Friday, 10 April 2015

Coiney blogger on Provenance

Jay Guberman's blog (" A Survey of Ancient Coins") has an interesting post on provenance of ancient coins ('A Comment on the importance of Provenance with a good Provenance' 22nd Feb 2015). The author maintains that he not only asks dealers for the collecting history of the coins he purchases, but keeps that information with the coin to pass on to the next possessor. It is a shame that the text does not explain why he does that, and that such information is published on the blog about only a few of the items illustrated. What struck me was the quote with which he begins the post, written nearly 110 years ago and stating a truth that collectors have been ignoring ever since:
"Far too little attention has hitherto been bestowed upon the provenance of ancient coins. The intervention of the coin dealer between the finder and the purchaser is often quite sufficient to obscure or obliterate entirely all evidence of provenance. Coin collectors have also been too often oblivious of the scientific importance of placing on record the sources of their acquisitions." Numismatic Chronicle 1906, page 3
Just imagine what a database we would have if this advice had been heeded and we had a record of even just the provenance (findspot) of every ancient coin that has passed through the trade in the last 110 years. Linking this with the information of the reverse types and issue and then die links woyuld provide a huge amount of data on the destination of various batches produced by the mints on a macro- and micro-scale which would allow broad patterns in the economic history of various regions of the classical world to be ascertained. At the moment, the nearest thing we have to this is a mapping project on material recorded before it disappears onto the no-questions-asked market which should shame all those who claim that by collecting dugup coins from goodness-knows-where and heaping them on their tables, they are somehow contributing to the growth of 'knowledge'. What, in fact you find they are doing when you look at their websites and hobby magazine 'publications', is mostly just "show-and-tell".
Mr Guberman is not one of those on record as calling for US restrictions on smuggling of 'coins of Italian type' being lifted.

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