Wednesday, 29 September 2010

ACCG "Benefit Auction" in Progress

The ACCG has so far made most of the money it uses to fight its no-questions-asked corner by selling unprovenanced ancient coins donated by dealers (mostly) and collectors. The third such "Benefit Auction" is in progress on ACCG President Bill Puetz's V-Coins website under the somewhat controversial heading: "ACCG 3rd Annual Benefit Auction - Benefiting All Collectors". I would say it is extremely doubtful whether whether what the ACCG is doing is in any way "beneficial " to collectors of ancient coins in the long term.

Here is a list of the sponsors and the approximate number of coins they have donated to the cause of defending no-questions-asked collecting:

Dealers in Ancient Coins and Artefacts:
Beast Coins, LLC Zach Beasley New Berlin, Wi (47 in one job lot with "Syrian patina")
Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. Chicago (20)
Freeman & Sear Robert Freeman, David Sear, Los Angeles CA (17)
Pars Coins San Jose, CA (15)
Holyland Numismatics Salem Alshdaifat, West Bloomfield, MI (14)
Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. Lancaster PA /Old Bond Street, London, (12)
Roman Lode Ron Bude, Ann Arbor, Michigan (10)
Heritage Auction Galleries Dallas, Texas (9)
Aegean Numismatics Andrew Calderone, Mentor OH (9)
Byzantine Coin Store Larry Gaye, Beaverton, OR (7)
Ancient Imports Marc Breitsprecher, Grand Marais, MN (7)
Tom Cederlind Portland, OR (6)
Newgate Numismatics John Portanova Poulsbo, Wa. (6)
Wayne C. Phillips Rare Coins Diamond Bar, CA (5)
Kirk Davis, Classical Numismatics Claremont, CA (5)
Nilus Coins Bill Kalmbach, Austin, TX (4)
Sphinx Numismatics Youssef Mishriki, Markham, Ontario Canada (3)
Vaughn Rare Coin Gallery Chip and Al Vaughn, Alton, IL. (2)
William M. Rosenblum, LLC Littleton, Co. (2)
Apollo Numismatics Merrill Gibson, Culver City, CA (1)
Classical Creations (Dave Welsh's Classical Coins) (1 Roman coin in a necklace)
Clayton Rare Coins & Jewelry Mark Reid and family, Clayton, Mi (1)

Dr. Martina Dieterle
Schenkenzell, Germany (1)
Ponterio & Associates, Inc. Richard Ponterio, Irvine CA (1)

Collectors of Ancient Coins and Artefacts Supporting the ACCG
Anonymous (1)
Gary Bunclark, Ontario, Canada (1)
Jeffrey W. Depry, California (1)
Theodore J. Mussano, Jr., New Jersey (2 [one a lot of misc. coins])
Douglas O. Rosenberg, Indiana (1)
Peter Tompa, Washington, D.C. (3)

[The following dealers supported by donating only numismatic books (Neptune Numismatics, Andy Singer, Edward J. Waddell, Ltd. , while Wayne Sayles donated a website, VCoins five gift certificates, and Classical Creations some craftwork. Several collectors donated books (Mark Ames, Bob Langnas, James Pickering)].

The pattern of coins offered is quite interesting, it is notable that when the first selection of coins was posted up, there were very few with any kind of provenance or collecting history, some late arrivals had more "ex.... collection" labels. But even so, the overall showing in this regard is very poor. Several Durotrigian coins are listed as from the Isle of Wight Hoard, but no mention is made of the seller having copies of the export papers (which are needed from the UK for such material).

What is notable is the geographical spread of the origins (region of issue and circulation) of the actual coins. The model the ACCG prefer to promote is that all their coins come from "old collections" going back to the beginnings of coin collecting. If so, one would expect a large number of coins from the countries where this practice was particularly popular in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so a large quantity of coins on the market from areas where this was legal and popular, such as western Europe. In fact the majority of the coins on offer by the ACCG do not look like the sort of things that dominated in such western European collections from the 'Enlightenement' onward. My (admittedly - since collecting histories are lacking - subjective) estimate that it is well below 10% of the total of the coins on offer. There is however a high proportion of coins which look as if they come from areas where illegal metal detecting has been rife in the last few decades, "Thrace" "Moesia", a "Balkan mint" and the suchlike for example. There are many coins from the south of Europe and north Africa, from the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and further east (Parthians, Kushans, Huns, Seleucids, Sassanians). Where did these coins come from? When did they arrive in the US and how?

It is interesting that though the ACCG claims to be a guild of collectors, only five collectors (Tompa does not count) offered a few miscellaneous coins and another three some books, the bulk of the donations - some of them quite substantial, come from US (almost exclusively) dealers.

Looking at this we may pose ourselves the question, who is supporting no-questions-asked trade in ancient artefacts and what is their motive for doing so? To what extent is this benefitting collectors, and to what extent is it benefitting instead other groups? What harm would there be in collectors being able to buy coins and other artefacts on the US market that had been legally exported from the source countries?

Why aren't collectors asking the ACCG these questions?
What is the position of the Portable Antiquities Scheme on all this?

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