Friday, 24 October 2014

Faux Numis

 Kilroy coin (photo from Hooker's blog)
John Hooker claims to be an expert: "A numismatist with over fifty years experience [...] Very few people without at least twenty years of experience in numismatics can make much of an impact on the subject ".

In his desire to 'make an impact', he opines on a coin which a collector ["Owner's name withheld by request"] suggested to him was 'Celtic'  (Thursday, 23 October 2014, "Faux amis"). Although he saw it was not 'Celtic', he was at a loss to recognize it, but on showing a photo of it to local dealer Robert Kokotailo ("who really knows his Medieval coins") he learnt it was one of the cross-denier series common in eleventh century central Europe, and it was reportedly identified as a rare issue of "a Bishop of Prague". I should add that they seem unaware that there is no indication that, unlike the Ottonian ones, eleventh century Bohemian bishops had any minting rights at all.

The main interest in this coin for Hooker, apart from using it to show 'how clever' he'd been to identify it, was however to use as the springboard for expressing his hatred for those who see current modes in collecting and commerce in archaeological finds in a different light from him:
Certain archaeo-bloggers who constantly criticize collectors and dealers are always very nasty. [...] The person who owns this coin holds an important position and did not want his name associated with it for fear of being bullied. That could have brought trouble to even his organization. He did not want to have to deal with such evil people. So this coin has no recorded provenance because of the existence of such people [...]. There is a little irony here, and more than one sort of "faux amis". So be aware, and do not get taken in by such people's lies.(sic)
Note the total lack of paranoia there.... So, we are told that the coin's owner is going to keep quiet about where it comes from as he does not want his feelings hurt and the reputation of his organization damaged. As for who is lying, and whether strong criticism of no-questions-asking, and no-answers-giving dealers and collectors is justified, and whether it is "evil people" that raise these concerns, I leave it up to the reader to decide.

It would seem that both Hooker and Dealer Bob are blinded to the aberrant form of this object by the potential of using it to criticise archaeologists. I would suggest that if they'd handled any number of these relatively common coins from proper archaeological contexts rather than the random items that drift their way having "surfaced" ("from underground?"), they might look at this item in a different light. Yet Hooker reports that Dealer Bob has no problems with this item as eleventh century Bohemian. Caveat emptor.

UPDATE 23.10.14
I owe to Dorothy King the suggestion that the image of the coin pictured has even been digitally doctored (or even created digitally).  If so, Dealer Kokotailo's reported diagnosis is even more difficult to understand.

UPDATE UPDATE 24.10.2014
And so the coiney circus continues.... John Hooker, in reaction to my debate about a coin he discusses,  for some reason now threatens me with a libel suit. This is typical of the fragile egos of collectors who rather than admit ignorance about something outside their field, go on the offence. John Hooker may see himself as an all-knowing polymath able to speak with authority on a variety of topics, including eleventh century coin circulation in central Europe. The simple fact is however that he is not a Medievalist, does not have much experience with handling the sort of numismatic material that is abundant in Early Medieval silver hoards of central Europe. It just so happens that both are areas where I can claim more expertise than him. The coin he pictures has a number of features which suggest to those familiar with large numbers of real 'grounded' examples (and not the decontextualised ones in the trade), that this item  is not what he published it as. He is unwilling to discuss that, stubbornly standing by his original diagnosis. He could start by citing his sources and reveal the alleged published parallel from Mr Kokotailo's book (cited by the wannabe scholar vaguely as "a German book on Medieval Polish coins" [sic]). Instead of doing that, he sees a dent in his personal authority and goes on the attack calling me "evil" and one of the "people of the lie" for doubting his unsupported diagnosis of unfamiliar material. 

When, on questioning whether the coin pictured actually existed (has Hooker held it in his hand?), I referred to his study of Coriosolite coins being based on reconstructed composite images rather than individual specimens, Hooker informs his readers that this is 'bullshit':
as everyone (sic) knows, blatantly false. I create the image he speaks of for Archaeopress as cover art.
What I was talking about was not the cover of the book, but the subject of the analysis inside: "the drawings of the die designs of these coins, often having to be reconstructed from several incomplete impressions".

UPDATE 12.11.2014
Mr Hooker is still going on, and on, about how clever he is and allegedly how the Early Medieval archaeologist from central Europe (who happens to have worked on the editorial board of a numismatic journal to boot) knows "nothing" about Early Medieval coins from central Europe. Now he's actually come up with the missing reference. 
[Paul Barford] was wrong, too, about the Medieval coin, but I just got bored with his obfuscations. He thought it was a common type but was getting the type mixed up with the manufacturing method. While there are many types with that sort of edge, that particular type is very rare (a are several others made that way. Only two examples have appeared on auctions in recent years and they are all from different dies. The reference used on both of these sales is: Marion Gumowski, Handbuch der polnischen Numismatik, p.88, Tafel II. (see: and
Rather it is Hooker who is trying to obfuscate - note this long digression was in answer to my points about a Celtic coin hoard he misinterpreted photos of. First of all the word I used was "series" not type, that is exactly what these coins form, a whole series of coins related by weight, manufacturing technique, fabric and iconography. It is the specific manufacturing technique (which does not appear so markedly at the beginning of the series) which defines it. Mr Hooker is trying to fuzzy the issues here to waste everybody's time with his protestations, accusations and wikipedia links.

What Mr Hooker had said was he used a "a German book on Medieval Polish coins". 
1) The surname Gumowski is not German, he was a very well known Polish medievalist.
2) The man's name was Marian, not Marion.
3) the proper reference is that this book was first published in 1960 but went through several later editions.
4) The study of these coins has come a HUGE long way since Gumowski's summary of previous work (oh and by the way, much of the research was done by academically employed professional numismatists not commercial amateurs).
5) While Gumowski's is a classic, it is rather treated today as "Podręczna literatura numizmatyczna średniowiecza"not an academic source (that coin auction sellers use it as such changes nothing).
6) Although he does not cite which edition he's using, or where on the plate of his copy he sees it, I do not see this coin on Plate II of my copy of Gumowski. I stress again that -whatever Gumowski thought more than half a century ago - there is no indication that, unlike the Ottonian ones, eleventh century Bohemian bishops had any minting rights at all.

In any case, the coin he's spilling so much ink over is probably not real, it seems to be a photoshop creation.


Dorothy King said...

LOL at the photoshopping on that coin.

Dorothy King said...

Kilroy was 'ere ... yes.

Paul Barford said...

So we see what mindless mumbo-jumbo jerks some coin collectors are. This is the man who made up composite images of the Coriosolite coins and then based his infamous study on them....

kyri said...

hi paul,i know you and john dont see eye to eye [thats an understatement] but he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to celtic coins.i dont think there are many people alive today that know as much as he does about celtic coins.also,on a personal level,the guy is certainly not in the dave welsh class,he has his views,which i dont always agree with but he is a very intelligent guy a doting father and a dog lover to boot.we are all human beings at the end of the day.i know you are often undeservedly pilloried on other blogs,it seems certain metal detectorists have an infatuation with you and cant wait for you to write a new post but its very distasteful.
i hope a certain metal detectorist reads your latest post on the state of the german antiquities market,he might learn something.

Paul Barford said...

"An intelligent guy" might recognize that looking through the pictures of "a German book on Polish coins" does not substitute for personally handling several large hoards of such coins and examining them carefully for evidence of that rather striking (no pun intended) manufacturing technique.

This coin simply does not fit. Furthermore there is no evidence that eleventh century bishops east of the Ottonians had minting rights. There is literature about this, Hooker does not know it.

But yes, he and Welsh have very much in common, the same snide tone and name-calling when their all-too-prevalent bluff and bluster are challenged for a start. Welsh calls me on his blog "prince of lies", Hooker on his one of the "People of the lie". Same difference. Both imagine themselves to be the only authoritative experts, even though neither have any academic training in the field.

Mr Howland (I saw his ignorant attack on you on Tompa's blog) certainly has a problem and is obviously taking all this very seriously. He also seems stuck in a James Bond fantasy world, and tries to relate the heritage debate to it. Pathetic. I doubt though that he is at all intellectually capable of reading anything much and then placing his own thoughts into the context of what he found out. His attempts to dismiss what you were saying about the German antiquities market by saying he was "brought up in Cyprus, so I KNOW" really were a bit pathetic.

While the heritage debate is dominated by unreasoning and unreasonable people like Hooker, Howland, Welsh, then there can be no public debate.

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