Sunday, 4 September 2016

What is the Point?

There is another up for auction - Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich Auction 94 (The Gasvoda Collection Part II - Imperatorial and Twelve Caesars Coinage), 6 October 2016 Lot 20 Starting price: 220000 CHF

 "Privately purchased through Antiqva from CNG and Jonathan Kern" and added to a collection "started in the early 1990’s".
At that time I always knew I wanted an EID MAR in the collection. I had begun working with Steve Rubinger and asked him to keep an eye out for me and let me know if he ever saw one he thought would be a good fit for my collection. I had asked him about several that came up for auction and he always advised against them for one reason or another. Then one day out of the blue he called and told me he had found the EID MAR that I needed to buy. This was that coin.
There is no mention of anyone knowing where such an obviously exceptional coin was before that "one day" some time after the early 1990s. I think these coins are really ugly, they celebrate bloody political assassination, and nobody needs to hold a coin in their hand to know that Caesar got stabbed.  Coin fondlers like to say they are 'studying history' (or even 'adding to our knowledge of the past') by buying these things without asking the obvious question, '....but yes, where exactly did this come from?'  They are not. Not in cases like this, this is transparently just about self-centred acquisitiveness, trophy hunting and bragging rights.

This collection (part I was auctioned earlier) contains at least 37 coins of the Roman Republic and 153 of the Roman Empire. The Ernst Ploil Collection of Roman Coins - Part II 163 of the Roman Empire, while something coyly but patriotically called the "America collection" of Greek coins consists of 152 items (two Celtic - Central Europe Celts, the Vindelici. (Documented Collecting History only post 2011 and Middle and Lower Danube Celts. Tetradrachm, [DCH only post 2015 but has 'old [how old? PMB] cabinet toning ' (sic)). What I really do not understand is why the seller makes no mention of the surface being covered in ring-punch marks. That seems something worth discussing if one wishes to 'investigate the past'.

So on the same day the same firm is auctioning some 500 coins, (highlights from?) from two named part-collections and one anonymous whole one. Between them these three gentleman collectors had probably collected 1000 choice specimens - and who knows what else. But 'choice' is the operative word here. Any surfing of a group of dealers' catalogues from all segments of the market will show that in the case of the Greek and Roman ones in particular, coins like the ones these guys had a whole cabinet full are one-in-over-a-thousand. So in fact what we see of what these three men had acquired represents an absolutely vast removal of archaeological material from the archaeological record. Let's ignore the self-serving crap from the dealers that "coins like this only come from hoards", even if they do, what we see (actually see with our own eyes) actually on the market is loads and loads of coins that do not look like these. Whatever slimy dealers and self-serving collectors say, archaeological sites are being exploited commercially and as a 'hobby' to supply collectors with geegaws to collect, gloat over and boast about - and eventually flog off at a profit when they are bored with 'studying the past', or gloating. Or die, with the book of what they 'learnt', unwritten.

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