Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Collector's View of the Conflict

Chris Rose, a previous correspondent with this blog, offered his own opinion on an ongoing Unidroit-L discussion about whether I should brave the naysaying lynch mob and attempt to take part in discussions with collectors and dealers on that list. He mentioned there that he felt I'd been a bit rude to him when he came here (which I accept I was, because it seemed to me at the time that he was an ACCG supporter trying to be disruptive). I wrote to him to apologise and received a long reply which I asked him to edit out certain remarks and for permission to reproduce here as it presents a somewhat different picture of part of the collectors' world than the one usually presented on the pages of this blog.

Hi Paul, It is nice to get a direct email from you. First of all, I am sorry that you are under various threats related to your blog. Sometimes people get caught up in an argument and lose basic human decency. You certainly have a right to speak out over your concerns. Collectors need to check our bruised egos and recognize that your freedom of speech is at least as valuable as our freedom to collect.

I think you have made some serious headway among a good portion of Moneta, people that largely communicate with me off-list. It is frustrating to me and others that the market offers no other real options to collectors than buying coins without evidence of legitimacy or stopping collecting all together.

A few months back I made a real push to see if I could build some collector concern around this issue by focusing on a collector's right to clear title to what they purchase. It may have appeared that I was wasting your time but I was taking your strongest responses and trying to inject them into the Moneta discussion. Unfortunately most of the list was caught up in a fit of pique at the thought that anybody would question their right to totally unrestricted access to whatever they wanted. They had plenty of attention for scurrilous accusations against you but no attention for your strongest responses, such as your demonstration that the AIA is not implacably anti-collecting.

You have a right to do as you like, but generally advocates of a certain position do well to make it easy for people to learn about their views. I really don't understand why you don't have a FAQ that lays out your main points and your strongest evidence. Combing through 4 years of blog entries is not an option for me or most people who come to your site for information. I read a good deal of your blog and it seemed to me -- incorrectly or not -- that your position varied. Having an explicit summary would have been helpful.

I am sure that most or all of the Moneta-L members are nice people in person. I suspect that many of them suffer from the inflexibility of viewpoint that comes with having many years under their belts. Some of them do sometimes seem to be extremists but then seem totally normal in other situations. I have spoken out out publicly several times against unhelpful statements about suppressing "anti-collector" blogs [...].

I appreciate that it was difficult to distinguish me from someone who was attempting to wear you down with feigned interest. But I am human. I really was operating with good will towards you (meaning that I respected your right to have your views and to call ancient coin collectors and dealers to task. And also that I respected your knowledge and was interested in learning more about the issue from your perspective) so the tenor of your response did hurt my feelings. But I am a big boy. Certainly it is no longer an issue after hearing your side.

I am a consultant. I live around the concept of win-win solutions. I do not understand why that phrase bothers you. Solutions that work for both sides in a dispute are much more stable and reliable than unwelcome solutions forced upon one party.

As I have laid out in various postings on Moneta, I think lack of provenance and site information puts collectors at much greater risk of counterfeits. It introduces criminals into our hobby. People that smuggle coins are likely also to be human traffickers, gun runners, and a host of other things that I don't want to support or be involved in. We are erasing the information that we need for our own studies. Not keeping provenance is not in the everyday collector's interest.

Is the absolute refusal of ACCG to address the problem of looting and provenance just a question of old timers not wanting things to change? Is it an ego battle? Or is dealers' profit dependent on illicit coins? Are 1% of coins on the market looted? Or 95%? I don't know and it really seems that nobody wants me or others to find out.

I believe that antiquity belongs to all of us and that individuals have as much right to collect ancient coins as organizations and professionals. But I also believe in the rule of law. I do not want to see archaeological sites ruined for a greedy grab at a few coins. I personally think that the British scheme should be adopted worldwide. But I cannot impose that solution. Countries not passing the laws I want does not mean that I am free to ignore the laws that ARE in place. We are adults, not spoiled children. I am tired of the tantrums.

Nobody is going to get everything they want in the issue of cultural property. I recommend negotiation. There are a lot of coins. There should be enough for everyone. Archaeologists and collectors should stand hand in hand around remaining pristine sites and ensure that all interested parties get maximal benefit from their study and excavation. If the interested parties don't come to agreement amongst themselves politicians will force some incomplete and fractured solution on us that doesn't serve anybody's interest.

That is my position today. It is a work in progress. I realize you feel differently. I am open to learning more.

I do not claim to be "enlightened". I am motivated by self interest and self respect. I too benefit from archeology. I do not want to be involved with criminals. I do not want to be tricked by counterfeiters. I am enraged at the thought that provenance is purposefully being erased. And I am enraged at the image of looted sites. And I do not like being played for a sucker.

I would appreciate an invitation to your blog. If it matters to you I will not share its content with anyone without specifically asking for your permission. However if you do not wish to invite me I respect your decision.

I would love to see a debate on Unidroit or Moneta. I think that you would find a decent amount of support on the list, particularly if you suspended the generic collector gibes ("coiney", etc) for a while. In any case, I wish you well in your current trials. I am a web systems architect. If I can be of assistance please let me know.

Best regards, Chris

Vignette: a rose for collectors with responsible attitudes.

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