Friday, 13 August 2010

More on Unprovenanced "Oxfordshire" Finial (2) the "value" of research

Still referring to Hooker's unprovenanced and unreported "Celtic finial" (see post above this one), over on Tim Haines' closed-access Yahoo"AncientArtifacts" discussion list the collector complains that I do not praise him for the fact that he intends to get the metal of his object "analysed" and he says he intends to donate it to a British public collection because he thinks it is so important. Well, there is a good reason for not being excited about his proposals for analysis, as I know a bit about the subject and the methods he describes do not strike me as likely to yield any useful results. As for the donation... well, Mr Hooker himself reveals his cards to the celtophiles:
First, let me assure all that it will not be donated. I have a number of reasons for this decision and I am adamant. What seems fair to me would be something akin to the Treasure Act valuation and reward, [...] I would look at such a valuation, and if it did not dramatically differ from what I think it should be, with favor and it would probably be returned to England upon the receipt of payment.[...] A simpler plan, likely more profitable for me, while providing the minimal amount of good for the U.K. would be for me to wait until the scientific testing is done and it all has been published and then offer it through a London auction house which will then reference its publications as part of its provenance. Being a legitimized published artifact, it would attract a lot of bidders.
This proposal was received enthusiastically by the celtophiles, one Andrew Jacob writing:

It sounds to me like you have done and are doing your due diligence. If a public auction will bring you enough profit to cover what you paid for it, plus the cost of the testing you are doing and a little extra for your trouble, I see no ethical reason why you shouldn't do just that. The relevant authorities had their chance and gave it up, and it sounds like you are going to ensure it ends up where it should, so good on you.
I presume this is Mr Jacob; whoever he is, he has not much of an idea about the concept of "due diligence" when buying antiquities from the UK, if the best provenance that can be supplied for an item (which has additionally not been reported responsibly to the PAS) is the vague county, the responsible collector should pass the object by. Also Mr Jacob seems not to have been informed that "the relevant authorities" (in this case the PAS) did not "have their chance" before the object was sold to Mr Hooker.

But what an interesting idea, that the Brits should now give Mr Hooker, who alone in all the world saw the "real" significance of this item, which nobody else saw until he pointed it out, a Treasure reward. A financial reward which satisfies him. This puts a whole new perspective on the research collectors do on the objects they buy, it adds to their financial value.

Mr Hooker wants to make a case for this object being extra-super-special and therefore for some reason worth lots of dosh. He feels he should get a Treasure reward for his ideas, which is a bit odd because he cannot make a case for this object being Treasure in the scope of the relevant act for England (now if it had been found in Scotland, that would be different). Also somebody should tell Mr Hooker the reward (if awarded at all because it is discretionary) applies to the finder, and not those who subsequently do the writing up of all those hoards reported under the Treasure Act, or those who excavate sites like that of the Staffordshire Hoard and find the bits the treasure hunter had not already hoiked out.

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