Tuesday 25 May 2010

More on "Classical Coins" and Ancient Geegaws

Californian part-time antiquities dealer Dave Welsh claims that:
Rabid (sic) anticollecting (sic) archaeologist-blogger Paul Barford took his irrational (sic), corrosive (eh?) hatred of private antiquities collecting (sic) to an all time low with this below-the-belt screed: "Coin-Scholars, You Can Even Wear Your Data!
[It seems to me that a single sentence which requires four 'sic's and an 'eh? is an "all time low", even for Mr Welsh].

This is really tiresome. I am really tired of explaining to people who simply cannot understand plain English that I am not "anticollecting" but against indiscriminate (irresponsible) collecting. (So is the PAS Mr Welsh.) Whether or not it is me who is "rabid" and "irrational" or those that glibly claim that indiscriminate antiquities collecting and archaeological site looting do not go hand in hand I leave up to the reader to judge.

Mr Welsh takes what I wrote to be an attack on "private antiquities collecting". What however I was writing about on my blog was commenting on what somebody (who we now find is his wife) was doing with archaeological artefacts. The post is about making them into jewellery, into "ethnic" dingle-dangles, geegaws. This is not my idea of "antiquities collecting"; it is not my idea of stewardship, it is not my idea of curation, it is not my idea of the best conservation practice 9the human body has more chlorides than any PVC envelope); it is not my idea of respect for the object, nor of responsible handling of the object. Neither is it "numismatics" (though justifies my use of the term "numismophilic"). It does not advance in any way our understanding of the past - which we remember is Mr Welsh's main justification offered for private collecting. That is my opinion and I do not see why I cannot express it on a blog concerned with "portable antiquity collecting and heritage issues".

Quite interestingly Welsh's reply only concentrates on what a nasty person I am for reading this information in a totally public resource and commenting on it here. As anyone can see, I found these items described on an internet business advertisment of a firm which claims to be a 'division' of Classical Coins, a claim that seems to be confirmed by the fact that the page is accessible through a link at the bottom of the homepage of Welsh's own "Classical Coins" company website. Let us note that the coin dealer and "collectors' rights" activist does not, and I think this is significant, actually address the meritorial issue of the way a subsidiary of his company Classical Coins treats the ancient artefacts which he handles. I am of the opinion that this type of use of ancient artefacts is totally unethical. "Collectors' rights" activist and coin dealer Mr Welsh offers no defense of his position over this, just insults me for drawing attention to it and having an opinion about it.

I was of course not disputing whether or not "the items in question were licitly acquired under the laws of the United States of America". I was discussing the use to which they were put by a subsidiary of the "collectors' rights" activist's own coin-dealing company. It would be equally legal under the laws of the United States of America to produce "hobo-denarii" out of them or "elongated prutahs", or stick them on the outside of a Lamborghini with epoxy glue, but that does not make any of these things an ethical way to treat ancient artefacts.

It is not me that is involved in "abuse" (as Welsh would have it) of the archaeological heritage, but those collectors and dealers who loudly proclaim their "rights" to do anything they want behind the curtain of local law (in this case US law, which they themselves challenge to get it lifted still further) without any thought for the consequences of their actions. A "division" of Classical Coins is obtaining ancient artefacts [which they make no efort to demonstrate they were not produced by the trashing of archaeological contexts or involved in illegal export] merely to make geegawish jewellery. I think that is wrong, and I think that contrasts very sharply with the justifications the coin dealer makes in other contexts for the unrestricted private collections of such objects. That is an opinion I maintain.

In reply to Welsh's emotional accusation, I certainly do not think I actually say anything "foul" about the maker of these necklaces and earrings. I personally do not like them, nor the idea and I would not wear them myself, and I'd only consider buying one for a lady in my life if the ancient coin in them was (a) pretty and (b) most definitely fake and that the maker was not using elephant ivory in any of them (a question unanswered).

Welsh reveals a gangland mentality when, instead of discussing the merits of wearable jewellery made of dugups he says he regrets it is not possible "for me to invite Mr. Barford to "take the air in the country"." (That by the way sounds like a threat of violence which is forbidden by Yahoo list policy, whether on a closed or open access list, which is interesting as he has also posted this on a yahoo list of which he himself is moderator).

So instead of his usual emotional, insulting and now threatening behaviour, perhaps Mr Welsh might like to try and answer the points I actually made, and especially why his frequently loudly repeated claims for the scholastic implications of coin collecting are not mere hypocrisy when contrasted with what a division of Classical Coins actually does with ancient coins. If he can; I rather suspect that the pretended indignation (now being cross-posted on various forums) is an attempt to distract attention onto the personal level to disguise the fact that the "collector's rights" activist cannot explain away the activities of a division of his own company when attention has been drawn to them in a discussion of the way antiquities are treated by dealers and collectors.

I would also be interested in hearing of any discussion among serious ("responsible") collectors whether this kind of treatment of ancient artefacts by a company affiliated to one of the spokesmen for the industry really does enhance the reputation of portable antiquity collecting as a form of study of the past, or whether it diminishes it. Not that I really expect many collectors to actually discuss such a thing - too much like "politics", eh? What's the position of the PAS (and responsible UK detectorists) on this? "Roman grot" or "hammie" cufflinks anyone?

The Ancient Coins blog is rapidly becoming a "kick the watchdog" blog, nothing there about ancient coins at all these days. Here however I will stick to my take on the intended theme of "Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues".

Vignette: Coineys' dream car? Is this "ancient artefact collecting"?

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