Wednesday, 3 August 2016

'How to Tell Portable Antiquities are Licit or Not"

A US dealer of dugup antiquities reveals how he tells whether the items he acquires are licit or not, it's nothing to do with a documented collecting history. It is all down to "experience"
Those who acquire or auction artifacts should [...] avoid anything that "looks suspicious." That is my own ethical standard when acquiring unprovenanced coins. [...] [in answer to a question how one can tell unprovenanced licit and illicit artefacts apart] In many, perhaps most cases you could not. But experts who routinely handle the material in question develop instincts about it, instincts that raise a "red flag" in the mind when something anomalous appears. It may be nothing more than the manner of the individual one is dealing with. But these instincts are real and important qualities that a trustworthy dealer or auctioneer must have.
Phhh. As far as I am concerned, I'll never trust anyone with a metal detector or a dealer with a bunch of ancient coins in their hands. They'd all be out on their ear. Like the creep that came to a seminar I gave in a UK university and without a permit or any kind of agreement took photos on university property and precoded to distribute them. Mr Welsh did not have any instinct preventing him from himself taking part in the handling and dissemination of illegally-acquired images. So his protestations fall as bit lame. Merely reacting when spotting 'the anomalous' is not enough it seems to keep dodgy stuff off the US market. In any case what happens further down the chain when dodgy artefacts have passed from digger to middleman, smuggler and then a dealer or two on their way to the clairvoyant Dealer Dave. What anomalies could one expect when objects are bought in the absence of anything but a nod-and-a-wink from what seems to be a "reliable and reputable source"? 

 As for the finds of illegal detecting, we are promised by the same dealer that "an experienced detectorist such as Mr. Howland might be able to shed further light upon the subject of how to instinctively "smell out" nighthawking finds". I am sure we are all eager to learn of the fruits of Mr Howland's interpersonal skills in dealing with nighthawks and their finds.
Here's a song for them both:

"Feelings, nothing more than feelings...."
Posted on You Tube by Jokarilon

I rather think however that in both cases, the most reliable method is to ask for documentation - the instinct and experience come in one step further down the line, detecting if the documentation is kosher or fake. Because experience shows that dealers cannot always be trusted even then. But the documentation can be passed on to the buyer - the gut-feeling about the seller cannot.

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