Tuesday 11 May 2010

"This one minted just before his death..."

Dealer Richard Pearlman (Ancient Coins, El Cerrito, CA. 505) has a go on Moneta-L at Reid Goldsborough for questioning whether the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is doing collectors any favours emphasising the degree to which the US market depends on the import of coins regardless of whether they have been illictly exported or not. In justification of ACCG's extremist anti-preservationist approach, Pearlman reminds monetans that the ACCG's Executive Director and founder Wayne Sayles "has also opened the hobby to new collectors by writing beginners' guides to ancient coins. Well done & great values. Haven't seen anything like that from academic or archaeological side". He's probably not seen then Richard Reece's book published several decades ago or those in the Shire Archaeology series. I think part of the problem is that neither archaeologists or anthropologists regard coins as something to be merely "collected", so they are unlikely to write books to start people on collecting them. I think we would all like to see however a beginner's guide to the methodology of heap-of-decontextualised-coins-on-a-Wisconsin-table "numismatics" (sic) as a scholarly discipline as opposed to mere coin fondling. ACCG numismatists do not seem up to the task. It must also be pointed out that the number of archaeology textbooks written by numismatists also makes rather a poor showing.

Richard Pearlman is seen here on a video, talking with Dan Borsey, of WorthPoint.com, at the 2008 Baltimore Coin and Currency Convention explaining just how much we can "learn" from ancient coins. Let's listen.


Note the "ACE" logo on the showcase at about 30 secs, the Elizabeth I coin and the fair dose of cheesy narrativisation (much of it death-related) going on there.("This might be the very coin that got him killed" - "so contemporary with the early life of Christ" etc etc). Coins here however are used as "illustrations" of the written record, rather than an external source. What we are being told by Mr Pearlman is solely text-driven, not the result of the application of a separate "numismatic" methodology to an independent source of information. Sites were most likely trashed so that Mr Pearlman could offer such "choice" examples . What actually have we "learnt" from all that destructive digging? ("This is what Kleopatra really looked like, not that beautiful really". Neither was Elizabeth - so what?). Also with regard to the frequently recited statement that collectors are only looking after the coins ("properly") that otherwise would not have a "good home", note what he says about the first coin he bought.

In the cointext of his browbeating Reid Goldsborough you have to laugh at what he says at about a minute into the film: "with ancient collectors you get, just , er, almost completely really intelligent thoughtful little(?) people – uh – who take great pleasure in the coins and often in the research that they do". Buying trashed-site and illegally exported coins supported by the ACCG to see how big a nose Kleopatra had for example? Supporting the ACCG in its promotion of a totally unregulated free-for-all and no-questions-asked market in ancient artefact is sure a sign of real "intelligence"... innit?

Update 17th May 2010:
In two extremely disagreeable posts addressed to Reid Goldsborough ("Amen to John Pennock", here and here) this Californian dealer ("Brutus7") does not come over particularly well I feel.

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