Thursday, 23 July 2015

Beh, Beh, Coin Collectors Urged to Bleat

With reference to the proposed new due diligence requirements in Germany a comment published on Peter Tompa's blog sums up the feeling of many US and UK dealers and collectors:
I detect the acrid aroma of 'Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer' in all of this. The alarm bells should be ringing loud.
Why, in fact when these proposals differ only marginally from those proposed in the UK by the collectors' partner organization the Portable Antiquities Scheme and apparently accepted and acceptable over there?  A dealers' paid lobbyist is urging his fellows to sheepishly follow suit and "Support Our Fellow Collectors in Germany". What he actually means is of course support the dealers caught with their trousers down asked to prove that they have been complying with international norms formulated in 1970. Whenever you see these guys asking collectors to support "collectors", this is a bare-faced lie, they really mean dealers, and the only reason dealers care about collectors is to protect their markets.

While smokescreen-creators like the ADCAEA  create pseudo-guidelines for pseudo-due-diligence, and in typically intellectually-flabby fashion refuse to discuss the shortcomings in what they propose, the German state is going to make its own proposals what due diligence should look like. Is there anything terribly remarkable about it including things like determining whether it can be shown that the object came on the market licitly, does the seller have legal title to sell, and were the relevant procedures followed to bring it onto the international market? I would have thought that everybody talking about due diligence for dugup antiquities had exactly such criteria in mind. The only difference is the German proposals included documenting that one has done the footwork, not just saying you did. Is that the problem? Is the real problem that before dealers could say "yes, yes all our antiquities have been checked and are 100% licit, kosher, believe me" and now they are being asked to back up their 'dealers word' with actual documentation that they've done what they all glibly assert they do daily? Is that the problem?

Is it protecting "collectors" to sign the petition? Do collectors not want to have available artefacts which each carry proper documentation of their licit origins (as well as authenticity)? Such antiquities will never lose their value, unlike those they bought in the past (no-questions-asked, nudge-nudge-wink-wink) from Grebkesh and Runn, which they may well have problems getting their money back on because Grebkesh threw away all the documentation which would prove compliance with the principles of the 1970 Convention on the the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Are there grounds for getting their money back from Grebkesh? I should hope so, many dealers give a lifetime guarantee that their artefacts are as described. Describing them as 'licit', Mr Grebkesh will now have to cough up the documentary justification or refund the purchase price.

Signing the petition will not make the  1970 Convention go away. Signing the petition will not stop the debate about what constitutes responsible collecting. Signing the petition will only make collectors who sign away their chance of finds traded with true due diligence, which it is in their interests to institute, look stupid. You can see the names and  location of the signatories of the petition. Note the number who prefer to hide their names as though they are ashamed to be following what the dealers told them to do. They should be.

 40 days remaining, 1,006 supporters in Deutschland, 172 sheep from outside.

Vignette one thousand sheep.


kyri said...

hmmm i have even been emailed by some major german auction houses and urged to sign the petition.they must be very worried.they are probably emailing all their clients.

Paul Barford said...

I would imagine that the people who've done business with such dealers might start looking again at the objects they bought and ask themselves just how much the assurances that due diligence was done to ascertain licit origins are worth. In many cases, not a lot, it appears.

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