Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Felix Salmon on the "antiquities-on e-bay debate"

Felix Salmon's blog on the Charles Stanish story on e-Bay fakes which is still going the rounds is not remarkable in itself. The comment by Charles Stanish however is. Well worth a read.

The blog was occasioned by a somewhat aggressive post made elsewhere ("Cheaper by the Millions") by an arrowhead collector, one Bill Stelzer from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He said that Charles Stanish was wrong because he's bought lots of arrowheads on eBay and they are "all genuine" (he even sent the journalist one smuggled out of some Saharan country to "prove" it). He says: "There are no fake Neolithic arrowheads. Nobody even wants the real ones". I say he's deluding himself. he is also misleading everyone when he writes:
The eBay sites that auction antiquities are among the most vetted sites on the Internet. [...] EBay demands that the detailed description accompanying each item explicitly state that the piece is authentic, or it is not [...] If the collectors and dealers monitoring the sites suspect a fake, they can and do contact eBay. If there is agreement on the issue, the seller is required to revise the description and remove the word "authentic" and the fraudulent date or withdraw the piece from the sale.
Nonsense. Collectors' forums are full of posts complaining that until Stanish's article drew attention to this problem, eBay was exceptionally unwilling to cancel auctions that they were being informed by concerned individuals were of fakes.

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