Monday, 31 August 2015

Coin Dealers: Harken Ye to the ACCG

Wayne G. Sayles ('FBI Warns Dealers and Collectors' FBI seeks cooperation of trade ACCG August 29, 2015) refers to the recent warning on the FBI web site alerting art collectors and dealers to be especially careful in the trading of antiquities from the Near East. He notes that the Bureau is asking U.S. art and antiquities market leaders to spread the word that "preventing illegally obtained artifacts from reaching the market helps stem the transfer of funds to terrorists". He says:
Concerns about looting in areas of strife are not unusual nor unfounded and the Civil War raging in parts of Syria and Iraq has rekindled those concerns. Some have argued that the sale of looted antiquities is a primary funding vehicle for terrorist activity. While that point is debatable, and certainly not true in the case of coins and other portable antiquities, the general point is well taken.
What I want to know is how anyone can admit that saying where the stuff dealers sell (including WG Sayles who cites very few collecting histories for the loose objects he sells) can actually say - apparently in all seriousness - where it does not come from. That's just bonkers. Sayles continus defensively:
No responsible dealer nor collector would intentionally or knowingly sell nor purchase objects that are likely to have emerged from the strife in Syria and Iraq.
There's that weasel word there again, "knowingly". But, hark, do we hear the penny dropping - however insincerely?
The only defense against unwittingly doing that is to determine to the best of one's ability where ancient and medieval objects originating in these countries have been in recent years. Due diligence would include the avoidance of purchasing groups of suspect coins from unverifiable sources. Although provenance is not typically available for average collector coins, the ACCG encourages dealers in ancient and medieval coins originating from these countries to, whenever possible, indicate in item descriptions the basis for a belief that the item being offered is not a product of the current conflict nor related looting. In other words, descriptions could include a good-faith effort to provide the nearest thing possible to provenance for at least the most recent transactions. This might include a citation to a known collection, previous offering in the trade, recent source or venue or any other pertinent information that aids seller and buyer diligence in following applicable laws.
Let's hear it for the ACCG.

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