Sunday, 15 April 2018

A View on the Antiquities Market

John Hooker FSA April 15, 2018 at 6:47 pm Hi Dick,
It’s great to see a detectorist who is not swayed by archaeological brainwashing! Some archaeologists lure people into not selling their finds because they fear the collector. The reason being that a specialist collector will amass far more information about their specialty than any archaeologist could ever hope to achieve from excavating sites. The same will be true for many dealers whose reputation and success depends on their knowledge.

Detectorists who sell finds contribute to our knowledge in many ways: a lot of dealers maintain public archives of their stock which can be accessed by anyone who knows how to use Google whereas academic publications are priced very high and are seen mainly by academics who want to further their careers; specialists often pay far more than nonspecialists so selling by auction can be a good choice for the detectorist; The detectorist can provide information about the location of the find which will aid in creating distribution patterns. This need not be very specific because a location within a few miles is usually adequate. I suggest saying something was found “near [the closest town]”. That way, the detectorist will know that no one is likely to find their favorite spot.

Being a specialist and a collector, I often give advice to detectorists about good places to look in their area and identify finds for them. In return, they often present me with samples from a site find that I can study further and I share that information with them as well as making it public through my blog.

After a while, many detectorist/collectors will form their own specialties and I also advise them on purchases. I never bid on any item that a collaborating collector asks me about if they are also going to bid. In return, they often tell me about things that they are not planning to buy but that I am interested in.

If you devote time, effort and money, then there is nothing wrong with profiting from that. Who would deny a farmer or a craftsman from making a living from their knowledge and their work? There is something wrong, though, with having information available only to the academic elite. Best, John

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