Thursday, 30 September 2010

Memorabilia Peddlars Cash in While Sites Erode

There is an article in the Scottish Daily Express ('Ghouls cash in on Auschwitz as death camp crumbles away', Sunday September 26, 2010) about meeting the costs of the conservation of the remains of sites like Auschwitz. It starts with a discussion of collectors who pay large sums for Nazi death camp memorabilia:
The figures [for the money] changing hands in the ghoulish industry are in stark contrast to the financial health of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for, while there is money to be made by ruthless profiteers, the memorial and museum is running out of cash. The upkeep of a site that was by definition not meant to last, costs considerable amounts of money. As a visitor attraction, it is massively popular and more than a million tourists pay their respects every year. However, because the Polish government rightly classifies the grounds as a cemetery, entry charges are forbidden.
The Nazi death camps are a special case which illustrate a wider phenomenon. The costs of looking after historic monuments and ancient sites, management, conservation, preventing theft can be astronomical, and not every community and nation can find the resources to do this to the degree that each site and monument in their territory requires. Since the cultural heritage is a common heritage, to what degree should it be the norm that that the costs must be borne just by the community in whose territory a site or monument now lies? Should this not be an international effort, and to what degree and how?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

ACCG "Benefit Auction" in Progress

The ACCG has so far made most of the money it uses to fight its no-questions-asked corner by selling unprovenanced ancient coins donated by dealers (mostly) and collectors. The third such "Benefit Auction" is in progress on ACCG President Bill Puetz's V-Coins website under the somewhat controversial heading: "ACCG 3rd Annual Benefit Auction - Benefiting All Collectors". I would say it is extremely doubtful whether whether what the ACCG is doing is in any way "beneficial " to collectors of ancient coins in the long term.

Here is a list of the sponsors and the approximate number of coins they have donated to the cause of defending no-questions-asked collecting:

Dealers in Ancient Coins and Artefacts:
Beast Coins, LLC Zach Beasley New Berlin, Wi (47 in one job lot with "Syrian patina")
Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. Chicago (20)
Freeman & Sear Robert Freeman, David Sear, Los Angeles CA (17)
Pars Coins San Jose, CA (15)
Holyland Numismatics Salem Alshdaifat, West Bloomfield, MI (14)
Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. Lancaster PA /Old Bond Street, London, (12)
Roman Lode Ron Bude, Ann Arbor, Michigan (10)
Heritage Auction Galleries Dallas, Texas (9)
Aegean Numismatics Andrew Calderone, Mentor OH (9)
Byzantine Coin Store Larry Gaye, Beaverton, OR (7)
Ancient Imports Marc Breitsprecher, Grand Marais, MN (7)
Tom Cederlind Portland, OR (6)
Newgate Numismatics John Portanova Poulsbo, Wa. (6)
Wayne C. Phillips Rare Coins Diamond Bar, CA (5)
Kirk Davis, Classical Numismatics Claremont, CA (5)
Nilus Coins Bill Kalmbach, Austin, TX (4)
Sphinx Numismatics Youssef Mishriki, Markham, Ontario Canada (3)
Vaughn Rare Coin Gallery Chip and Al Vaughn, Alton, IL. (2)
William M. Rosenblum, LLC Littleton, Co. (2)
Apollo Numismatics Merrill Gibson, Culver City, CA (1)
Classical Creations (Dave Welsh's Classical Coins) (1 Roman coin in a necklace)
Clayton Rare Coins & Jewelry Mark Reid and family, Clayton, Mi (1)

Dr. Martina Dieterle
Schenkenzell, Germany (1)
Ponterio & Associates, Inc. Richard Ponterio, Irvine CA (1)

Collectors of Ancient Coins and Artefacts Supporting the ACCG
Anonymous (1)
Gary Bunclark, Ontario, Canada (1)
Jeffrey W. Depry, California (1)
Theodore J. Mussano, Jr., New Jersey (2 [one a lot of misc. coins])
Douglas O. Rosenberg, Indiana (1)
Peter Tompa, Washington, D.C. (3)

[The following dealers supported by donating only numismatic books (Neptune Numismatics, Andy Singer, Edward J. Waddell, Ltd. , while Wayne Sayles donated a website, VCoins five gift certificates, and Classical Creations some craftwork. Several collectors donated books (Mark Ames, Bob Langnas, James Pickering)].

The pattern of coins offered is quite interesting, it is notable that when the first selection of coins was posted up, there were very few with any kind of provenance or collecting history, some late arrivals had more "ex.... collection" labels. But even so, the overall showing in this regard is very poor. Several Durotrigian coins are listed as from the Isle of Wight Hoard, but no mention is made of the seller having copies of the export papers (which are needed from the UK for such material).

What is notable is the geographical spread of the origins (region of issue and circulation) of the actual coins. The model the ACCG prefer to promote is that all their coins come from "old collections" going back to the beginnings of coin collecting. If so, one would expect a large number of coins from the countries where this practice was particularly popular in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so a large quantity of coins on the market from areas where this was legal and popular, such as western Europe. In fact the majority of the coins on offer by the ACCG do not look like the sort of things that dominated in such western European collections from the 'Enlightenement' onward. My (admittedly - since collecting histories are lacking - subjective) estimate that it is well below 10% of the total of the coins on offer. There is however a high proportion of coins which look as if they come from areas where illegal metal detecting has been rife in the last few decades, "Thrace" "Moesia", a "Balkan mint" and the suchlike for example. There are many coins from the south of Europe and north Africa, from the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and further east (Parthians, Kushans, Huns, Seleucids, Sassanians). Where did these coins come from? When did they arrive in the US and how?

It is interesting that though the ACCG claims to be a guild of collectors, only five collectors (Tompa does not count) offered a few miscellaneous coins and another three some books, the bulk of the donations - some of them quite substantial, come from US (almost exclusively) dealers.

Looking at this we may pose ourselves the question, who is supporting no-questions-asked trade in ancient artefacts and what is their motive for doing so? To what extent is this benefitting collectors, and to what extent is it benefitting instead other groups? What harm would there be in collectors being able to buy coins and other artefacts on the US market that had been legally exported from the source countries?

Why aren't collectors asking the ACCG these questions?
What is the position of the Portable Antiquities Scheme on all this?

ACCG Third "Benefit Auction": A Coin to Watch


Lot 85 offered in the Third ACCG Benefit Auction is a pretty awful off-centre provincial coin of Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138-161) minted in Antioch ad Orontem, or a contemporary imitation of one. According to the seller it has an "attractive dark desert-green and brown patina". . ...TI A A ANTΩ..., laureate head of Antoninus Pius right / S · C within laurel wreath with medallion at the top; in field, Є; below, eagle standing facing with wings displayed, head right McAlee -; cf. Butcher 319. Well, I can't see any "eagle" on this coin. For the issue see coin dealer Beast Coins who has a range of them, some where you do not need imagination to see eagles where the epsilon is on this coin.

The "interest" of this otherwise unlovely piece of dugup metal is revealed by the seller - one Peter Thompa (sic) of Washington D.C. -
A note on the back of the collector's ticket that comes with this lot mentions that the coin was exhibited at the CPAC hearing on Italy that took place on 8 September 2005. If for no other reason than this, this coin should command a strong bid as it is a piece of historical memorabilia in the fight to protect collector rights!

So the object has some kind of accompanying documentation and collecting history. It was presented to make some point or another at a meeting about controlling illegal exports from source countries. It is inconceivable that an illegally imported object would be presented to the committee in such circumstances and its owner would be able to demonstrate its wholly legitimate origins if challenged. Presumably then its own provenance is impeccable. The auction description does not say so, but can we assume that this ex-CPAC object comes accompanied by full documentation of legitimate provenance? Mr Tompa, can you be more transparent about where this coin came from and how its new owner can be sure that it was not originally illegally obtained?

UPDATE: it failed to reach the $75 estimate, it went for $46 dollars.

Photo: A coin presented at a meeting in the US State Department presumably with impeccable credentials, now being sold in support of the ACCG's no-questions-asked trade policies (Photo: ACCG).

Initial Motions in the ACCG "Test Case" now Before Baltimore Judge

Coin dealer Wayne Sayles ('Briefing Completed on Government’s Motion to Dismiss Test Case') announces that
"The initial motions in the ACCG test case in Baltimore are now before the judge for determination of the next phase. It should be emphasized that the 132 pages of filings attached here are merely the opening phase of this case that will determine whether the case continues. In view of the approach taken by U.S. attorneys to date, it is very likely that the ACCG, U.S. State Department, U.S. Customs and the Department of Justice will be engaged in this litigation for a considerable period of time".
Of that we can all be sure. Peter Tompa explains that the matter is now whether matter comes into the jurisdiction of a court at all. In June "the Government asked a US District Court to dismiss the ACCG’s test case, claiming that the State Department’s [...] decisions to impose import restrictions on Cypriot and Chinese coins were not subject to judicial review". The ACCG insists they are. Interestingly I do not recall the ACCG members and other collectors being explicitly told of the setback in June to the ACCG plans, if this is not a case of lack of 'transparency' in the ACCG itself, I must have missed it.

It now seems therefore that this case is being split into three different elements, the fate of the seized illegally imported "test case" coins with which it began (which has its own complications), whether or not the ruling that may or may not (this too is subject to the court's determination) apply to them was "capricious and arbitrary") - which was the original aim of the test case, and now whether the latter falls under judiciary review at all.

As I said earlier, the State Department is running circles around these clowns. It's a good job that the ACCG's declared assets are apparently much higher than the money it has earnt from two 'benefit auctions', I think this case is going to cost dealers and collectors a pretty penny. Let us remember the fight is all about whether coins imported into the US from source countries should have a piece of paper demonstrating legal export.

For what it is worth, copies of the parties’ briefs (without exhibits) can be downloaded. Whoopee.

On ‘saving’ the Crosby Garrett helmet

Barendina Smedley on her 'Fugitive ink' blog has (among other fascinating stuff) a beautifully written and thought-producing post "On ‘saving’ the Crosby Garrett helmet" which raises a number of points about the wider significance of the find and in particular the issues surrounding its sale and what is likely to happen afterwards. She has not quite, I feel, captured the relationship between the finder, Christies and the PAS, but that is a minor quibble. Well worth a read. She mentions this blog in passing, characterising my own coverage of the case "well-informed bleakness and pessimism of a very high order indeed" well, how else can one write about the current state of antiquity collecting?

Meanwhile in another blog post I forgot to mention earlier, Nigel Swift asks "what nobler use could there be for lawyers?" in his post ("The Crosby Garrett Helmet (Hiccus!)") discussing how the taxpayer is now probably going to have to fork out a lot of cash to honour a contract drawn up seven years ago (?) between landowner and metal detector owner.
There is more than enough on the net about the magnificent Crosby Garrett Roman helmet and the one thing anyone Googling it will realise is that everyone – whether they are a detectorist, archaeologist or human being – will think the reported circumstances of its alleged discovery, form, removal, provenance, secrecy, find spot, restoration, marketing and reporting are mighty rum – and that all of those are all the more concerning in view of the fact the system we have means that we have to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay to the finder and landowner else they might squeeze it under an export ban and heroically sell it to the highest bidder abroad.

What goes on Inside a Collector's Home?


Dorothy King has posted on her blog a photo she found in Vogue of the interior of the home of Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, and there on the shelves in the living room is Marc Anthony's collection of antiquities, mostly single Greek pots it seems. The picture is not very detailed, but we can see on the shelves in an alcove (blocked window?) some 16 complete (or maybe reconstructed) pots, some phials (glass?) and figurines (?).

Here we see a 'candid' shot of an antiquity collector's collection in the domestic setting that is its natural environment. What conclusions can we draw from this?

My first thought is of course where did these objects come from? What criteria were applied during their acquisition? What documentation of collecting history was collected with them, and where is this documentation now? Are the objects labelled in any manner which would allow an executor to associate objects with documentation kept elsewhere in the house?

My second immediate thought on looking at this photo concerns the curation aspects. This is not a good way to display fragile items like this. They are shown poised on shallow shelves in the corner of the room, tucked away behind a sofa and some kind of display stand, probably containing another "cultchur'l" object. Anyone squeezing past (for example vacuuming behind the sofa) or just wanting to get closer to admire or study them would endanger these objects being knocked off the shelf onto the (bare wooden) floor below. The objects are not protected from dust or any other airborne pollutants. This is important because of course one of the most frequent collectors' mantras is that by taking them into their homes collectors are looking after the objects (they omit the other component- information associated with them) better than if they were "shut away in a dusty museum storeroom". Although the Anthony/Lopez home does not look at all like the sort of place children would be noisily playing, cats running about, a budgie let out of its cage, some collectors probably do live in such places like the rest of us normal folk. Let's have the objects people keep at home properly protected from mishap, deterioration and damage by responsible collectors (collectors taking responsibility for the objects they look after).

The next question, and one I think we should all be asking about why people collect, is what does this collector "do' with these artefacts? The fact that they are on open shelves with no intervening glass might suggest that the collector wants to have (or wants his his guests to have) an uninterrupted view of the items. That the important factor is the visual effect. Also it allows them to be taken off the shelf for fondling and show-and-tell to impress guests.

Another collectors' mantra is that by collecting unprovenanced artefacts they are in some way "honouring" the ancient culture, and learning about it. Some even go so far as to say they are studying these cultures and contributing to our knowledge of these cultures. Can we see any evidence of that here? This is just a loose collection of different types of objects, which if we could see closer I suspect will also turn out to be from different regions and dates. There is no duplication of form, so perhaps the collector has adopted a "one of each" approach, to get a "representative sample" of several cultures or something like that (he's a few pot types missing, I cannot see any amphorae or cooking pots). So he's not attempting to get a study collection together of a particular type of object or art style.

It looks to me as if these items have been collected together not so much as a study collection (where broken bits would be just as useful) but as decoration. Decorative "cultcher'l" geegaws. As for studying the artefacts, with the exception of the decorative one open on the stand by the pots, we note not a single book can be seen here. Perhaps Mrs Lopez banned books from the living room and they are in another room of the house, but then why is the study collection in the living room if the tools for its study are in another room?

In what kind of study of these artefacts is Marc Anthony involved, if any? How many collectors of ancient Greek geegaws, pots, figurines, glass, pottery, coins and jewellery actually do study them any more than looking in books and catalogues to see who has got one similar to theirs and what else would "look nice" on their shelves (and how much they cost)? How many of them actually produce any publications at all of what they hoard in their homes? When there was a gathering of public submissions about a bilateral agreement with Greece over illegal antiquity exports, some nine hundred collectors wrote to object, many of them claiming this would prevent their "studies" on such material. How many of them have ever written anything at all on the results of any research they have done with the aid of the objects they hold, and what kind of research is actually involved? Could the ACCG produce a bibliography of contributions to knowledge made by their members that would contain the names of even thirty percent of the people who are visible on the US government website as having objected to the US/Greek MOU on these grounds? I doubt it, I really do.

By the way, I noted from one of the online versions of the article that Ms Lopez had placed a fur stole on the coat stand in the hall before the Vogue photographer arrived, it seems like they are both making a statement about their lifestyle and attitudes to issues which others consider important. They employed an interior decorator whose other projects have included such items as pairs of elephant tusks "tastefully" mounted. Hmmm.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Petition Progress: Keep them coming

In an earlier post here Greece Cultural Property 2010: Please Sign a Petition Too, I announced that a SAFE petition had been set up and invited blog readers to sign it and persuade others to. I am pleased to see that many have, I see the names of the great and good, the Director of the CBA (thanks Mike), his US counterpart Brian Rose, John Carman, David Gill, Ton Cremers, Kathryn Walker Tubb, Francis Deblauwe, Chuck Jones, Donny George Youkhanna, Roger Atwood, Cindy Ho, a goodly number of British archaeology pals and ... some British metal detectorists (thanks Pete, Tony, Kevmar and all the rest of you - not seen Gary yet though) . Why, there is even a rebel from the ANS (nobody identifiably from Bavaria though), let's have some more coin collectors!

So far there are 420 signatures, so we've already topped the number of public submissions to the Department of State in support of an MOU. This poor turnout was probably due to poor publicity beforehand, let us show that more people would have signed if the DoS had made its request for opinions more widely known. Let us see just how many we can collect before 12th October. Now if only we could get Jennifer Lopez (a great fan of ancient Greek culture apparently) to Twitter it...
Please also sign the petition in support of the US-Greece bilateral agreement to protect cultural heritage of Greece against illegal export.

Here's why:
And tell everyone who cares to do the same.
Spread the word.

Monday, 27 September 2010

How to Avoid Buying a Medici Piece: David Gill Under Attack Again

There is an interesting thread on Tim Haines' Ancient Artifacts discussion group in which plot against David Gill of "Looting matters" which seems worth bringing out in the open. One collector of Greek pots etc. is told by another (ACCG's John Hooker) who specialises in another field:
I'm glad I do not have to endure what you do with that Medici photos business. Villains holding unpublished incriminating photos, looking for people to control, or turn into criminals? It's like something out of a comic book.
The latter then expands on who he had in mind:
If you are considering buying something that you feel might be included in the Medici archive, and you know that David Gill has access to this archive, and uses it to point out illicit objects then due diligence must include asking him if it is the archive. If it is, and he does not tell you, then I cannot see how he would not legally be considered an accessory to a crime. In any case, you would certainly be protected as you would have met the requirements for due diligence. If you do not check with him after knowing this, you have not met the requirements for due diligence -- it is as simple as that.
The archive of photos of items held by Medici ad his associates is being used, it is alleged for nefarious purposes, according to the collector on the Yahoo discussion list:
As far as I know, the archive has not been made public and is being used for "industrial espionage" purposes to damage the reputations of dealers and auction houses and have an adverse effect on their ability to conduct business. I would imagine that eventually the auction houses would launch a civil suit over this naming all of the involved parties -- but it is also possible that this activity is extra-legal and could come under police scrutiny at some point.
"Extra legal" seems to be the new no-questions-asked collector's buzz word.

So how to buy antiquities and avoid having your piece revealed as a looted piece? Its not really as simple as asking a researcher if the objects are on the "Medici and Associates" archive, for who is to say that a "Firanelli" or "Ravioli" (made-up names) archive of similar photos of similar implications will not surface next week? Surely the point is to avoid buying artefacts which can later be revealed were looted, which really means buying artefacts which the seller can demonstrate came from somewhere else, from a legitimate source.

John Hooker indicates that "archaeologist Raimund Karl who is also a specialist on
"Heritage" matters" has suggested that one way for a collector to avoid being caught with looted material on his hands is "to send yourself photographs and details of everything in your collection in a registered envelope. Keep it unopened as proof that by this date, you were in possession of these things". That really does not help, the question is not what somebody has acquired by a certain date, but where they acquired it from. Bangor University heritage specialist Mr Karl seems to be getting confused.

I think the gist of this discussion on the Yahoo list is buying looted or potentially looted artefacts is not the real problem, the real problem is how not to get caught doing it. That's the self-declared "responsible" collectors' forum. No wonder they keep that sort of discussion closed away where normal folk cannot see it without registering.

Bavarian Authorities Hoarding Stolen Antiquities?

I was looking here the other day at the effects of Bavaria's no-paperwork-needed legislation for the antiquity trade after the coineys persuaded Bavarian Minister Zeile to intervene with the US Government to attempt to persuade it not to require paperwork from Bavarian dealers. Today the breaking news is that Bavaria has just been successfully sued by the Republic of Cyprus, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of the Maronites and the Church of the Armenians to retrieve stolen antiquities, which had been in the custody of the Bavarian authorities since 1997. They had filed a civil law suit before Munich District Court in 2004 to retrieve the objects which had been stolen from Cyprus’ northern Turkish occupied part of the country.
The antiquities had been found in 1997 by the Bavarian police, hidden in between walls and under the floor of two flats which belong to a Turkish national, Aydin Dickmen, in Munich. Part of the findings include religious icons, part of mosaics and pieces of Byzantine frescoes of priceless historic, cultural and religious value. Since these were located, the government and the Church of Cyprus had made several moves to have these artifacts repatriated. The moves did not yield any results and it was decided to file a civil law suit before the German courts. On Thursday, 23 September, Munich District Court issued its decision on the law suit against Dickmen which vindicated fully the Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus.
See also: Elena Theofanous, 'German court orders return of stolen icons, just days before 30-year deadline expires', Cyprus Mail 27/9/10.
and Demetra Molyva,How the Cyprus Weekly Helped Church Recover Religious Work of Art, MSN February 14, 2009.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

F.E.N.A.P. The Federation of European Professional Numismatic Associations.

It was F.E.N.A.P. (The Federation of European Professional Numismatic Associations) that persuaded Martin Zeile to expose Bavaria's lack of readiness to combat the flow of illegally exported coins across its borders and to take on the US government. Who are they? Despite its pretensions to have numismatic clout, it seems they are a relatively secretive organization, having no obvious website of their own, setting out its organizational structure, aims and whether or not it has a Code of Ethics. According to the BNTA website FENAP is an organisation for numismatic trade associations in EC countries formed in 1991.
The purpose of this new (sic) body is to work together for a common system of value added tax on coins within the EEC, to pass on details of stolen property and counterfeits, to liaise on auction and coin fair dates and other matters which would be appropriate for such a group following the opening of the single European market on 1st January 1993. apparently considers one of these other matters to be attempting to prevent the US government applying measures laid down in the 1983 CCPIA (the legislation enacted in 1983 to implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970). I think we may conclude from this that FNAP does not consider such means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property particularly helpful for the coin trade.

FENAP's members are given on one website as: the Verband Österreichischer Müntenzhändler (VOM); Association Belgo-Luxembourgeoise des Numismates Professionels (ABLNP), the Danish 'Monthandler-Sammenslutningen af 1975' (MSA-75); France is represented by the Syndicat National des Experts Numismates et Numismates Professionnels (SNENNP); Then there is the VDM (Verband de Deutschen Munzenhandler); Numismatici Italiani Professionisti (NIP); the Nederlandse Vereniging van Munthandelaren (NVMH); Asociacion Española de Numismaticos Profesionales (AENP); the Sveriges Mynthandlares Förening (SMF); Britain is represented by the BNTA (British Numismatic Trade Association) while the Swiss VSM (Verband Schweizer Munzenhandler) is an associate member since Switzerland is not a mamber of the EU.

Oddly there seems to be nobody from European Union Member States: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, in FENAP. Perhaps many of them are treated as source countries for dugups and it would be problematic giving them a voice.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Bavaria: Looter's Paradise?

In the middle of September, at the behest of the Federation of European Professional Numismatic Associations and perhaps the local Münzmafia, Bavarian Martin Zeile (Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology) proudly informs the US Government that dealers in ancient dugup antiquities "apart from very few exceptions" do not need any documentation of legal export from the source country, nor any to ensure legal export from the state. I remarked: "so basically if you are a Greek looter and have a bucketload of 'hot' coins on your hands, obviously the legislative framework of Mr Zeile's state invites you to stick them in the post or hop on a train" and take them along to the many dealers based in Munich. Then I recalled that there had actually been at least one such case recently:
Among the items returned from Germany included 96 copper and ceramic pots and vessels, dating from the 3rd or 4th century BC from Thessaly, in northern Greece. Officials said the items were seized by customs authorities at Nuremberg, Germany in 2007 in a truck arriving from Greece.
Then there is the case of the Munich connection in the case of the Eid Mar denarius bought by the London office of coin dealer CNG:
It was June 14, 2005, and McFadden was expecting them — one of them, anyway. A small-time Munich coin dealer of Greek extraction had called to say he had an EID-MAR coin to sell.
The transaction however was questioned by Greek and British authorities.
[...] The man who sold it to CNG turned out to be a Greek national with a criminal record for trafficking in stolen antiquities, and the transaction was arranged by a Munich coin dealer who once worked for a notorious European trafficker, a member of a Munich cartel whose looted treasures found their way to studios, museums and auction houses around the world. A CNG executive said his company had no idea. [...] neither British nor Greek officials (nor CNG) are disclosing the identity of the seller or the coin dealer who accompanied him to CNG's London office.
So how did it get to Munich then?

When the 60 kg (19860 items) of ancient coins shipped out from Bulgaria to the US was seized at Frankfurt airport in 1999 for some reason they were sent to the Bavarian jurisdiction where they were released back to the sender (how, why?), and then very probably the coins entered the US market as a result (Frankfurter elektronische Rundschau zur Altertumskunde 7, 2008, p. 4). Where are these coins now?

Another coin-related case was the "1991 hoard" which R.J. O'Hara mentions in passing here
largely dispersed through a series of auctions in Munich” (Ashton and Kinns, 2003: 8). This putative “1991 hoard” was probably deposited soon after 200 BC, and it contained, in addition to Persic-standard didrachms from the 250–200 BC period, fresh drachms naming ΕΧΕΚΡΑΤΗΣ, ΜΙΝΝΙΩΝ, and ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ (one of the last of the didrachm magistrates), as well as fresh hemidrachms naming ΒΟΙΗΘΟΣ (noted above), ΔΕΙΝΟΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, ΕΧΕΚΡΑΤΗΣ, ΜΙΝΝΙΩΝ, and ΠΟΣΕΙΔΩΝΙΟΣ.
The reference given is Ashton, R., and P. Kinns, 2003. Opuscula Anatolica II. Numismatic Chronicle, 163: 1–47. How did it get to Munich? Well obviously no paperwork being required there helps get loads of illegally excavated and illegally exported objects onto the market. Where are these coins now?

Partly because of the large numbers of Turkish Gastarbeiter in the region, Munich has also become the most usual stop-off point for antiquities smuggled from Turkey. This has been going on for a long time. A notable case was was the infamous Elmali hoard (and here) of almost 2,000 silver coins dating from the 5th century BC which was unearthed in Turkey in 1984. The coins had been sold in Istanbul to a consortium of Munich dealers and then these objects were bought from them for $3.5m by a partnership whose main investor was the Boston millionaire William Koch.

We also recall the case of Munich based dealer Aydin Dikman, a central figure in the looting and selling of Cypriot treasures ('From Cyprus to Munich') in the 1990s. In apartments owned and rented by him, police found Cypriot frescoes, mosaics, and icons, ancient coins, Precolumbian pottery and stolen paintings. Police estimated the artworks and artefacts to be worth more than $60 million.

David Gill discusses in his "Looting Matters" a number of cases of apparently 'hot' antiquities found in Italy "surfacing" on the market which involved dealers based in Munich. An early example is the Fano Athlete which had been acquired by Munich-based dealer Heinz Herzer (with the Artemis Group) in 1971. He discusses an amphora apparently illegally removed from Italy being sold by another Munich dealer. Munich was also the home of the Italian dealer Nino Savoca, mixed up in a number of controversial cases, such as the ivory face from Anguillara.The links of Munich dealers with Operation Ghelas are also noted.

Munich dealers are involved in other cases recently discussed here and on "Looting Matters", like for example the Mesopotamian gold vessel being sold by Münzenhandlung Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger of Munich. The verdict of one commentator was discussed by Gill:""Germany has become a hub for the illegal international art market".

Given that background, there seems something extremely disturbing about Minister Zeile's complacency about the trade in antiquities like coins in Bavaria not requiring any paperwork to prove legitimate origins.

Perhaps instead of just looking at the export papers of Greek artefacts from Greece, and in light of Minister Zeile's protests, in their efforts to prevent looted artefacts reaching the US market, American authorities would do well to look very carefully at the transactions between US suppliers of the antiquity market and their Bavarian business partners. There is at least one coin dealer from no-paperwork-required Munich who deals directly through ACCG President Bill Puetz's V-Coins store.
Vignette: Bavaria, which requires no evidence of legal export for imports of ancient artefacts like coins and thus has long been a looters' paradise and the Minister of the Economy isn't at all concerned.

Pieces of the Past and the MOU

The Pieces of the Past blog has a piece on "A New MOU, Same Misinformation" its author is an antiquity collector but can see where the dealers in another kind of ancient artefact have been leading their sheep astray. As I noted earlier, very few collectors of other Greek artefacts joined the naysayers against the MOU - why is it that just US ancient coin collectors are such ignorant philistines unable to sift the true facts out of the dubious arguments and sheaves of misinformation offered by the coin dealers and the ACCG?
Vignette: Why do US collectors of Greek pots (for example) not have the same problems with comprehending the actual implications of the CCPIA as collectors of ancient coins?

Munich Coin Dealers and the Bavarian Minister Lecture the US Govermnment

Martin Zeil the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology sent an official letter to the US State Department declaring Bavaria's opposition (sic) to inclusion of coins in any cultural property MOU the US Government might consider signing with the government of Greece (reference V/1 - 6715/24/1 16.09.2010). What an extraordinary document! The Minister informs the State Department that he opposes the United States government signing any kind of agreement with Greece about the import of illegally exported antiquities from Greece, because:
The proposed restrictions (along for similar ones being considered for Italy) would negatively impact the legitimate numismatic trade between Germany and the United States of America and also people to people contacts between US and German citizens.
The letter was apparently written at the instigation of Dr. Hubert ("cash is beautiful") Lanz, President of The Federation of European Professional Numismatic Associations. The Minister explains that in Germany
there are around 100 auction houses, more than 500 retailers and estimated more than a half million collectors of old coins. Moreover, a considerable number of them are located in Munich, and are engaged in trade with customers the United States.
Let us note: upwards of six hundred coin dealers making lots of money from selling ancient coins, many of them based in Munich. But let us note the implications of this estimate of five hundred thousand collectors, which presumably comes from Dr Lanz. Germany has a population of 82 million, this means that one in 164 is a collector of old coins. The US has a population only four times that - some 310 million - and only 50 000 collectors of ancient coins (one in 6200). So if the supply of illegally exported ancient coins to America is a concern, what about the size of that German market? Minister Ziel then goes on disingenuously to admit:
apart from very few exceptions, no licence or permit is needed in Germany, neither for import to Germany nor for export from Germany of coins. If the import of certain coins into the United States required an export licence granted by authorities of the export country in future, this requirement could not be fulfilled by German retailers. Legal trade would then hardly be possible between Germany and the United States.
Look at that, no paperwork at all involved. The epitome of no-questions-asked antiquity dealing. So basically if you are a Greek looter and have a bucketload of 'hot' coins on your hands, obviously the legislative framework of Mr Zeil's state invites you to stick them in the post or hop on a train and go and see the Münchener Münzmafia. No licences needed for legal trade in Bavaria Minister Zeil says, and what German collectors don't snap up can go straight to the US market without more ado. What a coin looter's paradise Bavaria must be, Mr Zeile must be so proud of his homeland's part in free trade in the world's "liberated" portable antiquities, rivalling the position of Wisconsin. So basically what is the fuss across the Atlantic about the MOU for anyway? Probably most ancient coins illegally exported from Greece coming to the US are not coming from Greek destinations at all, but through Munich ("Moreover, a considerable number of them are located in Munich, and are engaged in trade with customers the United States", I bet).

Mr Zeil, did you fully understand the implications of the letter you signed? Were you made aware of the clause in the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act concerning the alternative to an export licence which applies to goods legitimately on markets outside Greece before the date of the implementation of the Act (CCPIA s. 307[b] [2])?

Vignette: München Kleines Stadtwappen, the Münchner Kindl: a Munchkin lecturing the US Government. What further entertainments will the coineys come up with next? Bottom: Martin Zeile, supporter of Munich's lucrative antiquities market.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Public Submissions to the Greek Cultural Property Request

This link was in my sidebar while the public submissions were being accepted, but it was taking up space there (I put it in "Apologists and Propagandists of the Current Form of the No-Questions-Asked Antiquities Trade etc.", presciently as it turned out), so I'm moving it here for future reference. At the time of writing there were 1347 comments. In a post below I have a last (?) look at them. I expect we will be hearing about the oral presentations on October 12th later.
Public Submissions on Notice of Receipt by the US State Department of Cultural Property Request From the Government of the Hellenic Republic (Docket DOS-2010-0339)

Numbers, Numbers: Public Submissions on the Greek Cultural Property Request

A few days ago I presented the results of my study of what people were writing to the CPAC about Greece's request to the US to help with illegal exports of antiquities. On Friday 17th September there were 440 comments, about half of which were in favour of the request, half from coin collectors (alone) against. Over the weekend though it seems that the coin dealers mobilised collectors to begin a fresh onslaught and some 1060 comments resulted in the next three days. Unlike the posts of Friday - these posts were mostly against the proposal. Sampling suggests that over that weekend only c. 130 were 'for' and c. 930 against. On 21st (the day before the period for submissions closed) there was a drop in overall numbers from 474 to 222 and a slight improvement in the proportions. On 20th only 10% of the comments were for the proposal, on the 22nd 33% were. The full number of posts made on the 22nd may not be visible at the moment - the total is 1347 which means that 200 posts were added on the last day. This still means that the coineys have probably made somewhere in the region of 970 comments opposing the MOU as opposed to 377 US citizens and others in favour of restricting antiquity imports from Greece to those which have been legally exported.

I think both sides will be sorely disappointed with these figures. In the case of the Italy MOU, the coineys were claiming they'd mobilised some 1900 collectors to oppose it, the number of coineys taking part in such initiatives has now halved. In the case of the Italy MOU, the numbers on our side were not known. The United States of America has a population of 310 million - can it be true that in 2010 only c. 380 of them (about one in a million) think that the trade in their country of illegally exported artefacts from the Classical world is unacceptable? Perhaps we should not be surprised about this when a Federal judge reckons that looting archaeological sites on state-owned lands is "justifiable". Maybe America needs a Portable Antiquities Scheme to make people more aware of the issues. Mind you, the short time when the submissions could be submitted and the fact that the story seems not to have been covered by any national paper or mentioned by Glenn Beck would also account for most people in the US probably being completely unaware that this matter was in progress. How to get greater public participation in the future? Certainly I would not be in favour of the AIA or SAFE or any of the other groups working to help protect the archaeological heritage using the same shameless tactics of misinformation that the ACCG and coin dealers adopted here. That really gets the public debate nowhere at all.

Do the numbers matter? Do the CPAC actually pay much attention to these submissions, or is it just a charade they ritually enact so "the people" think they have a hand in government? The short "let's get it over with" timespan coupled with a lack of wider advertising suggests that getting a wide range of public responses is not at all important to the State Department. Do they even read them, or do their eyes glaze over the thirty ninth time they come across Peter Tompa's five points presented by a writer adopting an "Oj You!" tone towards the Committee and claiming to be discriminated against?

UPDATE: Both Peter Tompa on his blog"Coiney" Win in Comment Quest Exposes Greek MOU as Limited Special Interest Program {uncharacteristically even giving a specific link to my actual words) and Dave Welsh have drawn attention to the estimate of the proportions between supporters and detractors of the MOU. They blame the drop off in coiney contributions since the Italian MOU fax-bombing on the "cumbersome" website which they suggest is inferior to the V-Coins (sic) fax-wizard. Tompa notes:
given the exceptionally low level of discernable public support for the MOU, are such controversial new import restrictions and all the problems they visit on CBP, collectors, dealers and museums really worth it or is it time to negotiate a MOU collectors, dealers, museums and archaeologists can all live with?

And what form would that take? And what would its point be? In the end however it is not numbers that count, but the reasons why the MOU should be signed which matter and it is that which the CPAC is appointed to assess.

FURTHER UPDATE (28/9/10): John Hooker repeats my analysis, and comes up with a slightly lower figure (71.2% of 1347 is 960) of submissions in opposition to the MOU.

Cultural Property Concern: a "Cancer"?

US Antiquities dealer Wayne Sayles claims that what he calls "cultural property nationalism" is like a cancer - "abnormal and malignant". That does not prevent him from making money selling ancient artefacts though. He likens the idea of people wanting the cultural property of their country being available in that country for study and appreciation in being a "cult-like fanaticism" to "the Spanish Inquisition, Bolshevism and the National Socialist movements". I think Mr Sayles has not quite grasped the issue - seeing it only from his own purely commercial viewpoint as a dealer in the cultural property taken, perforce, from other countries. For him there is something perverse in the idea that modern states have some form of control and responsibilities towards expressions of culture within their territory, including "all of the tangible elements of the land's cultural history—even when it has no demonstrable link to the present". His prose gets even more colourful, at the expense of clarity:
Like the nationalist movements of earlier ages, Cultural Property Nationalism relies on government oppression to achieve its aim of domination and control. Consequently, a process of infiltration and manipulation lies at the heart of its agenda. This oppression, as historically has been the case, is masterfully couched in egalitarian terms — even though the objectives are anything but. It is often accompanied by historical revisionism. The actions of nationalist government, when they inevitably run counter to the will and interests of the majority, are typically defended by a non-government group that is perceived as trustworthy and benevolent. These surrogates are often brought into the nationalist fold as "stewards" of the associated tangible property. [...] The proponents of this [cultural property nationalist] view have, with great skill and cunning, chipped away at age-old private property rights and have graduated from a subtle ideology to a controlling force. The process that has worked throughout time is working for Cultural Property Nationalists today.
But how can the dealer portray protecting and restoring the cultural heritage as "counter to the will and interests of the majority"? In what modern country is that the case? On the contrary it is the will of the people of countries deprived of important parts of their cultural heritage (Greece with its Parthenon Marbles, Nigeria with the Benin Bronzes, Egypt and Iraq robbed of thousands of antiquities) to get them back, and it is "enlightened countries" like Britain and the USA which are refusing to acknowledge those claims. From where do we need to excise the "cancer"?
The cases of nationalist excess that history preserves for us have all been reversed by a cataclysmic event. While the domination of nationalism comes slowly and insidiously, it is typically expunged in rapid fashion when the masses refuse to accept it. Cultural Property Nationalism is doomed to the same fate...
only when culture and cultural identity cease to exist, Mr Sayles, but then nobody will need dealers and the antiquities they sell, or museums that house them. I suspect that for a good while dealers like Mr Sayles seeing little in cultural property than how much they can make on selling it, reducing it to a mere commodity, like potatoes, will be a sad anachronism, a throwback to the world of colonialism and disregard for the inhabitants of other lands and regions. Before insultingly labelling those concerned about the future of a region's cultural heritage as a "cancer", perhaps Mr Sayles and others who treat it in a purely exploitive - trophy-hunting - fashion need to place themselves in the position of those their deeds deprive of their cultural heritage and the means to understand it in their own lands.

What we have learnt from the Greek Cultural Property Request

Looking at the 1347 public submissions concerning the Greek Request for the help of the US government in detecting illegal imports of antiquities from Greece, we might draw a few general conclusions.

1) In terms of numbers, if we consider quantity rather than quality to be a measure, we can see that the coiny philistines “won” this round.

2) However, this time we were able to see for the first time what all the coineys were writing. What is remarkable is that in their submissions most of the coineys revealed they had not the slightest idea what the MOU would do (“you must not make the collecting of coins of Greek Type illegal” was a typical theme) or what the CCPIA actually says and how it works (a point to which I return below). This cannot fail to escape the notice of those assessing these submissions.

3) We were also able to see from the content of what they wrote how important in getting coineys to put 'pen to paper' were the series of 'dirty tricks' which the coin dealers' lobby played throughout. There were alarmist mails sent by some dealer directly to their clients, misleading them into thinking what was proposed was something totally different from what the CCPIA says. We can now see that several hundred coin collectors less well-endowed with critical thinking swallowed the bait and wrote off as directed. Most of them mainly restricted themselves to citing almost word-for-word the five points which lawyer Peter Tompa had drafted for them. When the coineys were flagging, another thread would be started on their forums, another inflammatory blog post would be produced, finally hired help John Hooker got his pompoms out and chivvied them along as the final days approached. All this is despite the fact that a single email from the Greek embassy was loudly trumpeted by the same lobby as “evidence" that public opinion was being “manipulated”. Obviously the coineys do not think that what their leaders were doing was manipulation. In the last two days, sixty percent of the peak of public submissions were coming from coiney naysayers.

4) I noted there were very few submissions from collectors of Attic pottery, terracottas, statues, weaponry or any other collectable type of Greek antiquity protesting the eventual imposition of controls of the propriety of export of antiquities being imported from Greece. Why not? They too would be affected by the MOU. Surely every single point made by Tompa and his fellows applies to just about every type of antiquity of Greek type, so why do dealers in this sort of thing not feel that only being restricted to legally exported antiquities will in some way damage the existing trade? Why is it just coin dealers that are alarmed that the US customs might be looking at the export documentation of the fresh items they want to add to their stock? Where in fact is that coming from?

5) Let us also note that in the case of the Italian request when the coin dealers applied similar dirty tricks (then as we recall it was "all collecting of all Roman coins from anywhere in the Empire" that was allegedly at stake) the ACCG managed to get about 1900 faxes sent to the CPAC from collectors all over the world protesting against that happening. Today the numbers are half that - has the ACCG cried wolf once too often? The ACCG estimates however that there are 50 000 collectors of dugup ancient coins in the USA alone. Where are the rest? It cannot be argued that 48 000 collectors do not have computers or internet access since that today is a fundamental means by which ancient coins are distributed. So where are the opinions of 48 000 collectors who – the ACCG would argue – would be affected by the proposed measures? Might it be that the “50 000” is a gross overestimate of the numbers of collectors and that the number is in fact some five times less? Or is it that only a minority of collectors allowed themselves to be led by the nose by a group of dealers whose actions over this matter might well be interpreted as indicating they have an interest in US customs NOT looking too carefully at what they import? Could it be that 48000 US collectors of dugup ancient coins welcome a measure which would mean that all the coins of Greek origin on the market have come from legitmate sources and only less than a thousand are unhappy about such a prospect?

6) Let us note that in not a single piece of writing justifying “why you should help us oppose these measures” do the dealers and their supporters actually set out in black and white what the hated CCPIA actually says (with links so their readers can check for themselves) and what it actually means to the flow of coins onto the US market. Why not? Looking through the nine hundred or so coiney submissions, the overwhelming impression is of a group of people who have been underinformed, and actually misinformed (and also could not be bothered to find out for themselves).

7) A haunting implication of this is that it reveals indisputably that the US collectors of dugup coins of the ancient world are in fact totally ignorant of the legislation applicable to that activity – not only that of the countries from which the coins come, but also their own country. Furthermore since the false information which they are duplicating is being given to them by the dealers in this kind of antiquity (as we have seen) the implication can only be that the dealers too are ignorant of the legislation themselves (something that I have remarked upon earlier comparing what they say the laws in countries like Greece lay down with what the laws actually say).

A while ago I suggested that the ACCG could do its members a service by collating all these laws and making them available on its website, this idea was dismissed at the time, but perhaps it is something the Ancient Coin COLLECTORS’ Guild needs to look at. Perhaps the collectors gathered there could produce for concerned collectors a ‘ACCG how to’ guide to the legislation and ethics of (at least) ancient coin collecting. These laws are after all fundamental to framing the extent of the "collectors' rights" the ACCG claims to be fighting to uphold, why not set them out for the benefit of the collectors?

Heritage Action issues a sincere apology to metal detectorists.

Well, it was bound to happen wasn't it? After all the attention the heritage group Heritage Action (surprisingly almost single-handedly) has just issued a sincere apology to metal detectorists:
We are very sorry to say we have missed marking a very auspicious occasion a few days ago…..

The moment when our Erosion Counter indicated that the number of finds removed from our fields and taken home by metal detectorists (the great majority not being reported) since the Portable Antiquities Recording Scheme was set up slipped past the FOUR MILLION mark.

In our own defence we’d have to plead the fact it all happened in complete silence, and no-one else (including PAS) mentioned it – and anyway our figures are not only speculative but “completely ludicrous“.

Or are they? By how much would they have to be wrong to make the losses acceptable? But it is the supporters of artefact collecting which would like people to think that the HA erosion counter is ticking away at an unreal rate - but if you work it out, what it shows is that each ('statistical') detectorist adds just 30 recordable items to their collections from the fields of Britain over a year. As we saw the other day, some metal detector using artefact hunters can find five to ten Roman coins and goodness knows what else in a single weekend. If anything, I think the HA erosion counter is an underestimate.

Not all Collectors Unquestioning: Discussion of the Hooker-ACCG Agitation

Tim Haines, the list owner of the Yahoo Ancient Aretifacts Discussion list likes to keep outsiders out, that way they can pretend they are all "responsible" collectors there and nobody will know what they are really up to in there (do register and have a look - it is quite an eye-opener). Despite the pretence, he is quite amenable to its use by the no-questions-asked dealers lobby (often in the person of Dave Welsh and ACCG hired-help John Hooker) for spreading anti-preservationist propaganda among its member however. I have discussed below Hooker's efforts to turn the tide of public opinion in a post over there. The reaction to this kind of thing tends to be sombre acceptance of the nonsenses trotted out by the agitator, if anybody questions the glib statements they are quickly shouted down by a small group of self-appointed Guardians of the Truth. This time however the reaction was quite intense. Outspoken collector Adrian (I do not know what he collects, but is obviously well-read) had a few cogent words in reply to Hooker which seems worth quoting to show that there are some discriminating minds in the artefact collecting milieu:
Thanks for providing the link. I will write stating that anything that the U.S. government can do to help preserve the outstanding artistic and archaeological legacy of countries such as Greece and Italy (so-called "source countries" - an obscene phrase) should be done; especially actions which will put an end to the rampant looting and subsequent export (loss) of the ancient historical treasures of these countries. I will write in favor of this MOU and any other action 'source countries' may take to defend themselves against these cultural crimes.
By the way I have never read so many specious arguments in one document. To compare an ancient Greek vase to a table lamp is simply ridiculous and please spare us the sob stories of ladies dying in jail, etc. Your attempt to invoke the "Founding Fathers" and stir up the usual blind Yankee patriotism is definitely a sign that you have no reasoned arguments left. Your employer, the ACCG, is a commercial enterprise, pure and simple, and as such its arguments are tainted. It's funny to see that coin collectors have now become "amateur and private researcher(s)" - what a crock!
Hooker merely remarked in reply "Well, doing something is better than doing nothing" (though that depends on what that "something" is) before engaging in an ad hominem attack on Adrian which its not worth discussing here. Collector Ramon commented on the ACCG-Hooker nonsense with some amusing spoof versions. Hooker had supplied one of the several versions of the accounts of Roxanna Brown's final hours, and Adrian correctly observed that Hooker was "using this death for your own purposes. So please don't pretend to care about her. Ruthless self interest is revealed!!". Adrian continues:
Are you unable to argue issues without resorting to ad hominem arguments? Apparently not. Why don't you make an effort and write a post without libelling someone. "The rest is too absurd to warrant comment" - translation: I have no comeback to these arguments.
That actually sums up the situation with the ACCG very well. Sayles, Tompa, Welsh, De La Fe, Hooker and all the rest are simply unable to argue their case properly when robustly challenged.

As a result of Adrian questioning his "too many lives have been lost" line of argument, Hooker had attacked him in the following manner: "I find it interesting that you have no empathy for humans and yet have a strange "empathy" for inanimate Greek pots. This is an extreme form of materialism. I am so glad that I am not you". A collector of Egyptian antiquities followed this up rather neatly I thought:
I have empathy for the Greek people. Their cultural heritage is being destroyed by looting, smuggled out of the country, and sold off to collectors every single day. Many of them make their way to the US. You call Adrian materialistic? Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?? Coin collectors are fighting tooth and nail to be able to continue, unfettered, to buy, own, and sell (for profit of course) bits of other countries' heritage. Who's materialistic here?? I'm so glad I'm not you! That's not to say that there aren't coin collectors who do use them for study, there are to be sure. But the same can be said of any other type of antiquity as well, and I don't see collectors of any other type of antiquity pitching a fit over the current MOUs. Coins have historically been traded without provenance. The same can be said about other antiquities here as well. But as the provenance has become more important even those that were previously unprovenanced are now getting their paper trail. Why can't the same be done with coins? If dealers started documenting their items now, they wouldn't have to worry about any future MOUs, and buyers could be assured that they are not buying something freshly looted.( I know Dave [Welsh]'s argument- Too time consuming, will take up too much room for paperwork. Sorry, that argument is just lame). I see no problem with the Greek MOU ( or one with any other country for that matter). It's time the US government said that it will not let US citizens profit, monetarily or otherwise, from what is illegal activity in another country.
It is notable that that was a collector speaking, recognising that a collector cannot be in competition with those whose cultural heritage these objects also represent, who recognises that the days of collecting like Petrarch and colonialism are over, who wants to look forward with vision rather than backwards. Hooker has yet to reply.

Gentle reader: Do register with the "Ancient Artefacts" discussion list and have a good poke ariound in its closed access archives, there are some really eye-opening texts there for those who want to find out more about the real face of the antiquities trade and those who collect them. If the site really was dedicated to responsible and ethical collecting of course, there would be no reason for the archives to be closed at all, would there? You'd be surprised what goes on 'behind those closed doors' - or perhaps not.

Water Newton Rally IV: Finds Rate

When the Water Newton (Chesterton) was being held under the supervision (sic) of a team of archaeologists the project leader one David Connolly reckoned he'd got the tekkies handing in most of the finds, and on that basis claimed that metal detecting does less damage to the archaeological record than its critics assert. The rally has since gone on without him, and the fourth season has just finished and a detectorist (one Raymo from Middlesborough 232 km from Water Newton) has gone on one of their forums today jubilating about the 'haul' :
hi all,,,got back on sunday night after 10 day's detecting,,,(sort of ,,to much drink)started of at the chesterton rally on the thursday,it was a very good rally for find's, every one i spoke to had 5 to 10 roman bronze,...i had a couple of hammy's, a silver celtic unit,a roman brooch and some bronze roman,...then stoped at a camp site where the owner allowed us to detect for 3 day's,,,i got 3 hammy's,another roman brooch and a potin.,HO,,ALSO FOUND FOOOOUUUR GOOOOLD RING'S,,,(((but that's another storey which i'll post later))..
Connolly (2006 p. 9) had 240 finds from 116 reporting finders (roughly two finds each, but much lower if you take into account the number of detectorists participating) which he considered was "the majority of those who had found something recordable". So there is more or less Roman finds in the topsoil after three rallies and an unknown amount of 'nighthawking'? I have always suspected Connolly's assessment of his success rate was over-optimistic, if what "Raymo" says is true, it looks like there are grounds for stating this with more certainty.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The last day of public submissions the CPAC about the Greek Cultural Property Request

Well, the number of public submissions especially by coineys has been mushrooming since ACCG's John Hooker started waving his pompoms. My eyes start to glaze over now I open the next one so I've not been reading them all. Most of the time stop reading when I get as far as: "as a coll...". I was interested in a couple though. We've discussed John Rieske here a number of times, he tells me that he once studied and worked in archaeology but is now a collector. So I was intrigued to see what he might have written. Here it is (I'll stick it up here as there is no way of telling how long the public submissions will remain visible to the public) after the submission process has closed:
To Whom It May Concern: The Greek MOU has a great potential impact upon millions of US collectors and Dealers, who, for the very vast majority have been law abiding citizens and residents of the nation. America is a nation built upon laws preserving individual rights and property. These rights are now endangered by a foreign state based upon the premise that the United States Government should be responsible to enforce laws that they themselves are unwilling or unable to enforce. If you pass the MOU on in its present form, you will turn a large population of the citizens and residents of this nation into de facto criminals without the benefit of courts or juries, nor even the opportunity of defence. The truth is that Ancient Greek coins, were minted in many lands beyond the borders of the present state and circulated even more widely. the vague nature of the MOU request from Greece does not even clearly state exactly what are the limits of their request. Such requirements mean that should this be forwarded, that one would never truly know what is covered and as a result the Greek government could apply their laws arbitrarily in our country. Suppose they decide that a memento that was an heirloom in your family came under the letter of their law and thus demand its return to Greece without compensation to you or your family and then they turn it over to a merchant or dealer from their country to sell for his and the their government's profit? Suppose as well that you be arrested here for the violation of a law in Greece, that did not exist at the time this memento was removed from Greece. That is exactly what these laws imply and as such are a violation of everything that has been guaranteed to us as US citizens. Say NO to these countries asking our country to enforce their laws for them. They are corrupt, they are wrong, and if you agree with them you will be guilty of the same unjust actions as they.

Oh yuk! I guess the guy has not read the CCPIA and failed to note what s. 307 actually imposes. Neither does he seem to have registered that the designation is clearly published, and it is on that basis that the act is implemented. Greece is only too willing to "enforce laws" about export of antiquities (that's why dealers want to skip round them), but of course if something is clandestinely removed, the victim perforce does not see it, but the customs offices at the other end of the journey should. The two "memento" arguments will immediately show the CPAC that the author has not the foggiest what he is writing about, we are talking about export documentation of objects freshly entering the US, not items that have been there for generations. Note then that before the author gets ratty with the State Department, he says "this is what these laws imply" when of course everybody in the CPAC and State Department knows that this is not at all the case. Once again a coiney has been made to look a fool by believing the ACCG propaganda and not checking the CCPIA out for himself... Sad, but true.

Then there was the reverend who warned that if the US agreed to Greece's request something called "Biblical Numismatics" would be wiped out. Do Bible readers also buy illegally exported coins in such quantity then? What IS "Biblical" numismatics anyway? Coins of Solomon and David anyone? Is there a Koranic numismatics, a RigVedan numismatics, Book of Mormon numismatics maybe? What a weird notion.

Some guy called Dr Robert G. Gage informs "To Whom It May Concern" that he opposes any "restrictions on imports of foreign coins from Greece":
I oppose such a ban largely on the grounds that if not for American collectors, a vast amount of these ancient treasures would not have been cared for properly and might be lost to generations to come. Please consider who collects and cares for these coins properly. Without the American market many of these items would remain unearthed and eventually decay and be of no use whatsoever. Please do not enact this ban.
"Ban"? There, and we all thought that American collectors buying up loads of coins without taking any care that they are not looted is damaging, when in fact they are SAVING them from lying there in their archaeological layers where they've been safely preserved two thousand years and they'd be remaining UNEARTHED !! The horror of it, leaving archaeological sites undamaged for future generations, eh, Dr Gage? How could we? [Of course we all know that there are NO Greek collectors or numismatic museums are there who can look after these coins, it's up to the Americans again to 'save the world'..]. I am sure that like all collectyors, Dr Gage will protest that like archaeologists and conservationists he is "opposed to looting" and would never condone it - but then statements like this make one wonder just what these collectors mean when they say that, and what they think the purpose of 'opposing looting" of archaeological sites is. Weird.

Arne Kirsch is a "Sworn expert in court for numismatic" (sic). He reckons that:
These discussed restrictions are unfair and discriminatory to Americans. Collectors in the EU--including Greece-- have no similar limitations on their ability to import ancient coins. Coins -- which exist in many multiples-- do not meet that particular statutory criteria, which is a “term of art. (sic) I deal in many cases in court and in private cases as a sworn expert and these restriction policy has nothing to do with the reality and is just supporting a minor group of archeologists.
Greek ones at that, foreigners. Greek ones that are concerned about the number of sites that are being plundered for artefacts of all types which are then illegally exported. By the way Mr Arne as a court official, you should know that it is not actually true that here in the EU you can legally buy ancient artefacts illegally removed from another EU country.

Another bloke we've come across before is Wayne Sayles' business partner John C. Lavender of Moneta Numismatic Services, Inc. (as in coin dealers Sayles and Lavender). Compared to the effort Mr Sayles has been putting into retaining the "right" to buy illegally exported coins from Greece without US Customs poking their noses in, Mr Lavender's contribution to the effort looks decidedly half-hearted:
I am writing to oppose the extension of the MOU with the Hellenic Republic if coins have been added to the list of items prohibited as I do not believe the Hellenic Republic has met the criteria established by the governing statute requiring non-discrimination against American coin collectors and dealers.
And if not? To which "governing statute" is he referring the CPIA? Where does it talk about "non-discrimination against American coin collectors and dealers"? Surely US coin collectors and dealers are not going to be "discriminated against" if they are penalised for buying illegally exported ancient artefacts like the rest of us.

I loved the one by a George L. Beke representing "Urskola" (can't work out what that is...). He pleads:
Please do NOT impose import restriction on coins of Greek type. Currently, I'm doing research on ancient Greek and Roman religion and cosmology. Without access to Greek coins, such research would become almost impossible.
Ah a "researcher", we've heard those arguments before. Now is it impossible to study Greek and Roman cosmology and religion without coins? Is it possible to study them solely on the basis of privately owned coins? I would have thought that given the number and quality of the written sources that survive, not to mention the archaeological evidence (such as temples etc.) that coins were only a relatively minor part of the evidence (and mainly illustrative of the written sources rather than being our main source of information). Then I found a webpage where George L. Beke presents some of his results. That's what some of this coiney research looks like, huh? That is what archaeological sites are being trashed to enable? Can't he write this sort of nonsense without clutching a coin in his hand then?

In contrast to these sorry examples of coiney dullness, the contribution by Patty Gerstenblith is a fascinating and thought-provoking document and well makes the case why the US would be placing itself in an awkward situation if it refused the to agree an MOU with Greece after signing the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Required reading for those that can cope with big words - the US coineys of course will not bother.

FURTHER UPDATE (28/9/10): John Hooker later commented on the characteristics of the submissions of the two opposing groups. He says: "The difficulty, with these submissions, is that they were not for a single issue. The majority of those who supported the MOU seemed unaware that there was such an issue over the inclusion of coins". Well, there is not, coins are archaeological artefacts as much as Greek arrowheads, finger rings, earrings, etc. and were lost and dropped at the saame sort of locations. If people are supporting an MOU against looting of Greek artefacts then it will include coins, which are one of the main artefact types men with metal detectors are looking for. There should be no "issue" with this at all - the only problem is that no-questions-asked dealers and collectors will not accept this.

Hooker concludes that what the submissions of the supporters of the MOU did not include "virtually to a person -- was any consideration of a valid opposing view"; this is of course entirely the case with the submissions of the coineys who rarely strayed betyond the six points laid down for them by the dealers' lobby.

Hooker, while pretending to have adopted an objective approach, misleads his readers he says of the supporters of the Greek request: "A lesser number of them, gave personal accounts of seeing the effects of looting..." which is true, and then sneaks in: "... or said something to the effect that they would like to continue doing archaeological work in Greece..." which is totally untrue and has been inserted to support the "only doing it out of fear" postulate explaining why archaeologists oppose looting and the illicit trade in antiquities. Many of the supporters said their observations were made while they had taken part in fieldwork in Greece, but no mention was made, "in effect" or otherwise to support the "scared of withdrawal of excavation licence" thesis. This is typical coiney misrepresentation

ACCG Propagandist Waving His Pompoms

It would seem too many coineys have been reading the relevant material and asking awkward questions and the usual ACCG culprits could not cope with keeping up the smokescreen on their own. So as John Hooker, former black propaganda and yellow journalism specialist puts it

"Wayne Sayles requested my help about a year ago, he did so because he knew of my previous work in championing the causes of the amateur and private researcher. I've been doing this sort of thing since 1995".

Hooker now gets paid by the ACCG for editorial and writing tasks in aid of the organization. He immodestly informs collectors of dugup coins:

I am very good at getting support for the ACCG and can run rings around anyone at the AIA. You are not organized and have no one fighting for you. You will have to do this for yourselves. This last weekend was hectic, with everything else going on, I still had to look at a few drafts of the ANA press release that its author sent me, while donning my cheerleaders uniform and waving my pom poms about to counteract the AIA spike on Friday.

This is the event to which he is referring no doubt. So he is claiming the surge of coiney comments which followed the lull to be due to his efforts with the pom poms. Hmmm. Anyhow he now has a special message for coin collectors wondering whether the ACCG has been leading them all by the nose:

As often happens with this sort of thing, the real issues have been been confused to the point that that are barely recognizable any more, Because the clock is ticking and you only have today and tomorrow to make your opinions known to DOS, I am posting this so you can have a chance to present a well-thought out response.

Oddly enough, Mr Hooker does not provide any links to the Act itself so that coineys can check for themselves where it says what the Canadian pom pom man says it does. Obviously the coineys are expected to take his word for it. In other words telling them what to say:

First of all, this MOU is not about Greek exports, it is about U.S. imports. I defend any nation's right to limit or totally eliminate exports as they see fit. I might think them hare-brained, or that they could come up with a more efficient plan, but the bottom line is that it is up to them to do what they think best. To do otherwise would be to grant them no sovereignty.

Mighty big of him, eh? But it appears that Mr Hooker feels the need to dumb down to extremities (presumably considering that considering the bilateral agreement between the US and Greece would be about two things would be beyond the mental capacities of his coiney audience). In reality, those of us who have read the CPIA more than superficially know that the bilateral agreement would be about the import of items which have been legally exported. If it has been legally exported, it comes in, if it has not, it stays out of the US market. Seems simple enough to me.

Second, In this case, the subject is not about restricting U.S. imports from Greece, it is about restricting objects by type, rather than by port of exit.

No it is not, it is an agreement between the US and Greece (SECTION 307. [23] IMPORT RESTRICTIONS. (a) DOCUMENTATION OF LAWFUL EXPORTATION.- duh). Clear as punch in black and white for the oafiest oaf to read and understand. Why not give them the LINK Mr Hooker? Try giving them a reference to SECTION 305. [16] DESIGNATION OF MATERIALS COVERED BY AGREEMENTS OR EMERGENCY ACTIONS (1) too. They can read can't they? Anyway:

The ACCG is against this because responsibility is shifted from the state to the consumer. We are disturbed about this for many reasons, but I think that one of the most important reasons is that chain of ownership of coins is something that has not been maintained for centuries. It is most often impossible to establish.

Eh? The responsibility is shifted to the exporter (which in most cases will be the seller) to conduct the export procedure properly so the US consumer can be sure they are buying legally exported goods. I cannot see why collectors are up in arms against that. Perhaps they are led by their observations of the market to think that if their dealers were prevented from buying illegally imported material, the supply of coins on the market would dry up as quickly as you can say "ethical portable antiquity collecting".

Mr Hooker should be telling collectors that what the collector has at home or what is already circulating on the internal market is not of any concern to the CCPIA, this act as any fool who reads it can see is wholly restricted to the issue of what is imported by the dealers (which is why the DEALERS are unhappy about it). As a result, the "chain of ownership" issue is totally irrelevant here, all that has to be documented (again by the exporter) is where a coin was a few years before the MOU is signed. But then if a dealer (both the one doing the selling and the one doing the buying in order to supply his clients) doing due diligence cannot establish that, then he cannot place his hand on his heart and say he knows the object had not been looted in the last ten years, can he? So, basically if he's an ethical dealer (and they all assure us that they all are), he should not be selling it anyway. There is of course not a word of this in what the ACCG are telling their members. Not a word.

Vignette: Hooker and his pom poms?
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