Sunday 9 May 2010

Goldsborough: the Interests of ACCG Collectors and all of us?

Reid Goldsborough has been mentioned on this blog before, he clearly is one of the few collectors of ancient coins whose participation in the online discussions of collecting indicates that he has the ability to think for himself. He does not fall into the trap of the ritual recitation of group-unity mantras that McCabe does in his reaction on Moneta-L to the mention of coin collecting in the Washington Post. Goldsborough's reaction is far more nuanced than the usual coiney claptrap. He points out that while in the cited newspaper article the Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild identifies himself as a "collector", he is in fact a dealer,
and he represents dealer interests [...]. The group he runs, Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG), also primarily represents dealer interests, despite its name.
Goldsborough notes that, though neither group is monolithic in its beliefs, "dealer and collector interests here don't necessarily coincide".
Many collectors take a middle ground approach, neither the position at one extreme of ACCG or at the other extreme of the Archaeological Institute of America, a middle ground position that's represented as the article points out by Alan M. Stahl of Princeton University. This middle ground position was also spelled out well by Richard Witschonke of the American Numismatic Society in an editorial published by the Celator magazine in January 2009, which disagrees with approach of ACCG. Scholars like these support actions that preserve information now lost with the current ancient coin distribution system, which has been in place for many decades and which ACCG is trying to preserve, in which the majority of new ancient coin finds are secretly and illegally smuggled out of source countries so as not to run afoul of the laws of these countries.
Both Stahl and Witschonke's editorials have been mentioned in this blog. Goldsborough argues that what's needed most of all "isn't the preservation of the current badly flawed system" but changes which will allow the proper study of coin and artifact finds can be studied, which could greatly add to our knowledge. He accepts that museums in the source countries should have the first option on what they wanted to curate and display, but that then the ethical collector could have access to the rest. Goldsborough suggests that instead of kicking aginst the laws, the collectors in ACCG should be actively working for a change in any laws that prevent these things happening. His position is that ethical, law abiding private collecting which adds to our knowledge of the past should be preserved, but the current system of the acquisition of coins to collect needs changing. I agree entirely.

It is good to learn that not all coin collectors of ancient coins are beind the anti-social activities of the ACCG and its officers. Goldsborough notes that
Of the ten objectives of ACCG that it spells out at its site, none deal with improving the current badly flawed distribution system. Not surprisingly, none of ACCG's seven officers are affiliated with any universities or museums and its benefactors are primarily (or exclusively?) ancient coin dealers and the VCoins marketplace.
Maybe, since US coin dealers have already highjacked the concept of an "Ancient Coin Collector's" advocacy group, it is time thinking and ethical collectors of ancient coins set up their own advocacy group, Advocates for Change in the Ancient Coin Trade (ACACT)? If dealers presume to tell unthinking collectors what's what, let us see ethical and thinking collectors take the initiative and tell dealers what they want for a change.

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