Monday, 13 December 2010

Opposing Viewpoints: Swift tackles Drumax

I'm putting this up here as I think it raises a number of good points. On the back of some personal attacks on me last week by Californian coin dealer Dave Welsh, somebody claimed I'm not "permitting" opposing viewpoints here on my blog. Conveniently one "Drumax" (presumably a coin collector rather than metal detectorist because he can spell) then a flurry of long posts "from the peanut gallery" as comments to one blog text. There are lots of "permitted" opposing views there for the reader to wade through. Lost near the bottom of the verbal onslaught is a text by Nigel Swift to which it seems worth drawing attention since it seems to cut to the core of the rationale behind what seems to be the main theme of "Drumax's" "opposing viewpoint", if one can define one at all. Here is Mr Swift in full flow (quotes in slime-green are the collector's words):
Drumax, for someone that [asserts he] isn’t defending Mr Welsh you provide a very vigorous impression of someone that is!

You say –
I could use the disingenuous answer and challenge you to prove that even a single one of the coins Mr. Welsh sells was not legally or ethically obtained
I don’t need to. He has announced to British archaeologists assembled (on Britarch) that he is not willing to ensure that they are and that he is not willing to fit in with PAS’s advice to collectors to not buy unless they are sure! So, he is doing what I accuse him of, he admits it.

You say -
when people use the term ethical and then raise themselves as the authority on what is and isn’t ethical, the reality is seldom as black and white as it is in the mind of the person on the soap box.”
First, you didn’t mention illegal, which I did. Why? I take it we are agreed that a dealer who doesn’t make sure what he buys isn’t illegal when it is illegal is separated from being a looter and a crook only by his own air of wide-eyed innocence?

As for unethical, if a new dug-up from my country is being sold elsewhere without a record of where it was found etc being supplied to the public in my country I think that’s unethical at both ends. And totally black and white.

You said –
tell us exactly how this can be done in the present or future. Tell us how a dealer is to ‘ethically’ source their coins
Speaking for my country that’s easy. Sell no recent British dug up without a PAS reference number. I’ve suggested to Mr Welsh he does that. He refuses. See, it IS black and white. No doubt there are things that must be nuanced, but at least accept the totally obvious unethical dealing that is going on and call for an end to it.

Go on, surprise me and him. Tell him and his lawyer and every one of his customers in public that no PAS number = unethical and damaging to my country. It's not rocket science. Why haven't all those tens of thousands of US collectors not been told do you suppose?
I would like to point out that in his comments, "Drumax" (not a real name) claims to have read a lot of my views on this blog, but in fact for the most part what he presents as his opposing views are not so much "views" but speculations on what I think, interspersed with vaguely-rhetorical questions, the answers to which are (in my opinion) in the many many words on this blog.

If we try to summarise what the collector is saying, it comes down to something like: there is a trade in coins and its a good thing, and it could be worse and we don't really see how we can change it, so we will not. That's basically of course what the UK metal detectorists argue. I am not sure that is an opposing viewpoint as such, but it does confirm what I say about the approach of collectors in general and their own inability to reflect on what needs to be done and themselves advance possible solutions which they themselves can work to achieve. They tend to suggest all the time that this is a problem "somebody else" (like "the archaeologists") should deal with - and on which public money should be spent so they can be left alone. The justification for spending public money to legitimise a private activity is nowhere offered, except that "coin collecting is a good thing".

Mr Welsh's thoughts on PAS recording can be found on the Britarch archaeological discussion forum on which for a brief period he tried to convince members to support his "internationalist" views. Most notable of all about this exchange was that UK metal detectorists (also represented on this discussion list) would have nothing to do with him. (!) Wayne Sayles tried the same thing shortly afterwards on Yahoo's Archaeology Theories, Methods and Practice discussion list, but only succeeded in annoying people there too.

For more on Welsh, see here, here, here, etc. here too ("collectors view this demand for provenance as a disguised attempt to ban collecting. If enforced, it would have exactly that effect": Collectors or no-questions-asking dealers?).


heritageaction said...

Drumax is very tiresome. He reminds me of all those metal detectorists that forced the closure of the PAS and Heritage Action forums by pretending it was hard to behave ethically.

Discussion is a bleak exercise when it becomes apparent that people are not talking ethics per se, merely using the discussion to defend wrongdoing and avoiding having to reduce the amount of commercial activity by the tiniest amount.

Far from not allowing opposing viewpoints you are remarkably tolerant to allow self-interest to promote itself here. We’ve recently pretty much given up doing that on the Heritage Journal and have put up this notice –

“it is appropriate to clarify that the Journal is not a democracy and is part of a conservation website set up to promote and facilitate our own conservation agenda, not a facility provided to enable public debate upon whether conservation is important – so postings that advocate any other approaches to heritage or otherwise (in our judgement) conflict with or adversely impact upon our aims are never welcome.”

Undemocratic ? Yes! Selfish, anti-social, hypocritical and exploitative? No.

For me, having seen his ilk ad nauseam, Drumax’s claim that ethics are grey not black and white is like a neon sign of where he’s coming from and what he’s up to. And the suggestion that the problem is down to dealers being unaware whether any of their stock comprise recent UK dug-ups shows him up for what he is even more clearly. You’re best off without him, as is the British archaeological resource.

drumax said...

That is what you call a swift tackle? Well, the bar isn't set that high is it? You could if you like link to my response to that (but that would be fair and we wouldnt want that and after all this isnt a discussion forum) best leave it as is to be honest, most wont need me to point out all the obvious flaws in the statements and the myriad questions that arise concerning this very real world issue that requires logic and not impassioned idealistic drivil not to mention his assumptions and accusations in no way based in reality.

I applaud the passion of this person who goes by the name 'heritageaction' because I agree with the sentiments but sadly passion often equals a lack of any substance and common sense. It seems we are all protest and no real solutions. A shame because I can assure you most collectors of ancients would love to have full provenance on all their coins and would not be a party to looting. Keep up the good fight guys.

heritageaction said...

"I can assure you most collectors of ancients would love to have full provenance on all their coins"

Well that's demonstrably untrue. See my message about buying recent dug-ups without PAS numbers.

As for your praise cum distain for my idealism I'm rather more grounded in reality than you seem to believe (and a lot more than you I suspect, as I'll explain)- although I do confess to seeing things in black and white. Take me and you. I think it is wrong to deplete without good reason and optimum mitigation. You buy from those who do it and have expended a lot of effort here saying you can't help it. You can. You do not say what is true.

I take it you are American? I suspect I know a lot more about your British suppliers than you do, having made them my main full-time focus for ten years of retirement (idealists can garner a lot of practical knowledge, you see, so don't necessarily arrive at conclusions that can be dismissed as not grounded in reality). You on the other hand are probably buying comparatively or entirely blind - and telling the world and your conscience your suppliers and their suppliers and theirs are fine fellows or at least you know nothing adverse against them. I do. It's not me that's the idealist, it's you. You are projecting an idealised picture of the market in which you are involved. It's actually the gutter (honestly).

Paul Barford said...

I think we are getting a bit lost here who is talking to who, maybe "Drumax" (not his real name) could help out by indicating to which text and by whom he is answering any one time.

He castigates somebody (me?) for not putting in the link to where he answered the text I cross-posted up here gave the link to the latter and the intelligent reader can scroll down below it to see how it was answered. For the scrolling-wheel-challenged, I now include a direct link to Drumax's original response:

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