Thursday, 4 October 2012

US Coineys Have Drawn a Battle Line

The Art Newspaper has a brief text on the ACCG court case against import restrictions on illegally exported coins from several foreign source countries. This has driven a huge wedge between amateur numismatists and the academic community.  Instead of closer collector-academic collaboration and a greater concern for ethics and due diligence within the trade:
"the battle lines have been drawn with experts and academics on one side and collectors and dealers on the other," says Nathan Elkins, a professor of Greek and Roman art at Baylor University
At the centre of the storm is bitter old ex-dealer Wayne Sayles who complains:
In its endorsement of extreme archaeological-community views on cultural property and the transfer of ownership, the State Department has essentially branded ethical and law-abiding collectors en masse as looters and thieves.
Sadly the Art Newspaper is not very interested in asking the old moaner just what he means by "extreme archaeological-community views on cultural property" (let alone "transfer of ownership") in the context of legislation restricting the import of illegally exported artefacts into the US.  What are these "extreme views" on cultural property which are allegedly held by the "archaeological-community" and how do they differ from those of the rest of the non-collecting world? If instead of dugup archaeological artefacts these "views" were applied to ivory tusks, tiger skins, or Dionaea muscipula (venus fly-traps) collected in the wild, would they be considered "extreme" by any other than poachers, fur-dealers and unethical horticulturalists?  Would the rest of us consider people buying such items without documentation of licit provenance to be "law-abiding" or "ethical"? Would any controls imposed by US authorities be an "endorsement" of the views of "extreme ecologists". Once again the ACCG are spouting damaging nonsense to cover up their defence of no-questions-asked collecting of dugup artefacts. It seems to me that by supporting this group and its resistance to providing buyers with proper documentation of licit provenances, coin collectors are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.  It is THIS which is presenting the public with the image of the whole US ancient coin collecting community being the  supporters of looters and thieves and a whole milieu perfectly willing to continue giving their money to them by buying coins with no verifiable pedigrees of licitness. 

Riah Pryor, 'Ancient Coin Trade Fights back' The Art Newspaper Number 239 October 2012

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