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!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.
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?
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?).