) the importer of these multiple groups of dugup ancient coins from somewhere in the Middle East has a store on ACCG president Bill Puetz's V-coins has he? He'll abide by the "V-Coins Code of Ethics" then, won't he? Let's have a look at the Holyland Numismatics store on the "ethical alternative" V-Coins store. Its owner claims:
We are the best buyers for Hoards, as you see in our store we buy large Hoards and sell whole sale lots, Contact us if you have any Hoard of Roman, Greek and Byzantine coins. Our company has been actively involved in the market of ancient coins and antiquities for the past six years; selling to the major dealers in the industry [...] We are always looking to purchase ancient coin hoards from the source. Please contact us if you wish to do business in this field. We are American ancient coins dealer, locate and operate from Orchard Lake city, Michigan.
Let's have a look at what Mr Alshdaifat is selling; a REALLY interesting array of items... Like this apparent hoard of Byzantine solidi, fancy somebody issuing an export licence for that (not mentioned up front in the sales offer, not even mentions where it comes from - still, an oversight I am sure). But he does say where one group of coins comes from, the Middeleast and Egypt, 10,000.00 COINS available, (is that ten thousand, or a "million"?) with another group being sold in smaller lots "Middeleast and Egypt". Another large group here too. (He forgot to mention the export licence here too). There are some quite "interesting" assemblages in the "dealer lots". I wonder if ACCG dealers have a discount?

My eye was caught by some shabti assemblages, I am sure the vendor will not mind me using some of his photos from the ephemeral archives of his V-coins store for the delight and edification of shabti collecting afficionados wanting to use such auction catalogues to collect parallels:

1) V-coins store: "10 Ancient Egyptian Blue Faience Ushabti C.600 BC. Size around 3 inches high .(7 - 8cm long) Rare items in great looking blue Faience (paist clay and glazed) Mummyform ushabti (servant for the next life) . perfect condition for the type, a real rare chance to get them in this condetion, Guaranteed Authenticity. this lot will be shipped from our office in Dubai Nefertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading Co P.O Box: 111301 Bar Dubai, Dubai. United Arab Emirates". Price US$ 1,300.00

2) V-Coins store: 40 Ancient Egyptian Blue Faience Ushabti C.600 BC, all written in the back, Priced to sell !!!![...] this lot will be shipped from our office in Dubai...". Price US$ 4,800.00

3) V-Coins store: 5 Ancient Egyptian Blue Faience Ushabti C.600 BC, all written in the back, Priced to sell !!!! Price US$ 600.00

These look rather familiar, the form of the objects and the hieroglyphs on the back are awfully reminiscent of the inscription as on a group of objects discussed here a while back... Who remembers the Wenneb shabtis that ethical dealers in the UK sent back to their (unnamed) suppliers when it was pointed out that they were a totally newly-surfaced type and a collector suggested on the discussion list that there was evidence that they were a newly looted type? Where did Mr A's (unnamed) associate in Dubai who had a whole boxload of them until they were sold through the "ethical" V-Coins store get them from? Mr Puetz, ACCG President, where do you think these items came from? If these are more of the Wenneb-shabti group, why is V-Coins selling them after their fellows were withdrawn from sale by ethical British dealers after it was pointed out on a major collector's forum that they were probably recently looted? [Of course it is a hindrance in the transmission of information like this that the Yahoo AncientArtifacts list is a closed access one, but I am sure they would be glad to let V-Coins dealers register and take part in the discussions of the seamier side of antiquities collecting].

One wonders if Holyland Numismatics' collaborator was able to obtain other items from this tomb along with this sackload of shabtis. Interestingly Mr Alshdaifat is selling a " Pair of Egyptian Mummy Bronze Eyes C.600 BC. Size of each eye 8.7 cm long. A pair of Bronze eyes inlaid with bone with eyebrows. mounted. 26th dynasty C.600-700 BC very nice pair, and intact exept there is one of the eyebrows was broken in one place and fixed" (560$). The photo shows them upside down, but they are also tomb equipment of about the same date as the shabtis ... How and when did they leave Egypt?

And while in the same region... aren't these ["lot of 32 scarabs, mixed from all Egyptian Eras.Gurnteed authentic"] some of ZZAntiquities scarabs that I discussed on Tim Haines' Yahoo AncientArtifacts Forum? They look awfully like them, same types and carving, same patina everything.

[Who is "Nefertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading Co "? I cannot find anything about them in the Internet. They have also been selling some odd looking Luristan weapons in a job lot]

I think it is worth considering why dealers supporting the ACCG are so unwilling to have the US retain any law which means that the barrier of bubbles at the US border is in any way tightened up for antiquities. Mr Alshdaifat has donated several hundred dollars worth of coins (and where did they come from?) to support the ACCG in its efforts to stop the US ICE looking at the paperwork of imported antiquities any more closely than they do at present. And look what is coming through, bucketloads of freshly dugup ancient coins for example, and Mr Alshdaifat's company "is far from the only guy bringing coins to the US market".

UPDATE 8th Sept: It seems somebody at V-Coins is not too happy about transparency, several of the links I give above to shabtis and some (chemically ? [re]patinated) Luristan swords and stuff have been deleted "this item does not exist" it says - are V-coins selling imaginary artefacts now? These links all refer to the items being sold by the mysterious office in Dubai. What is going on? V-coins had no problems with them being there before I mentioned them, why do they have now? Mr Puetz?

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