Saturday 27 February 2010

Who, actually, is exagerrating?

Wayne Sayles ("Exagerration") heads off criticism that the ACCG might be the source of the over-optimistic news item "US collectors to regain right to trade ancient Cyprus coins" published in the Cyprus Mail last week. He quotes a Cypriot official, Maria Hadjicostis, Director of the Antiquities Department, about the value of coins, but omits the preceding passage: "Loss of antiquities is a problem, and from a legal perspective, we treat coins just like any antiquities. There is no difference.” That after all is the crucial point, the treating by the US Cyprus and China MOU of ancient coins as ancient artefacts, which the ACCG describes as "capricious and arbitrary".

In the process of his post, Sayles once again, as is his alarmist wont, twists the meaning of Article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (it mentions "postage stamps" shock-horror). The persistence of this "Article 1 lie" among collectors is a source of constant amazement to those of us who have the attention span to make it through the actual text of the document rather than listen to the alarmists.

Sayles also evokes the "bogeyman argument" and alleges that everybody is out to "destroy the licit market in antiquities" because - allegedly - this will cut out the illicit market. In fact nobody is concerned to stop the truly licit art market. The problem is the differences of opinion about what is and what is not "licit" in this industry. The people who make money out of having access to bucketloads of antiquities not unnaturally have a wider definition of what "should be allowed" than those who are concerned where those bucketfulls are coming from. The definition of what should and should not be considered truly licit and ethical however surely is a matter for wider public debate.

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