Monday 2 February 2009

Whatever happened to the 'Cyprus Coin Conspiracy'?

A few months ago as a result of the MOU about the import of archaeological artefacts from Cyprus into the USA, the portable antiquity collecting forums were full of talk about some vast conspiracy aimed at portable antiquity collectors, collecting, "truth justice and the American way". A group of coin dealers set themselves up as shining crusaders ready to fight the good fight agains the forces of darkness that had decided (shock horror) that ancient coins were archaeological artefacts. They held a "benefit auction" selling mainly contextless coins to raise loads and loads of money for the fight against this notion. They claimed they had leaked information from the CPAC, they made a Freedom of Information Request and got reams and reams of paper on the basis of which all manner of spurious conspiracy theories were constructed and proposed in solemn tones. Then.... silence on the issue.

Could it be that the coin dealers' lobby group ACCG finally realised that in fact there was no way they could fight the rather obvious fact that ancient coins are archaeological artefacts? Neither in court, nor in the eyes of public opinion? Is this why they seem to have lost impetus on this issue? After all, when coins were included in (they say "added" to) the China MOU which was announced a few days ago, all that happened was that they grumbled and mumbled a bit, but certainly no talk emerged of another FOI request or any "fight". So are they in fact going to fight the decision behind the Cyprus MOU? I think we all have a right to know. (And if they are not, what are they going to do with all the money they raised for that specific purpose?)

Now the ACCG seems up in arms about recent events involving coin collectors and metal detectorists in Germany. They seem determined to misrepresent these events as the harbinger of the return of nazism or something, hoping to rouse the US collector and convince them that the ACCG is worth supporting. They have just appointed a new officer to help increase membership numbers (are they flagging, or do they just need more funds?). In fact, the story they are putting around has very little relation to any of the real facts in these cases (not all of which am I at liberty to write here for various reasons). US collectors of portable antiquities (especially coins) seem to be a gullible lot and are reacting predictably to the latest announcement by the ACCG of the next "great conspiracy against us collectors".

It seems to me that the coin dealers' lobby group ACCG has no overall plan, but is lurching from one made-up "cause" to another, trying to avoid facing the real issiuue which is the no-questions-asked market which these dealers insist must be retained and which they insist is not in any way deleterious to the conservation of the world's archaeological resource, even though their businesses and their clients hunger for great chunks of it as cheaply as possible.

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