Monday 8 February 2010

January meeting of ACCG in New York

Apparently at the Jan. 12th meeting of the ACCG during the New York International Numismatic Convention, participants were given a pep-talk characterised by hapless numismatic journalist Richard Giedroyć as "a cautious but upbeat assessment of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and its impact on people outside the coin collecting hobby who would demand certain coins be returned to their place of origin due to their being cultural patrimony". ACCG Director Wayne Sayles is quoted as saying "through the year we really got good publicity [...], we finally have an even playing field and the ability to push back." Giedroyć adds helpfully: "By pushing back Sayles meant against foreign governments and professional archaeological groups that have demanded coins these groups deem to be "ancient" of Cyprus, Italy, and China be returned to those countries because the coins are their cultural patrimony. Similar demands have been made in recent years regarding antiquities as well".

This seems a twisting of the facts, the criticism is of the no-questions-asked antiquities trade as a whole which is allowing and encouraging the commercial erosion of the world's archaeological record. The ACCG argues that the no-questions-asked coin trade should be regarded as exempt from such concerns because they claim coins are not artefacts. This is untrue of course.

But most interesting of all is that phrase "be returned to their place of origin". What nonsense. The MOU with China and Cyprus merely require exporters who want to remove certain types of object from the country to do so through the appropriate procedure and requires US law enforcement agencies (such as the ICE) to ensure that this was the case. MOST antiquities and art dealers can comply with the extremely liberal requirements of the US CPIA. Maybe they do so with bad grace, I don't know, but so far only one minority group has said it will not comply and has staged a seizure of illegally imported coins to make the point and force a test case. That is the collectors of ancient dug-ups supported by the IAPN and PNG.

The facts that coineys will not admit are that only if the import of items restricted by the CPIA and related MOUs are not accompanied by one of TWO different types of pieces of paper will the objects be returned to the country they came from. That is any items where an attempt was made to illegally export them will be returned to the place they came from. That seems fair enough. What, actually would truly RESPONSIBLE dealers (and collectors) have against that? Why do the dealers want to present to their clients a version that this means that some unnamed bogeymen want "all" artefacts returned? Is that an admission that most of the items they import from abroad (and the US has very few ancient coins of its own in its soil) are in fact illegally exported? Is this why they claim that "nationalists" are trying to destroy the "licit trade" by imposing import restrictions on illegally exported material? What kind of a "licit" trade is that?

"Coin dealer Harlan Berk of Chicago [...] said he was told an archaeologist told a school teacher it was a bad thing to give ancient coins to children [...] Speaking at the NYINC meeting Berk said, "I am angry at the archaeologists and I want to beat them". I bet he missed a word out there, "bad to give potentially looted coins to children". Beat them Mr Berk? Why actually is somebody supportive of a programme to use archaeological artefacts in education "angry" at archaeologists?

ACCG member and Washington lawyer Peter Tompa sounded the alarm that any future demand by Italy that coins be considered as artefacts bound by export laws and international agreements "could impact the entire ancient Roman coin collecting community". Surely an excagerration. Those collectors who accumulate, study and preserve only those coins legitimately on the market with PAS numbers will not be affected. This argument can only (and only at a stretch) be applied to those who buy them from dealers who cannot show their goods were from licit excavations. Once again the ACCG shows itself more aligned with the no-questions-asked dealers than truly responsible collectors.

Success was announced in awarding "ACCG Friends of Numismatists awards to influential people" like Roger Bland and culture law opponents in Congress.

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