Monday, 6 February 2012

CPAC Backlash: Responsible Coin Scholars Watch Out!

It seems that a gubn'mint watch-list of the several hundred consistent US supporters of import of illegally exported antiquities is not the only possible result of the recent public comment process on the Cyprus MOU renewal. Now we are seeing attacks (here (Coin weekly attacks Texas professor), here, and here for example) on the more responsible members of the academic community that speak out against the threat posed by no-questions-asked dealing and collecting of freshly-surfaced dugup antquities.

The supporters of the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild and other dealers' lobby groups can't come up with any reasoned, informed or fact-based arguments at all and so they commit personal attacks and try to intimidate by making false statements and innuendo. These are absolutely despicable people. Jorg Lueke now accuses Harvard numismatist Carmen Arnold-Biucchi of having "joined" what he calls "the Radical Archaeologists". By this he means what we would call responsible numismatists, or simply a preservationist.

I firmly believe that out there somewhere behind the braying microcephalic and cognitively impaired coiney masses who are so easily swayed by the ACCG arguments there are decent people involved with coins and other portable antiquities. Indubitably there will be, surely, civilized people who study coins who have a social conscience, who think about the consequences of the actions of no-questions-asked collectors and dealers, who recognise that coin collecting can no longer ignore its wider context and can no longer refuse to drag itself into the modern age. They are difficult to spot however as they tend not to congregate in the same places as the loudly militant and more oafish ACCG followers.

One easy way of spotting the decent folk of course is to see who among numismatic ranks the propagators of the Coin Elf myth are attacking. So a few days ago the target of mob action was Nathan Elkins. Now it seems ACCG-affiliated coineys are going through the list of other coin scholars who spoke at the CPAC meeting and attacking them by trying to dig up the dirt about their past, any mud that might stick. The bigots are perhaps now going to attack every numismatist who attended that meeting one by one.

So according to Twin Towns Coin Club President Jorg Lueke, a man whom one would think from what he writes has a snow-white past, the "dirt" on Professor Carmen Arnold-Biucchi of Harvard is that she:
spent 18 years at the ANS before moving to her current job at Harvard curating the numismatic collections there.
The ANS eh? The one that has apparently been censoring its online records to remove as many references as possible to one of their most (until recently) most esteemed donors? Now I can see why people such as myself would see that as a matter for concern. Less clear is why a no-questions-asked collector should (unless, of course, he knows something about the ANS that I do not - perfectly possible of course, make a note of the possibility that there might be more revelations still). So what about other people like Roger Bland's good pal Rick Witschonke (unless he has resigned recently) who still work in the ANS? Uh-oh. Anyway, after using former employment at the ANS as criticism, Lueke continues:
I find it a little odd that a person who works with museum collections built and funded by collectors would side with radical archaeologists who would like to see an end to collecting on the pretext that this would stop criminals from being criminals.
I find nothing odd in anyone who works with collections made up of material which has come onto the US market being concerned to ensure that this market is being supplied only with coins that have been lawfully imported according to US law. Do you?

What I DO find odd (very odd) is that - to judge by the coiney reactions to the ACCG tub-thmping - so many US dugup antiquity collectors really could not give a hoot about whether the coins they buy come from a market which is regulated to keep out as much as possible coins that cannot be documented as lawfully exported from the source countries. I am sure I am not alone in thinking this is utterly incomprehensible and is a very telling indicator of the present state of the US market. Instead of attempting to criminal trade in cultural property, by their opposition to the CCPIA, these people indicate that they are quite happy to indiscriminately BUY these coins even if they've passed through the hands of culture criminals. Astounding behaviour from a hobby that claims to be legitimate and socially progressive.

Lueke certainly lost grasp of reality when writing:
In supporting import restrictions with no qualification Arnold-Buicchi joins the list of academics seeking to banish collecting. Now wait, you may say, collecting wouldn't be outlawed just the import of new finds. If it were that simple there would likely be no controversy but what makes this position radical is that it fails to account for a practical solution for all the licit coins on the marketplace that don't come with the type of documentation now sought as proof of legitimacy (export certificates or provenance).
1) Does Professor Arnold-Buicchi "support import restrictions with no qualification" or just those regulated by the MOUs referring to the CPIA? I suspect that when speaking at the CPAC she was referring to the latter.

2) I'd like to see this list according to the coineys of the "academics seeking to banish collecting" together with information why each of those names is on that list. I made one myself three years back, inviting additions from my readers, and received not a single one. This is a coiney bogeyman, not reality. I do not see any evidence from what was said about her CPAC comments that the name of Professor Arnold-Buicchi needs to go on such a list as number seven. What jelly-brained nonsense.

3) Lueke gives no justification for his own equation of "import restrictions" on imports of coins and the "banning" ["outlawing"] of collecting. Simply darkly hints: "If it were that simple there would likely be no controversy". Spot the weak [actually non-existent] argument.

4) Lueke says what makes checking imports coming into the US for documentation of lawful export a "radical (sic) position" is that "it fails to account for a practical solution for all the licit coins on the marketplace that don't come with the type of documentation now sought as proof of legitimacy (export certificates or provenance)". ["Provenance"? It seems Lueke has not read the CCPIA very recently, he's going on what the dealers' lobbyists are telling coineys rather than what the text of the Act actually contains - there is no mention there of provenance]. In reality the CCPIA does not interest itself at all with the "licit antiquities in the US market", just those fresh items dealers would like to put on the market in the US. Here the law requires them to demonstrate that they have been licitly obtained to the standards of the current US marketplace. What actually is the problem? Why does that seem any more radical than similar controls on other items, such as protected species?

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