Monday, 9 October 2017

Selling point

Dealer 'Celeste Jones Mining' (Linda G Hitt, Canyon Lake, Texas) had a good idea how to shift a poor quality example of a Carausius AE-Double Denarius,- probably a metal detecting find on a Roman site in the UK

Source: V-coins

Here's the description from V-coins:
Romano-British Empire, Carausius, AE-Double Denarius, attractive coin, excellent portrait, flan crack, obv. high points weak, old scratch on rev., 4.211g, 24.0mm, 180o, Camulodunum (Colchester, England) mint, 291 - 292 A.D.; obverse IMP C CARAVSIVS P F AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right; reverse PAX AVG, Pax standing left holding olive-branch and scepter, S - P across fields, blank exergue. Hunter IV 131; Webb 532; RIC V, part 2, 475; Cohen VII 194. NGC XF.
This is followed by an extended narrativisation with Brexit tones and linking the owner of this trophy item to the classical world:
Carausius appears to have appealed to native British dissatisfaction with Roman rule: he issued coins legends such as Restitutor Britanniae (Restorer of Britain) and Genius Britanniae (Spirit of Britain). [...] Some of the silver coins bear the legend Expectate veni, 'Come long-awaited one', recognised to allude to a line in the Aeneid by the Augustan poet Virgil, written more than 300 years previously. He was trying to suggest that not only was he, Carausius, a kind of messianic new ruler, but was also showing his association with Roman culture rather than any kind of remote provincial culture. [...] . No other Roman emperor in history ever made such an explicit reference to famous Roman literature. It was quite extraordinary that in a remote province like Britain to think that a rebel emperor would utilize such a method to appeal to his public [...].
It mentions the Frome Hoard too. What is notable is that the description actually avoids making any mention of how this specific coin with its Pax theme fits that narrative. Also since the exergue is blank, why does the seller go on and on about what other coins have written in theirs? This is just seller-spiel fluff, included to make this object (being sold for 395 dollars) seem in some way more 'relevant'. But this is what the coin looks like now on the dealer's website, looking for all the world as if it has been severely altered by artificial toning:

Source V-coins (edited)

The coin as  we see here typifies the artsy-aesthetic approach to anrchaeological material dug up from an ancient site (thus damaging the information content of both), the silly induced gaudy colours seen in the dealer's photo may be attractive to those who share Donald and Melanie Trump's tastes in interior decoration (and some may imagine this is some kind of status-enhancing accelerated cabinet-toning) but this is just a gimmick. Likewise the sonically-sealerd NGC slab may 'inspire confidence' among US collectors too lazy to learn enough to be able to tell a real coin from a fake but hinders a proper examination of the object. What is totally missing from the US dealer's description is any information (let alone documentation of) where the coin came from, whether it was responsibly reported by its finder, how it entered the market, how it left the source country (export licence?) and any detail of past collecting history. (and who dunked it in what to get those colours on it, and then what they dunked it in to get those chemicals out before it was sealed in that slab). It is presented 'as is'. The missing information would all be necessary for any (really) responsible collector with the ambition to 'preserve a piece of the past'  responsibly. What we have here though is a 'cool' trophy item being sold for cheap thrills to the generally uncritical audience  which make up the bulk of the collectors of ancient coins these days.

Is this any way to treat archaeological evidence? The coin seems not to be in the PAS database.

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