Monday 8 March 2010

Wisconsin Clergyman Sells Unprovenanced Augustan Coin hoard on eBay

The dubious business connections and practices which lie behind the US no-questions-asked antiquities market have been discussed a number of times in this blog and elsewhere. At the end of the line are the customers who buy this stuff, not asking any questions where they come from, and into whose pockets their dollars are ultimately going. Some of them are dubious characters in their own right, while others fulfil positions of trust and authority in society, teachers, lawyers, doctors, perhaps even policemen and judges collect coins. Even clergymen are involved in the chain of ownership that in some cases goes right back to the unscrupulous looter and smuggler.

Veteran bulk lot uncleaned coin consumer Reverend Paul Bulgerin, for example, presumably the pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church, Grafton, WI 53024 (samhan53024 on eBay) now has an eBay shop:
I have many auctions on eBay this week ending next Sunday. There are also some, that include uncleaned coins, ending on Wednesday of this week. The highlight is the small 13 coin uncleaned hoard from the time of Augustus that I posted about last week. It is really something special and should be of interest to lovers of uncleaned coins - although I recommend that the winner leave them in uncleaned condition just to have the uncleaned hoard intact.
Here is the text of that auction:
A Small Group of VIC / AVG AE-18s from Philippi and Other Types.
This is pretty cool! I was fortunate to pick up this small hoard of uncleaned coins, all from the time of Caesar Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD). They are uncleaned with the same appearance, so I think it is reasonable to assume they were all buried together. It looks like eleven of the coins are AE-18s with obverse of Victory and legend VIC/AVG. On the reverse they have three standards and legend COHOR PRAE PHIL. These coins were minted at Philippi in Macedon. One of the coins appears to have the bust of Augustus and a reverse of a man plowing with oxen. I am not sure what the final coin is. [...]
I was going to sell these individually, but when I saw that they are part of a hoard I decided to sell them as a group. Whoever is lucky enough to win them can clean them or leave them as they are (which is what I would recommend) and enjoy owning a small group of coins that have been together for over 2000 years!
These are not your typical uncleaned coins; they are from the time of Augustus, not the 4th century! [...]
Let me know if you have any questions about the coins I am offering.
I'm a collector selling some of my personal coins to help raise money for my trip next summer to work as a volunteer on the archaeological digs at the Roman site of Vindolanda in the northern UK.
Hmm. "enjoy owning a small group of coins that have been together for over 2000 years!" what the seller means is enjoy hoarding away for yourself what is probably only a part of an unrecorded discovery of a larger group of coins that lay undisturbed in an archaeological context for two thousand years until a looter came along and hoiked them out for sale. The looter into whose pockets Rev. Bulgarin's dollars (through the medium of those that smuggled them out of the source country - Macedonia?) went.

I think, bearing in mind current knowledge about the US coin market, we all have a number of questions about where the pastor got these coins from, certainly not the soil of Wisconsin. They were all "buried together" where, and by what means did they get to Wisconsin? If the Reverend has information on this, why is he not sharing it with his future customers? Not an "a copy of the export licence and full provenance details will be supplied to the purchaser" in sight. Is the leader of a Christian community setting a good example by being involved in the shady world of the no-questions-asked trade in dug-up antiquities removed from other countries?

So he's going to work on the excavation at Vindolanda, eh? Do the project leaders know he is involved in the buying and selling of potentially illegally obtained coins back home? Would they care if they did?

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