Saturday, 30 August 2014

Coins For Sale, where from? "Get Stuffed"

Hans Memling, Portrait
of a man with a coin
of the Emperor Nero
WGS the "Get Stuffed antiquarian" has quite a few ancient dugup "Coins for Sale" which certainly do not come from the soil of Missouri. Look how he promotes them:
Coins of the ancient world have been collected widely since the 15th century and by nobility and educated society as far back as antiquity itself. The coins offered here are guaranteed to be authentic and are sold with a guarantee of clear title. 
Now, HOW can you guarantee that the buyer of dugup artefacts has "clear title"? Well, one obvious way is by providing them with documentation that they were excavated legally (for example in accordance with the laws of Great Britain) and exported legally from the source country. Is that what the "Get Stuffed Antiquarian" is providing here? It does not say so. So how else can you guarantee that if someone buys one of these coins there is not a polaroid photo in the archive of a dodgy dealer somewhere (Italy, Lebanon, Dubai, Syria, Israel?) that will emerge some day to haunt the buyer? Or of a 1933 Jewish coin collection that was seized by the Nazis with one of these coins clearly visible right in the middle? In truth, without the documentation, there is no way that Mr Sayles can actually guarantee clear title of undocumented coins and he certainly cannot guarantee that these coins are kosher-clean.

 So what's he got in his stockroom?
Not a single one I looked at of these 1026 coins had anything like a proper collecting history cited upfront, none have any mention of provenancing documentation or export licences. Yet some of them are from mints now in Iraq and Syria and thus potentially circulated in that region, and may have been deposited there. From whom did Mr Sayles' suppliers buy these coins? How much blood is on these coins? How many criminal acts and corrupt deals lie behind them reaching the USA? Mr Sayles apparently has absolutely zero documentation of the previous history of those objects (because if so, he'd mention it surely) so he can hardly claim the answer is "none" I guess that is why his answer is more likely to be the "get stuffed" we saw on his blog.

The question however will not go away. The existence of a no-questions-asked market does not mean that we should not be questioning very closely what chain of events these individual coins are associated with. Mr Sayles' support of the no-questions-asked  market (and his "get stuffed"), and the collectors he claims to represent, can only be seen as sinister and counter- progressive. 

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