The coin collector hiding under the pseudonym "Drumax" challenges:
Here, lets use an example, here is a very common coin: http://www.cachecoins.org/theodosius.jpg Is this coin a "new dug-up"?Here is the coin he ventures. Sadly there is no description to tell us what we are looking at, what the condition of the surface is, what is in those crevices. Let us assume that the obverse and reverse are indeed of the same coin (apparent different blank shape may be due to manipulation of the image and lighting).
This is precisely the kind of coin I discuss (the 'second coin') in Holes in History, for what? .
The owner of the pictured coin surely should be in a position to tell us when the coin entered his collection and where it came from. What steps were taken by the buyer to ensure that it was of legitimate origin and had not been removed from an archaeological site by clandestine excavation and then illegally taken out of the source country?
Where was it dug up? The 'SMK[' mintmark tells us it was minted in Cyzicus. LRB Coins of Cyzicus were in circulation right across the Empire, but were of course more common in assemblages from some regions (and at some periods) than others. Despite the collecting of hundreds and thousands of these coins however the fact that they pass into numismatic collections without findspot data means that there are probably few studies
of these patterns by private heap-of-coins-on-a-table numismatists. They are more concerned to have a "piece of the past" to fondle and look up in the many typological catalogues. Published hoards and coin assemblages from archaeological sites
Where it was dug up of course is important in ascertaining what was done with it. The manner of cleaning used on ancient coins as they passed on to the trade may give a clue. Since coineys have been collecting material since the days of Petrarch, one might expect that there would be literature on this (such as that in region x, such and such a method of cleaning was used in the 1920s and 30s, but then they started using method B, which we know had been used in other regions since the 1890s). Sadly such information does not seem to be available yet. It is difficult to see from the muddy colours of the photo what the surface of this object now consists of. It looks very much as if it has been stripped down to the bare metal and maybe after that "toned" for aesthetic reasons. Certainly this is no crusty corrosion layer. The way the photo suggests that crevices are eroded out suggests some kind of chemical or electrolytic cleaning was used. Beyond that, from the evidence of a muddy photo one cannot say more.
So basically from the information Mr "Drumax" presents about his coin, one really cannot say
whether it was or was not a newly dugup object or anything about how it gort from the ground onto his website. It is an anonymous decontextualised piece of metal. The point is however that all over the region where such coins were in circulation we (and collectors) may assume there is ongoing looting of archaeological sites, in the coiney market world-system there is illegal movement of antiquities out of so-called "source countries", to the markets of other countries. Therefore surely the only responsible thing for an ethical coin collector to do is only admit to his collection items which come with verifiable documentation of legitimate provenance. Otherwise they make a collection of decontextualised bits of metal of undefinable provenance, and in the process do nothing to halt the destruction of evidence about the past through the workings of the no-questions-asked market.
It is not up to me, Mr "Drumax" (and here the collector's own anonymity may be noted) to say whether a particular coin in your collection was looted five years ago on such and such a site or not. It is up to you surely, to justify why you felt comfortable adding that particular artefact to your collection. It is up to the ethical collector to acquire artefacts which guarantee the hygiene of their collection. Who would want to risk adding tainted objects to their collection, bringing them into his home, asking a bank maybe to look after them? What kind of a person would do that?
Photo: "Drumax's" Cache Coins website.