Thursday, 17 June 2010

"Capital" example of Collectors' Hypocrisy

Pastor Scott M. Head aka "Scotvs Capitus"("Husband, Father, Elder, Media Professional") from Friendswood, Texas is a blog-owning collector of ancient coins. Pastor Head has recently posted on his coiney blog (he has a Christiany one too) a post called "The Reality of Uncleaned Coins for Beginners which purports to be about the "ifs" attached to the collecting of ancient artefacts bought in the form of bulk lots of "uncleaned ancient coins".

I note that (apart from a general lack of any mention of contributions to scholarship about the past which flies in the face of the coiney propaganda) the big "if" that is not dealt with is where these coins came from and how they got on the market. The Pastor clearly does not feel that there is a question of ethics or morals there at all.

Nevertheless, from what we know about the supply of the US market at the moment, the great majority of these coins are the rejects from the sorting through of the vast bulk of metal artefacts which is being stripped on almost industrial scale from the archaeological sites of southeastern Europe and other regions of the former ancient world (Texas has no ancient coins of its own). The more attractive pieces are selected out either in the source country or abroad by middlemen, tarted up, and sold individually to dealers, while the rejects end up being sold off by weight as "uncleaned lots". The idea that all these coins with earth on them are coming from the cabinets of "old collectors" is self-evidently an unsubstantiated myth. But the scale of ongoing looting and smuggling of precisely such ancient coins from ancient sites in a number of source countries is well-documented.

Apart from being archaeologically damaging the commercial stripping of collectable objects from archaeological sites is illegal in most of the countries where this is going on. Even in parts of the otherwise liberal UK. The non-reporting of these finds is equally illegal in most areas of the ancient world. The removal of these items from the region without going through the proper procedures is also illegal. US Coin collectors argue that buying these coins is "not illegal" in the US, because "no US law was broken". But quite clearly buying illegally produced goods cannot be moral, even if done by a pastor and Church elder.

In fact should it not be these pastors and Church elders, not to mention school teachers, that are setting the moral tone of the nation?

But Pastor Head is led into other moral dilemmas by his love of the coins he collects. On his coiney blog, he has a message of Christian love for anyone who might be tempted to touch his coins which basically announces that he has a big gun and will shoot to kill trespassing "riff raff". The pastor warns he's willing to kill a man protecting "a couple of $2 bronze coins", it's his "right" he says. I note that collectors, especially those in the USA, claim a lot of things are their "rights" (because not explicitly forbidden in law provided certain conditions pertain). I really find it hard to be convinced that indiscriminately handling what is in all likelihood in many cases items which have been illegally obtained and also killing people in defence of their ownership are in any way moral positions. But then I do not live in Texas, collect old coins or go to shoot-to-kill Pastor Head's Family Grace Baptist Church.

Vignette: (1) I don't suppose Jesus would have thought his followers were setting a good example by buying coins without ascertaining that they were not stolen. (2) Texans, try not to spoil the pastor's day by coveting "his" coins.


Scott M. Head said...

Nice, thanks for the write up! Appreciate the bump in traffic.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I expect you do, sir.

Paul Barford said...

I see pastor head has "replied" to the post here, please take a moment to read what I wrote about where I see the moral dilemmas and then look how Pastor Head answers them...

or avoids answering them.

NormanW said...

I appreciate that you are drawing attention to this problem, but I believe you have overgeneralized. While looting of archeological sites is a real problem in Europe and elsewhere, your claim that the bulk of uncleaned coins currently available on the market are the product of looting is not true.

The enormous number of uncleaned coins entering the market annually is far beyond what could be produced by the number of archeological sites being looted. Diligent, open-minded research reveals that the numbers simply do not add up.

There can be little doubt that some illegally obtained coins do end up in uncleaned lots, but they constitute a tiny fraction of the whole. I can tell you that I am personally acquainted with more than one European coin hunter who only metal detects on private lands.

This being said, in my opinion the overall lack of transparency in revealing sources of ancient coin finds is a problem in the ancient coin hobby, one that makes it too easy for illegally obtained artifacts to enter the market. I also am of the opinion that where a coin was found is part of the history of the coin. It is information that should be as relevant to the collector as it is to an archeologist.

In closing, I must rise to the defense of Scott Head. He is honest, kind, and respected in his local community. If you lived in Friendswood, Texas and knew him personally, your comments about him would be of a very different character.

Norman W.

Paul Barford said...

Norman W. (no other details on fresh profile) writes:
"The enormous number of uncleaned coins entering the market annually is far beyond what could be produced by the number of archeological sites being looted. Diligent, open-minded research reveals that the numbers simply do not add up."

So... where does YOUR "diligent open-minded research" lead you to consider they come from? You do not say. Like Pastor Head.

I am sure if I was a Christian gun-owning coin collector living in Friendswood, Texas I'm sure I'd think he was a great bloke and invite him round for a few beers, however I am not.

Somehow I get the impression that you are both dodging the questions I posed based on what he writes (and does not write) on his blog.

Paul Barford said...

see now:

Anonymous said...

Paul.... Do you suggest we leave the coins in the ground to rot from fertilizers and other corrosion sources? Your argument is complete and utter crap. You are just another American hating clown. Now go take your red floppy shoes and bugger off jealous one.

Chip Gruszczinski

Paul Barford said...

Thank you for the comment, I have answered it - apart from the floppy shoes - here:

Why do you think we should all "love America" and uncritically accept everything about it whether we live there or not and there must be something wrong with somebody who does not?

What, actually, do you have that I'd be "jealous" of Mrs Gruszczynska? Europe suits me just fine.

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