Monday, 27 April 2009

"ACCG Presses Claims to Hidden Information"

Dear oh dear. What is the problem? It seems the coin dealers' lobby group the ACCG (together with the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild) did not in their Freedom of Information request get enough documents the first time to support their conspiracy theory about the Executive Director of the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Centre Maria Kouroupas, and former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns being allegedly agents of "foreign governments" with their nefarious nationalistic agendas. Despite this, ACCG officer Dave Welsh assures his readers "State Department Misconduct Evidence [is] Emerging". This is real tinfoil hat /they've-put-a-chip-inside-my head stuff, and rather modest "achievements" for the $45 800 raised by the ACCG "benefit auction" (funny, I thought they originally claimed to have made more...). Anyhow, in order to get the conclusive "proof" they need, they are going to hold another "benefit auction" in August/September this year. Why? Well, it turns out that in the view of its Executive Director:

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild might be compared to the legendary Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike. The antiquities trade has all but abandoned the cultural property battlefield, the museum industry has withered under constant attack from cultural property nationalists and ancient coin collecting faces a torrent of opposition. If the guild were to disappear, there would be no serious resistance to a virulent nationalist monopoly on everything ancient. Opponents of ancient coin collecting have the considerable weight of academic institutions and nationalist governments on their side. However, private collectors have inherited a 600-year-old tradition and a very long track record of contributions to society. The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild will not concede our right to preserve, maintain, and enrich this tradition.

Real "cold dead hands" fighting talk that. Well, it seems to me that the global non-numismatic antiquities trade and the museums world ("industry"?) have to a greater degree than a small group of loud no-questions-asked US coin dealers recognised that the manner in which they collect does have a damaging effect on the archaeological record. They rather than ignoring it like the coin collectors - are now facing up to the problem by trying to mitigate that by more responsible collecting. Both groups now have codes of ethics which go well beyond the rather transparently weasel-worded ones adopted by the numismatic trade and its lobbyists. The argument that "Petrarch did it like that 600 years ago, so there is no need to change now" (which is in effect what the coin collectors are saying) really is such a self-serving one that it needs no comment. A lot of things have changed since Petrarch's day and to argue that coin collecting need not be one of them is pure comedy. It is not to the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke that no-questions-asked antiquity collectors should be compared, but Stig of the Dump.

It is only right and proper that this sort of atavistic and selfish behaviour should provoke a "torrent of opposition" from all who really care about the long-term survival of the archaeological record and what it can tell us all about our common past. This is information which is put at severe risk by the commercial concerns of a small but damaging minority. US no-questions-asked coin collectors are determined to be the bird egg collectors, the ivory poachers, the real looters even in the twenty first century.

If the deniers and naysayers of the Ancient Coin Dealers Guild ACCG "were to disappear" from what Sayles terms with some exagerration "the cultural property battlefield", it would indeed be a step towards a new era of co-operation between the interests of responsible collectors and those of the groups concerned with the long term protection of the archaeological record against unregulated exploitation for commercial aims.

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