Saturday, 18 July 2009

"Discretion" a necessary priority for the no-questions-asked marketeers

Alfredo de la Fe was describing on the Moneta-L forum a new database he was setting up similar to the CoinArchives site which, as I mentioned earlier, has priced itself out of the range of the casual or average collector. It was gratifying to observe that he and his advisory group were contemplating including a section which would allow the movement of coins from owner to owner to be followed and also reconstruct associations (such as coins coming from the splitting of hoards). This seems a step on the road to a fuller transparency in dealing with archaeological artefacts by this branch of the market and is to be welcomed. Not, however by the no-questions-asked dealers who apparently have reason to feel uncomfortable that somebody could look over their shoulder. Thus Californian coin dealer Dave Welsh was quick off the mark to "warn":
Considering the hunger Paul Barford and others of his ilk have for obtaining this sort of traceability information, caution is necessary to insure (sic) that it does not get into the hands of those who seek to discredit ancient coin collecting. It is unfortunate that collectors must think of such
considerations when considering the wisdom of information sharing regarding their holdings and acquisitions, however the reality today is that there are enough zealots out there whose goal is to abolish collecting, to make discretion a necessary priority.

Priority over what? Transparency? I wonder what is the difference for the ACCG and its officers in "discretion" and secrecy? When it's the State Department exercising discretion about its dealings with foreign governments (as US law allows and diplomatic protocol requires) its regarded as reprehensible by US no-questions-asked dealers. They want to import whatever they make a quick buck on without having to be asked by an impudent US customs officer where the export licenses are. But when it involves the deliberate suppression of information about where those artefacts are coming from and going, that is OK, because then it is ("necessary") "discretion".

There is nothing very discrete about the way Mr Welsh tries to cover his no-questions-asked tracks. Yes, I asked him outright (three times) about the origin of the Balkan dugups he is selling as special lots. I asked him (twice) about a group of Parthian coins he was selling (discussed here, here, and here). He said the latter came from "Spain", the Balkan ones he effectively refused to discuss. I have no "hunger" for the information, I asked him, I got singularly evasive replies, which we can all see and check and ponder over. I think we may all fairly draw whatever inferences we make on what Mr Welsh sells on their basis.

Once again, we see the same blatant misrepresentation of the facts of the case. Welsh asserts that "there are zealots out there whose goal is to abolish collecting". Where, precisely? I've been through all this before (see also here), but Mr Welsh still uses the same tired old mantras to try to whip up the indignation of the masses. Of course he knows his audience, sheep like "Fred S." are obviously gullible enough to believe any old nonsense the pro-no-questions-asked-market activists like him try to foist off on them, without checking the facts for themselves.

So once again, but this time I will write it in exasperated mauve and I'll write it in big letters for the 'hard of reading' in the portable antiquity collecting community:

When will collectors get it into their heads that what is being urged here is a more ethical, responsible, sustainable, accountable and transparent trade, not its abolition?

By all means however let us abolish from the legitimate market those who cannot and will not exercise due dilligence to cut down the ease with which illicit items enter and circulate in the market, those who deny the need for it, those who refuse to even consider that the "Petrarch collected coins like this" status quo is unsustainable in the twenty-first century.

I suppose the existence of the imaginary "zealots" is supposed to act as an excuse for why "collectors must think of such considerations when considering the wisdom of information sharing regarding their holdings and acquisitions". It could not possibly be, of course that collectors who buy from certain dealers have something to hide? Mr Welsh sounds here so much like a certain group with the UK "metal detecting" milieu. Interestingly though, when he came onto the Britarch forum to spread his poison, even the "metal detectorists" rejected him.


Marcus Preen said...

Amazing stuff. Show me a trader that wants to conceal stuff and I'll show you a trader that is concealing the reason he wants to conceal stuff!

This from Mr Lueke for instance is a prime example of concealment of both facts and reasons for concealing facts....

"The hoard info/ find spots are naturally the first point of the
ownership context in the modern life of an ancient coin. Again it's
more important that the ability to collect that information exists,
certainly there can be many reasons for it to be absent."

Indeed there may be. But Mr Lueke doesn't care to list them evidently. One might wonder why but for the fact it couldn't be more obvious.

Marcus Preen said...

What fun! I see Mr Hooker has spent a lot of time trying to fill in Mr Lueke's gaping gap by running through reasons why laying out the whys and wheres of your wares like a respectable trader in any other field might do - is rather problematic for those who sell archaeological bits. Such sensitive suppliers, eh?

And yet, the big reason is still not being addressed is it?

If you don't supply details that you have, then you're free to supply artefacts WITHOUT details and the fact the details are missing doesn't put people on alarm. Yes?

Well that's what they say round the back of lorries anyway.

Paul Barford said...

That'll be here then,
I agree that he seems to be missing a few reasons why they will not tell where stuff comes from and where it's going.

These guys are so transparent. Like jellyfsh.

Paul Barford said...

"The cultural property argument is really a no starter anyway. Everyone with any knowledge of the subject at all knows
that most ancient coins on the market do not have that sort of
provenance details and the only thing that could be done is to say "I bought this from..." or "I sold this to...". (sic) [...] People also have a right to keep their own business affairs private when working within the law. Of course, the cultural property zealots will imagine some sort of conspiracy theory in this
move -- but they are idiots and we can't do anything about that, and I don't think it is very healthy to humor them and thus reinforce their aberrations."

I think part of the problem is that we are all asked to assume (why?) that all those who will not say where they got the artefacts they are putting on the market are operating legally when the illegal material which we know is headed towards the same market must be going SOMEWHERE.

It is certainly no "idiocy" nor "aberration" to consider that in a legitimate trade in items which in many countries of the world are subject to restrictions (in the USA and Canada too) there must be accountancy and transparency.

It seems to me that it is not just "zealots" (sic) who observing the constant refusal of those involved in the market to offer will draw suitable conclusions and look askance at the varying excuses offered and misrepresentations made.

Marcus Preen said...

"the illegal material which we know is headed towards the same market must be going SOMEWHERE"

Ah well, that's the crux of the Sub-Atlantic Tunnel mystery.

Trainloads of looted goods go in one end and are never heard of again. Meanwhile, trainloads of "other" goods emerge at the other end - either without provenance or with "provenance withheld for business reasons". Only a fool would raise an eyebrow.

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