Tuesday 13 April 2010

Spot the difference: Outraged Collectors/ Enquiring Collectors

The ACCG has issued a press release explaining to the wider publc what they are doing and why. It is interesting to compare this text with those which they circulated locally on coin-collectors' forums and through dealers direct mailing to customers. There is one vital element missing - the one that got collectors all over the northern hemisphere faxing busily away to the CPAC in protest. Comparison of the two groups of texts clearly shows how alarmist slogans are being used to whip up support. But it means also that the Ancient Coin Collectors' "Guild" (run mostly by US coin dealers) is trying to lead ancient coin collectors on both sides of the Atlantic by the nose.

Now the beginning of the kicking up of this fuss was a post by Peter Tompa on his blog last week (6th April), followed shortly by mass mail shots to collectors through coiney and artefact collecting forums and dealers direct mailing to their customers, this was followed by outraged discussions and people firing off faxes to the CPAC asking "how they dare" etc. (see discussion here).

One thing was missing and that appeared only last night on Moneta-L. A (one British) coin collector wrote to the forum saying he had actually looked at the existing MOUs, read them, understood what they were about (" I am sorry, I tend to need this information before coming to conclusions about things"). He made a point which is noteworthy and had two questions for the organizers of the campaign. Difficult though it may be to understand, this is actually the first time there has been an enquiry of such depth published on a collectors' forum, and yet we see that already nearly 600 faxes have gone off "opposing import restrictions on ancient coins from Italy" through the ACCG "fax wizard" (how do they know what the contents were?).

After looking through the list of the types of material protected by import restrictions, he noted:
To be honest, I have little objection to what is on the list and I would think if the US had such treasures with-in their border, they would want a similar protection. I am quite shocked that coins are not mentioned to be honest.
The question was
Can anyone point me to the announcement, or where it was made known, that Italy was going to try to [...] ask for the broad and far reaching rights to antiquities of the Roman Empire that has been mentioned here?
Well, despite (unsubstantiated) claims that it is a "lie" to suggest this is the case, there is no such announcement, this is pure speculation. Comparing the alarmist announcements made locally to collectors with the text of the public prwess release suggests that this is deliberately provocative. It is hard to escape the conclusion that collectors are being deliberately misled by the ACCG.

But then if there are reputed to be 50 000 ancient coin collectors in the US alone (ACCG figures), why has it taken so long for one (just one) collector to actually come forward with a question because they had checked the facts presented and found them not to be as represented?
It is interesting to note that shortly after this there was another post querying what the ACCG had told collectors. Good, maybe it is sinking in to collectors what actually they are being led into...

Ross Glanfield has made a number of extremely articulate, intelligent and informative posts to Moneta-L, but I get the idea that some dealers regard him and one other collecting member to be a thorn in their sides. I think I am beginning to see why now his questions to the ACCG are also picking up steam. He is now independently making the same point as an earlier post here.

He was informed by Alfredo De La Fe, who seems to be taking on the role of ACCG spokesman here, that:
Whenever the government gets involved and has you filling out and filing paperwork it gets annoying, time consuming and if it involves importation of products or any kind of legal service, EXPENSIVE. Add to this the complexity involved in an agent actually being able to identify a coin and the fact that these agents have been receiving training from the radical fringe and they will be seeing "looted" material everywhere.WITHIN the USA when I travel between states to do coin shows every once in a while I get hasseled about my coins. I can only imagine how bad it would get if they felt they had a licence to hassle (MOU specifically mentioning coins).

Well, how annoying to actually have to keep paperwork detailing transactions in files. In fact the export licence is applied for by (as the name implies) by the exporter in the countruy of origin and not by the person at the other end.

Anyway Ross has been reading the MOUs too:
the various MOU's in force right now apply to all sorts of ancient objects other than coins - to borrow a paragraph from Chris's post with just some examples from the current MOU with Italy: "C. Personal OrnamentsEtruscan and Italic rings, necklaces, earrings, crowns, bracelets,buckles, belts, pins, chains of gold, silver, bronze, and iron Approximate date: 8th to 3rd century B.C."So do the people importing or buying these objects in the U.S. get "hassled"? Is their "private property" being seized arbitrarily by government agents? If it is then you've got a case - if not you haven't.
The reply might be interesting....



Well, several days on there have been few developments in these discussions, critical thinking seems not to be terribly popular among coineys - many of whom seem quite content to be pushed into accepting what the industry leaders tell them and reacting accordingly. There have been a number of outrageous statements published on the forums by the likes of dealers Wayne Sayles and Robert Kokotailo (and others) which have gone totally unchallenged by coin collectors who presumably accept them as the wise words of the industry's sages.


Charles the Bold said...

I am the one who posted the question on Moneta, I am not from the UK. Of course I had to verify what was being reported on the list. Even in this you cant help but come off condescending.

You say these people are alarmist and dishonest trying to whip up a frenzy in collectors whose intelligence you seem to rate only slightly higher than a chimps (at best). I wonder if it is they who are being dishonest or is it you when you depict them this way? I believe they are guilty of protecting their interest, many their livelihood, with hyperbole. I would say you are no better. I believe both you and they use dishonest tactics to further your goals. These tactics are transparent to anyone with half a brain.

It seems most people just want to name call, point fingers and win at all cost, nobody seems to have anything sensible to say. This blog is mainly just filled with one man stalking collector forums, pointing his finger and making fun of people, calling people names like an infant. On coin forums they are panicking and dreaming up the end of collecting (an ideal outcome for you no doubt)

Infantile bickering between a representative of so-called academia who seems to believe they are entitled to be the sole arbiters, and collectors or dealers in antiquities who wish to retain the right to collect and trade in coins. I use the term academia very loosely as anyone who has ever attended an institute of higher learning knows all too well that to obtain a higher education requires only the ability to learn and regurgitate answers, it does not require common sense or good judgment.

You seem on a crusade to paint all collectors as low brow coin fondlers whose only interest in the coins they collect is that they are pretty and shiny. Dealers and collectors seem only interested in preserving free and unrestricted (whether those restrictions be harsh or fair) access to coins with a very minimum of bother and depict your ilk as tyrannical, elitist and uncompromising. Both sides dishonest. Neither side have any inclination to sit down and work together.

I am a just a collector, this is not my job but my passion so I am naturally at a disadvantage. I am a part timer and my profession is not coins or antiquities. Unlike the vast majority of common ancient coins in the hands of museums and institutes of higher learning, MY coins are always on display to the public. I expend my hard earned money to make sure the public has free access to view my coins, the history relating to those coins and indeed all coinage. I am passionate about all coins (not just ancients) as well as the history of coins and money so I spend my free time studying them.

Charles the Bold said...


I am not paid for this, I do not make my money in coins and antiquities. I lose money with every coin I buy. I have loaned them to schools so children can touch a piece of history and spark discussion and imagination and I explain to them what the devices on the coins mean. These coins in private collections often serve the community more than any museum, they make history accessible to those who would otherwise never have a chance to hold a genuine ancient artifact. The coins are so common most museums would never display them. Why can there not be fair process which ends with these coins on the market at fair prices?

The museum in the city in which I live probably has a sum total of 5 coins on display in the Roman section. Even those few coins are used as mere examples, there is nothing there to explain the history of coinage, how they were made, who made them, or what the devices on these coins mean. I have far more coins on display for anyone to see free of charge and I can assure you that even the most common coins in my collection are treated with the greatest care and respect.

Do I care if my coins were looted? Of course I do. I do not want to be a party to that. Am I sure that none of my coins were looted? Of course not. Would I like my coins to have a full provenance...certainly and I would welcome some cooperation and offer my own to work towards a system which will accommodate both honest collector and archeologist.

I travel extensively in my profession and in my travels I have not seen any lack of stunning artifacts on display, in many places I see sites deteriorating because there is not enough interest and know many common artifacts sit in storage and will never be displayed. My collection is humble, few if any would be displayed in a museum, why not work with collectors, encourage a process where, at the end, all those low end pieces are released for sale to private owners who will care for them and put them on display? give honest collectors a source. In this way looters lose business.

Do I think if coins were added to the MOU collecting would suffer? well it all matters how they were added and how it is practically applied. Do I think it will end looting or even make a dent in it. Not a chance. Ask those in the Balkans if their highly restrictive laws have helped to even slow the exodus of coins from their countries. I as a collector am more than willing to submit to more regulation if the end result is fair.

I believe most collectors and people like yourself both care very much about protecting these items. I am honest person, I care about numismatics and coins and I am concerned when I see people like myself being vilified. Sending a letter to try and see a logical compromise and voicing this concern is the least I can do.

Paul Barford said...

Thanks for that. I am sorry if I confused you with another pseudonymous collector, it is so confusing dealing with a bunch of people who feel the need to hide their true identities.

I am sure it is wonderfully satisfying showing all those kids your treasures. I’d be happier though if you also added how the trade in such items is destroying the record of the past they came out of. Without that, the “education” would be rather one-sided.

Coins in a private collection may “serve” _a_ community, but that is most likely not the community in the area where those coins were used, lost and dug up, is it? So this brings us back to that problem of the illicit transfer.

I would not want anyone to get the idea that this blog is anything more than something I do for my own entertainment. Take it or leave it.

As for what I say about collectors. This is based on (too) many years observation of their behaviour within the group.

As we know, there is a series of views expressed by the coiney advocacy group, the ACCG, that all coin collectors are the intellectual heirs of Petrarch, Johann Winckelmann and Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, all busily working away with their collections at the sharp edge of the expansion of knowledge about the past and educating us all about ancient “culture”, history and being enlightened cosmopolitans.

Then there is what I see when we actually look at the online discussions which for me is the real touchstone of the degree to which collectors as a whole are an intellectual force.

The fact is that the dealers by a bit of not too subtle hyperbole (as you call it) and deceit (which is how see it) are able to convince this lot that the sky is falling. And collectors fall for it every time.

Now I do not expect anyone who cares to read this to take my word for it. Unlike most coiney blogs I supply the links to where I find the things I write about. Anyone who so wishes can look in on the coiney and artefact collectors discussions for themselves and see to what extent the ACCG model of homegrown humanists at the cutting edge of historiographic practice is an accurate reflection of what goes on there.

There is much in the indiscriminate collecting of artefacts and its institutional justification which IMO deserves all the vilification it gets.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.