Monday 22 February 2010

Half the Ancient Coins on the US Market are Looted, New Study Shows

In this blog is discussed the evidence produced by a new study of private holdings of Greek and Roman artefacts in the US produced by the Cultural Property Research Institute. This indicates that over a half of the ancient coins currently in personal collections of US ancient coin collectors are demonstrably recently and illicitly imported looted archaeological artefacts. That seems sufficiently shocking to be worth stressing - maybe it will give collectors and pro-collecting journalists pause for thought.

Especially as there is ample evidence (discussed elsewhere on this blog and by other authors) that a lot of this trade is putting US money into the pockets of organized criminal groups and terrorist organizations, with all that that entails.

In any case, if over half the material in the average ancient coin collection in the US contains illicit artefacts, in other words stolen artefacts, and the proceeds are going to finance criminal activity, is it really a wise move at this point in time for US ancient coin collectors to be suing the State Department as well as the Department of Homeland Security? Are US collectors so sure of themselves and their leaders that they can continue with impunity to collect no-questions-asked this kind of material, while at the same time pursuing the very bodies responsible in the US for prosecuting culture crime? How sure are they that such acts are not going to provoke for some of them at least a knock at the door at dawn one day like the rude awakening that awaited artefact-collecting residents of Blanding not long ago? If it happened that the US authorities will for once actually take decisive action to cut this canker from the fabric of civil society, I wonder how the ACCG would explain that to their members?

.Vignette: coins on sale, who knows where they come from? But like many of the coins currently on the international market, they do not look much like they have been lying in a collectors' cabinet to me.


Anonymous said...

Only half ? Or half of those on the market directly comes from illegal excavation ? Of the remaining half, what proportion comes from illegal excavation, at some remove ?

Marcus Preen said...

Only half!
I think you are right to think that's almost certainly an underestimate.

Where did everyone think all those tens of thousands of looters digging up those millions of items were sending them all? Charity shops? Garbage vans? Or Chuck and Dave?

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