Saturday, 4 June 2016

Illicit and Stolen Military Artefacts: No-questions-asking Collectors are the Real Looters.

Cristina Corbin, 'Spoils of War: Black market robust for military artifacts stolen from public displays', Fox News June 04, 2016
 American war memorabilia is so hot that thieves are robbing VFW halls, museums, and even graves to supply a black market that operates online, in flea markets and through a murky network of rabid collectors, according to law enforcement and dealers tasked with identifying stolen items -- some worth thousands. "There's definitely a market for it," said Pat Chaisson, of Scotia, N.Y., a retired Army National Guard officer, history buff and longtime collector of military and war memorabilia. "The buyer has to be very careful," Chaisson warned. "All of the collectors I know are very sensitive that there’s a black market out there – that what you’re buying could very well have been stolen." "And it's difficult to identify sometimes," he said. "How do you prove that a musket ball or cannon wasn’t stolen from an armory or a collection?"
So, basically the same kind of verifiable documentation on where an object actually comes from is needed, as it is throughout the historical collectibles market.Instead of just shoul;der-shrugging admission of defeat ("we can't...") maybe we could be having some real discussions about "yes, the legitimate market can".
Rick Brumby, the historian at the of the Museum of Military History in Kissimmee, Fla. [...] noted that while a market exists, it's very difficult to sell such items on reputable auction sites, like eBay.
Ha ha, that's a joke, isn't it? (EBay is well-known to be full of fake and paperless antiquities)
"The real stuff has a tendency to go into private collections," Brumby said. "People get greedy and, if the price is right, they’ll buy it and keep it in their home. "When they die, it comes out," he said.
And if "the price is right" how is it that the buyer does not suspect it is stolen? The article  mentions a howitzer sold for $1200 and a commentator below the article points out that in the legitimate market, bidding against other collectors, you'd not be able to buy a sight for such a gun at such a price. How could the buyer convince himself he'd got a bargain because God favours him, rather than other collectors refraining from bidding on an obviously dodgy item?
Det. Sgt. Benjamin Katz of the Vermont State Police told it's challenging to recover such items and described dealers of second-hand goods as "the driver of these type of crimes." "Not all dealers are shady, of course, but all it takes is a couple," he said. [...] "It’s basically an honor code," he said. "There's very little regulation when it comes to the purchase of antiquities."
The obvious reaction to that comment can only be that this is a field which is long overdue for some kind of effective regulation. In addition to "newly surfacing" on the market artefacts previously unobtainable due to being the property of an existing collection made by others, artefact hunters also "surface" items still below-ground:
The most egregious example of war collectible theft, say law enforcement, is the desecrating and looting of soldiers' graves. Such was the case in Burke County, Ga., in 2013, when two men allegedly raided the graves of five Confederate soldiers inside the Old Church Cemetery in search of heirlooms. Antique brokers say these historic war relics can sell for a hefty price: An officer’s sword from the Civil War is valued between $20,000 and $30,000, while uniforms and medals can go for $500 to several thousand dollars.
It seems to me that it is dealers and collectors who need to be forced to handle material in such a way that the culture thieves cannot get away with it. By not imposing such measures dealers and collectors are self-evidently complicit in these crimes. No-questions-asking collectors are the real looters.

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