Friday, 30 November 2012

Publication of the Reverend James Theselius Collection According to Sayles

I dont know if the recent post by coin dealer Sayles ("Barford calls on Coin Collectors to Study and Publish") is some kind of a guffawing Ozark hillbilly-type joke as close friend Arthur Houghton-by-proxy suggests, or whether Sayles simply assumes thinks his readers are all stupid. Or perhaps the man from the Ozarks getting confuddled himself. In a recent internet blog post ('Arab Spring Sayles: Islamic Coins Reach new popularity', Monday, 26 November 2012) I refer [among other things ignored by Sayles] to the Rev. James Theselius Collection (JTC) of Islamic coins being sold at the WGS Store.

I point out that what is happening is contrary to the model offered by Sayles himself to explain why collectors have to buy decontexctualised coins. It is essential, he alleges, to their "research", the coins have for some reason to be decontextualised and freshly surfaced from unknown sources. I therefore asked why Sayles is instrumental in the splitting up of this "important" collection, which seems to be being dispersed without proper study and publication by the collector who put it together.  Sayles' response is as insulting to the intelligence of his readers as he is to the person of his critic:
One might forgive Mr. Barford, who has no measurable background in numismatics, for failing to realize that this is precisely what did happen over the twenty or more years that JTC was formed. Many of these coins were studied carefully by a host of scholars who contributed to the data compiled in the two volumes of Turkoman Figural Bronze Coins and Their Iconography by William F. Spengler and myself.  
There then follows a long name-dropping list of those academics involved in that publication, intended no doubt to bolter the prestige of the writer.

The trouble is that the two volumes of William F. Spengler and Wayne G. Sayles, Turkoman Figural Bronze Coins and Their Iconography, Volume  1: The Artuqids and Volume 2: The Zengids  , were actually published in 1992 and 1996 respectively. Yet according to Sayles, the Theselius collection was  assembled "over the past two decades".  Thus its assembly was begun at the earliest in 1992, just as the first volume of the book in which Sayles says the collection is published was already in press. How then can the Theselius collection of Artuqid coins be published by Spengler and Sayles if the collection was only assembled after the volumes were already in the bookshops

Those of the 60 or so 'JTC' Artuqid coins from the Theselius collection that Sayles is offering  that actually have any information about their source only give their collecting history as far back as the sale where Theselius bought them, Sayles offers no information at all where most of them were before that. The acquisition of these coins by the Theselius collection are mostly  from purchases subsequent (sometimes by over a decade) of the alleged publication of the Theselius collection by Spengler and Sayles. Now I may not have a "measurable numismatic background", but I can tell an untruth when I see one, and it seems to me that, contrary to what Sayles asserts, the Rev. James Theselius collection is NOT published in William F. Spengler and Wayne G. Sayles, Turkoman Figural Bronze Coins and Their Iconography

As for the Theselius collection allegedly overlapping the Spengler-Sayles collection, a moment's search will reveal that Stephen Album has been selling off parts of the latter. More on that later. 

There is however more. Anyone who has ever tried to follow the turgid arguments of the coiney faction will have come across the assertion that public collections of dugups are no good for the "reserarch" they claim to be doing en masse. The argument usuually goes something like this: only amateurs can study artefacts, professionals cannot be relied on to do so, and the amateurs, allegedly, have no access to the items held in public collections, thus they have to build their own study collections (and those study collectyions must be of freshly-surfaced coins of unclear collecting history). That's how the argument goes. Sayles is among those who have used it. How utterly odd then to see him name-dropping a whole list of institutions,  
the authors were warmly received in person by every one of these numismatic scholars at their institutions and often for several days of intensive study and collaboration.  
This is typical of the turncoat logic of coineys, when it suits them to stress why dugup artefacts should be freed from institutional curation, museums are bad things. When it suits them to stress the respect with which they, mere amateurs, were treated by these "distinguished [...] scholars", then out comes the list of institutions where they were treated to "intensive study and collaboration" and warmly received. So which is it, exclusion or collaboration? There really is no underlying logic to coiney arguments, they say whatever they feel like saying at a given moment, no matter that it contradicts what they said a few days earlier.

I ask again, where is the publication of the James Theselius collection, written by collector James Theselius, both the Islamic coins and the Roman Egypt ones mentioned in an earlier post?  Let Sayles unequivocally give an answer - the bibliographic reference to the full publication of this important collection which he is currently selling off piecemeal.

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