Friday, 17 April 2015

The Coin Dealer and Body Bags

will you buy a used car with no
documentation from me
How appalling, ISIL may, admits dugup Dealer Dave ("Islamic State" Terrorists and the Antiquities Market', Friday, April 17, 2015),
"be exploiting the legitimate first world art market by taking advantage of its traditional reliance upon confidence in long-established sources and personal connections, and a centuries-old tradition of anonymous sales by collectors unwilling to publicly disclose their divestitures for personal, security or financial reasons". 
Personally I cannot see how such a market can in any way be described as "legitimate". Instead of being exploited by ISIL suppliers, the current no-questions asked market allows their creation. A more transparent, accountable and careful market would be impossible for them to penetrate. Dealer Dave is worried that this may affect dugup dealers as governmental efforts to regulate trafficking in blood antiquities "will almost certainly lay a heavy and indiscriminate hand on the antiquities market". Bravo. He says:
Collectors and dealers should exercise due diligence, prudent restraint and caution in considering acquisition of coins struck in, or known to have circulated in, Syria and Mesopotamia, Be certain that such acquisitions do not include anything not verifiably traceable to a collection or dealer stock prior to August 2011, when the ISI became active in the Syrian insurgency.
So the sales of antiquities by militants fighting the US-led invasion from 2003 onwards do not concern collectors? The sales that allowed the purchase of weapons and munitions which led to the death of member of the anti-Saddam coalition? The sales that led to young men going home in body bags? This does not concern Dealer Dave, who is apparently only interested in erosion of profits through attempts to fight ISIL?

The legislation deciding licit and illicit antiquities in both Syria and Iraq goes back a good deal beyond "August 2011". In Syria, to be precise at least 1963, and Iraq  back to 1936. Anything brought into any "old collection" after those dates without the proper release documentation are illicit antiquities. And it matters not a hoot if the dealer threw away the documentation in order to hide the actual date of import, or by what "long-established sources and personal connections" they passed through on the way out of the source country. 

UPDATE 18th April 2015

Nope, Dealer Dave just does not get it does he? It takes a special kind of intellect to have something explained to you repeatedly in plain English over a number of years and still not manage to even hear what was said, let alone understand it. So he's updated his blog post with a repetition of some ad hominem pseudo-biographical details he made up, he disingenuously pretends he does not understand what I wrote:
Readers are cautioned that "illicit" is Barfordian doublespeak for "undocumented" or "unprovenanced." It does not mean "illegal."
He apparently feels that his readers have to be "warned" about Mr Barford. Perhaps the slack-jawed hillbilly ones will heed his warning. Those with a spark of intelligence will check out what the word "illicit" means if they do not already know. Mr Welsh, despite claiming to "read or speak five modern languages in addition to Latin, Greek and studies in extinct ancient scripts found on coins" and despite having it explained to him a number of times clearly does not.  One can have an illicit relationship without it being illegal in any sense. Many people do Mr Welsh. Illicit narcotics - such as designer drugs - are not illegal Mr Welsh, that is their nature. Many people use them and understand the difference - that does not make them a good thing to be involved in Mr Welsh. Especially if they are of undocumented origins, like many coins you say we should treat as 'kosher'. There are many dangers in handling designer drugs of unknown origin, Mr Welsh.

Let us note the name of the Convention we are referring to here. In the European English version the title and text use the word "illicit" - not "illegal". In the parallel French text the word used is "illicite" and not "illégal" ("Convention concernant les mesures à prendre pour interdire et empêcher l'importation, l'exportation et le transfert de propriété illicites des biens culturels"). It is the same in the parallel Spanish text ("Convención sobre las medidas que deben adoptarse para prohibir e impedir la importación, la exportación y la transferencia de propiedad ilícitas de bienes culturales"). The Russian text uses the word незаконный and not нелегальный. I really do not understand how anyone can with a straight face claim that the Convention meant to use the term "illegal" and through some mistake which has not been noticed in 45 years, accidentally used the word "illicit".

In that sense therefore (see the Convention's Article 3):
The legislation deciding licit and illicit antiquities in both Syria and Iraq goes back a good deal beyond "August 2011". In Syria, to be precise at least 1963, and Iraq  back to 1936. Anything brought into any "old collection" after those dates without the proper release documentation are illicit antiquities."
That is not any kind of "double-talk", it is a cold hard fact. In order for the trade in these items to be considered legitimate, there is no way around the fact that these dates must be respected by all handling this material who want to be counted as doing a legitimate business in a responsible manner. That dealers like Mr Welsh continue to attempt to find a way around that (like doing what he calls "due diligence" going only as far back as August 2011 and trying to convince his clients that its enough) is symptomatic. It speaks volumes for what is really going on in the antiquities trade. The way Mr Welsh attempts to deflect attention from perfectly valid criticism through ad hominems and alienation of himself from any discussion of the issues is also symptomatic. It speaks volumes for the current state of the heritage debate.

This dodging the issues has been going on now for decades. It is time for this to be replaced by proper discussion, whether the dealers and collectors choose to take part in it or not. I rather get the impression from the sort of activity discussed here that they want to become alienated so they can play the victim like they normally do.

UPDATE 19th April 2015

Nope, Dealer Dave really, really just does not get it does he? The adjective "moronic" really does seem quite apposite to Dealer Dave's line of argument here. Either he really is stupid and does not see what is being discussed, or he thinks we are all stupid and will not spot a sleight-of-hand trick. Illicit sex Mr Welsh is not "undocumented sex". And yes, yes he is dodging the issues once again.

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