Monday, 24 September 2012

US Coineys: 'Conspiracy' Behind Weiss Case Outcome

I noted earlier that there was almost complete silence from the coiney community (dealers in particular) about the outcome of the Weiss affair. I note now that there is one reaction in their blogs. The coiney Lobboblogger Peter Tompa warns: 'Reader Beware: Peter Weiss' Mea Culpa and Ancient Coin Collecting'(CPO Monday, September 24, 2012) urging that one must "acknowledge that the article was written under duress as part of a plea deal". This text however misses an opportunity to engage with the ideas Weiss included.

Tompa presents the text as in some way written in conspiracy with and even edited by "archaeologists" who told the writer what to say. Frankly, the idea is ridiculous - if this text had come across the desk of any archaeologist with experience of marking student essays, due to what it omits, this would have got a "3-" and the writer told to go back and look at the question again, plan his essay more carefully and do more reading on the topic before putting pen to paper. But obviously Dr Weiss is unused to this kind of writing.

In lieu of any proper discussion of the text, Peter Tompa pretends to be puzzled that the article "fails to mention some of the problems with the archaeological orthodoxy, including poor stewardship of coin finds by archaeologists and countries like Greece, Cyprus and Italy" which he would expect to find in an article on responsible coin collecting (really? that's like an article on responsible pet ownership going on about animal experimentation in pharmacological labs). The Lobboblogger also says that Weiss does not mention "that unprovenanced coins are widely collected in each of the countries for which the US has granted import restrictions". In reply to those two points, one might raise a third. Has Peter Tompa actually read Weiss's article? A fact "Cultural Property Observer" seems unobservantly to have missed is that both those points are indeed touched upon there, which make his pseudo-comments rather superfluous.

The "Chasing Aphrodite" bloggers raise the point whether it is ignorance which is at the heart of the coiney problem. One might add is the problem more one of sheer illiteracy. The New York judge should have required the text to be produced in comic-book form for those whose concentration is struggling after the eighth sentence of a text.

[Of course the MOUs do not require US importers to state "provenance" and I wonder how many times it has to be pointed in before the comic-book minds of the US ancient coin collecting community can absorb that?]

Also it seems Tompa has difficulty in understanding the notion that responsible collecting is not something that need only be applied only in the case of "purchasing very expensive ancient coins". I suspect he read little further than the title ("Caveat emptor...") and misconstrues what is meant to refer to the protection of the buyer rather than the finite and fragile archaeological resource from commercial depradations to fuel the no-questions-asked market. The destruction caused by digging up on an archaeological site a coin which Mr Tompa's dealer pals will sell for five dollars is of the same nature and order as the destruction caused if the coin later achieves in a sale a price tag tens of thousands times greater. A hole is a hole. 

A most disappointing reaction. When are US (and other) coineys going to get serious about responsibilities?  What chance is there of the US really leading by example here, instead of epitomisng all that is at fault with this trade in its current form?


Dorothy King said...

Wow - that's all I can think to say. A conspiracy ... wow!

Paul Barford said...

Worse, a "conspiracy" involving conspiring archaeologists.

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