Friday, 20 November 2015

Coin Fondling "Independents": Two examples

Medal of Yavin (from Mint in box).
Ancient coin fondlers and other collectors like to imagine that by accumulating numbers of ancient artefacts ripped from their context and divorced from their findspots by documentation-discarding-dealers and middlemen  they are somehow participating in scholarship. When asked for any kind of textbook setting out a modern methodology of 'heap-of-loose-coins-on-a-table-numismatics' the proponents of this model fall into an embarrassed silence, before erupting in the typically dismissively aggressive response one would expect from this chip-on-the-shoulder milieu when asked for the specifics.

John Hooker (as he reminds us, 'FSA') decides to show us this brand of numismatics in action on the basis of the coins of Tarentum, and warns:
The complexities of mythology cannot be exaggerated, but whenever we have to add political and monetary history to this picture as is quite common in numismatics, it is no small wonder that the subject of numismatics can only be presented, academically, in an introductory fashion. No single work presents a complete picture of this coin, and the issues (including those of other cities) to which it is related. 
He then goes into a show-and-tell of a loose coin in a mode well illustrated here:
The medal of valor was engraved in [sic] a stylized flower that resembled an emblem used by the Galactic Republic of old. At its heart was a stylized a rising sun that symbolized the dawn of a new hope in the wake of the Alliance's victory over the Galactic Empire. [....] This medal was first seen being presented to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo by Leia Organa in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. Chewbacca's not being awarded a medal in the film was a source of discontent for many Star Wars fans. While a number of stories now considered part of Star Wars Legends, such as The Day after the Death Star!, confirmed that Chewbacca did receive a medal, Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo  and Chewbacca Adventure is the first canon tale to confirm this.
The reverse is fairly plain, with an inscription helping to understand what it is and where it is from, like most of the coins "studied" by coin fondlers:
Carefully recreated from original archival materials and fully authorized and endorsed by Lucasfilm Ltd. Constructed from solid die-cast metal plated with 18-karat gold with a rich matte finish. Suspended from an olive-green ceremonial ribbon like the ones used for military medals of honor. [...] Certificate of Authenticity.
Mr Hooker FSA will no doubt be able to explain the 'difference' between this show-and-tell and his show-and-tell about Apollo Hyakinthios based on Robert Graves' mythology book ("avoid abridgements") and the dolphin riders of Taras with its "looks like" comparanda.
We see, also, that the story of Arion is also conflated with Phalanthos/Taras but I think that mythological "drift" rather than syncretism is the most likely reason. I have also seen the dolphin rider on the Gundestrup cauldron described as Arion, but his identity as Taras is certain. A lot of the confusion about the Gundestrup cauldron is due to a lack of mythological/iconographic knowledge (especially of the Greek). 

More "special knowledge" claimed by the collectors, and the alleged ignorance of everybody else. The rest of us see a picture of somebody riding a big fish which is probably not intended as a dolphin, and that is as far as you can go without unbridled speculation and guesswork.

Mr Hooker FSA makes reference to "John Francisco (an independent scholar and numismatist)" but documents no addresses or personal data "to place his writings in context" as both Mr Hooker FSA and an ANA/ACCG dealer apparently deem is totally necessary behaviour in numismatic circles. We do not hear what it is he is "independent" of, unless it is the necessity of supporting any his 'scholarly' statements with references unless to a single general coin handbook and a Loeb translation of Pausanius. He is also cited as an example of numismatists "taking into consideration the many weight standards under which Greek coins were struck and the connected political/historical implications". What we find under the link he supplies is mostly in this sort of vein:
Okay, good. Let's see if I can come up with something ;) First of all, am I sure that we have all the types of spread fabric staters amongst the five? Emotionally, I am sure, but logically we cannot be sure. We have enough mints that are represented by only one, two or three coins that we should not have total confidence that we have it all. However, with that caveat, I have got a set of theories that I am following until I am either satisfied with them, or until they (individually or collectively) explode!! And you all get to watch! :)  [...]  together they make up a really nice set in the Pythagorean cosmogony given in Hippolytus. Animal (Sybaris' bull), Vegetable (Metapontum's barley ear), Metal (we would say mineral, Kroton's bronze tripod). The force of strife or war, (antipathy, Poseidonia's Poseidon wielding a trident) and the opposite force of peace or love (sympathy, Kaulonia's Apollo purifying himself at the valley of Tempe). Animal, vegetable, mineral, war and peace  [...]  I think that the Pythagoreans had a plan concerning what types for coins they wanted, but I don't think that that plan survived unscathed and was implemented completely. Laos may be an abberation, it may mess the whole Pythagorean "message" up, but it couldn't do that if it wasn't incuse. It is like a little guy giving the great Pythagorean system, the finger. "Yes, there are great gods, but there are little gods too and we're going to support the little guy." 
and here we see the coiney doing the equivalent with his mumbo-jumbo surmises.  You can make your mind up whether the form or content consist of any form of scholareship known this side of the planet Tatouinne.

I think that, should coineys insist on employing their specious argument that regulating the no-questions-asked market which masks the flow of freshly-surfaced illicit antiquities would in some way hinder their own brand of 'independent coin-in-hand scholarship', it first behoves them to show that  'heap-of-loose-coins-on-a-table-numismatics'actually merits the use of the term scholaship. A discipline has - by definition a body of methodology that separates it from uncontrolled inventive imagination and speculation. Let us see a modern textbook (preferably textbooks) setting out the basis for considering fondling of loose coins (isolated from their contexts of deposition and discovery) any kind of an academic discipline, independent or not (cue: more personal attacks on the questioner, but no proper reply).


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