Thursday, 6 August 2015

"Shut Your Mouf!"

I commented that dealers habitually selling dugup antiquities without any collecting histories attached to any of them were the sort of businesses we need to see closing down to clean up the antiquities market. A blustering coin dealer takes exception to that statement ('Due Diligence???' Ancient Coins, Wednesday, August 05, 2015):
Perhaps that is NOT the kind of business that needs to be closed. Perhaps what REALLY needs to be closed are instead anticollecting mouths vacuously and irresponsibly opened, to make foolish statements such as this, in almost total ignorance of how such businesses actually operate, and of the realities of the markets that they serve.
I suggest that cowboy dealers who buy and sell antiquities without doing due diligence should disappear to leave on the market those who can and do. I fail to see how one can call such a view in any way "anti-collecting". Quite the opposite I would have said, clean and transparent collecting is what we want, the dirty, grubby, shadowy, opaque kind is the one that we should see rejected by the twenty first century market. As Mr Ede says, though the elite conduct themselves with all due propriety and do the due diligence checks required to keep themselves in the clean, there are some dealers who carry on the free-wheeling methods of the past, who need to be kept separate from the world of ethical dealing, because they bring the whole industry into disrepute. That's what he said.
Mr Welsh claims that "documenting and verifying provenance in a meaningful way [costs] on the order of $1000.00 USD per artifact". The PAS and UKDFD do it for far less. In fact, dealers who trade in  PAS-documented artefacts (like Brett Hammond of Timeline or Chris Rudd) get that information absolutely free from the PAS database. In the case of artefacts from collections, such as the  Elias S. David collection sold recently in Sotheby's or the Sekhemet statue sold at Christie's, then the seller provides the legitimating collecting history - again free of charge, the buyer simply has to keep it safe. So by choosing artefacts from known and documented sources, the buyer really has very little to "research", rather just check that he's not being duped. Is Mr Welsh going to charge for that?

In fact I suspect my readers will have a bit of difficulty "deducing why no numismatic business such as Classical Coins could possibly operate under regulations demanding [...] provenance documentation". It's like this, Classy Coins contacts two suppliers to obtain wholesale material for their stockroom, Grebkesh and Runn have a boxload of assorted coins of types found in the south and east of the Roman Empire some earth-encrusted $14000 the lot, with no documentation at all. Down the road Goodbuy and Morales have a coin tray with cabinet toned objects from the Jack Sparrow QC collection formed between 1972 and 1976 when the collector was paralysed by a stroke and later died. Now his widow has herself died, Goodbuy and Morales have the whole collection and a folder full of loose invoices from Spinks and several other coin dealers, cost $18000 dollars. Classy coins says a polite but firm "no" to the undocumented coins from Grebkesh and buys the documented material and spends a few hours matching the coin ticket numbers to the invoices (and they sell the ones they cannot locate the invoice for to a Temecula dealer who does not bother if he has no paperwork). That is not a "thousand dollar an artefact" activity. 

 Mr Welsh suggests I am being "uneducated" and "deceptive" when I express the belief that there are White Hat dealers like Goodbuy and Morales out there somewhere. Let us find them, where are the dugup coin dealers that can show that the items in their stock are not looted, stolen then smuggled? Educate me.

Meanwhile this is a depiction of what happens when loudmouth bluster comes into contact with the simple reality of the fact that there is no place in the modern world of responsible collecting for no-questions-asked dealing of yesteryear:

The subtitles are out of synch. Rather like Dave Welsh's protests, more fitted to the 1970s than today's ethos.

The bluster continues, just an hour or so after I posted this, Welsh added a boastful addendum to his post (referring to this one as a "classic" - as all my posts are, Mr Welsh):
Update 8/6/2016: Mr. Barford has just come up with a real classic of a blog post, illustrating better than anything I could possibly say, the truth of the remarks above. Numismatists and antiquities collectors interested in why I view him as being completely ignorant of the realities of coin collecting and coin dealing will find that post very informative. Highly recommended.
Apparently he sees himself as the centre of attention for "numismatists and antiquities collectors" (only). The reader will note that the dealer has not actually explained where that alleged "ignorance" lies. I would like to see Mr Welsh actually set out in black and white why it would cost a repute-worthy dealer who takes care what goes into their stock "one thousand dollars extra" to put the paperwork of just one artefact in order.  I really would, and I imagine his customers are not a little interested how he calculates his costs. Are archive-quality document envelopes so expensive in the USA? I doubt he will, I think he's hiding something, Mr Welsh is always dodging the question and passing the buck.

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