Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The last day of public submissions the CPAC about the Greek Cultural Property Request

Well, the number of public submissions especially by coineys has been mushrooming since ACCG's John Hooker started waving his pompoms. My eyes start to glaze over now I open the next one so I've not been reading them all. Most of the time stop reading when I get as far as: "as a coll...". I was interested in a couple though. We've discussed John Rieske here a number of times, he tells me that he once studied and worked in archaeology but is now a collector. So I was intrigued to see what he might have written. Here it is (I'll stick it up here as there is no way of telling how long the public submissions will remain visible to the public) after the submission process has closed:
To Whom It May Concern: The Greek MOU has a great potential impact upon millions of US collectors and Dealers, who, for the very vast majority have been law abiding citizens and residents of the nation. America is a nation built upon laws preserving individual rights and property. These rights are now endangered by a foreign state based upon the premise that the United States Government should be responsible to enforce laws that they themselves are unwilling or unable to enforce. If you pass the MOU on in its present form, you will turn a large population of the citizens and residents of this nation into de facto criminals without the benefit of courts or juries, nor even the opportunity of defence. The truth is that Ancient Greek coins, were minted in many lands beyond the borders of the present state and circulated even more widely. the vague nature of the MOU request from Greece does not even clearly state exactly what are the limits of their request. Such requirements mean that should this be forwarded, that one would never truly know what is covered and as a result the Greek government could apply their laws arbitrarily in our country. Suppose they decide that a memento that was an heirloom in your family came under the letter of their law and thus demand its return to Greece without compensation to you or your family and then they turn it over to a merchant or dealer from their country to sell for his and the their government's profit? Suppose as well that you be arrested here for the violation of a law in Greece, that did not exist at the time this memento was removed from Greece. That is exactly what these laws imply and as such are a violation of everything that has been guaranteed to us as US citizens. Say NO to these countries asking our country to enforce their laws for them. They are corrupt, they are wrong, and if you agree with them you will be guilty of the same unjust actions as they.

Oh yuk! I guess the guy has not read the CCPIA and failed to note what s. 307 actually imposes. Neither does he seem to have registered that the designation is clearly published, and it is on that basis that the act is implemented. Greece is only too willing to "enforce laws" about export of antiquities (that's why dealers want to skip round them), but of course if something is clandestinely removed, the victim perforce does not see it, but the customs offices at the other end of the journey should. The two "memento" arguments will immediately show the CPAC that the author has not the foggiest what he is writing about, we are talking about export documentation of objects freshly entering the US, not items that have been there for generations. Note then that before the author gets ratty with the State Department, he says "this is what these laws imply" when of course everybody in the CPAC and State Department knows that this is not at all the case. Once again a coiney has been made to look a fool by believing the ACCG propaganda and not checking the CCPIA out for himself... Sad, but true.

Then there was the reverend who warned that if the US agreed to Greece's request something called "Biblical Numismatics" would be wiped out. Do Bible readers also buy illegally exported coins in such quantity then? What IS "Biblical" numismatics anyway? Coins of Solomon and David anyone? Is there a Koranic numismatics, a RigVedan numismatics, Book of Mormon numismatics maybe? What a weird notion.

Some guy called Dr Robert G. Gage informs "To Whom It May Concern" that he opposes any "restrictions on imports of foreign coins from Greece":
I oppose such a ban largely on the grounds that if not for American collectors, a vast amount of these ancient treasures would not have been cared for properly and might be lost to generations to come. Please consider who collects and cares for these coins properly. Without the American market many of these items would remain unearthed and eventually decay and be of no use whatsoever. Please do not enact this ban.
"Ban"? There, and we all thought that American collectors buying up loads of coins without taking any care that they are not looted is damaging, when in fact they are SAVING them from lying there in their archaeological layers where they've been safely preserved two thousand years and they'd be remaining UNEARTHED !! The horror of it, leaving archaeological sites undamaged for future generations, eh, Dr Gage? How could we? [Of course we all know that there are NO Greek collectors or numismatic museums are there who can look after these coins, it's up to the Americans again to 'save the world'..]. I am sure that like all collectyors, Dr Gage will protest that like archaeologists and conservationists he is "opposed to looting" and would never condone it - but then statements like this make one wonder just what these collectors mean when they say that, and what they think the purpose of 'opposing looting" of archaeological sites is. Weird.

Arne Kirsch is a "Sworn expert in court for numismatic" (sic). He reckons that:
These discussed restrictions are unfair and discriminatory to Americans. Collectors in the EU--including Greece-- have no similar limitations on their ability to import ancient coins. Coins -- which exist in many multiples-- do not meet that particular statutory criteria, which is a “term of art. (sic) I deal in many cases in court and in private cases as a sworn expert and these restriction policy has nothing to do with the reality and is just supporting a minor group of archeologists.
Greek ones at that, foreigners. Greek ones that are concerned about the number of sites that are being plundered for artefacts of all types which are then illegally exported. By the way Mr Arne as a court official, you should know that it is not actually true that here in the EU you can legally buy ancient artefacts illegally removed from another EU country.

Another bloke we've come across before is Wayne Sayles' business partner John C. Lavender of Moneta Numismatic Services, Inc. (as in coin dealers Sayles and Lavender). Compared to the effort Mr Sayles has been putting into retaining the "right" to buy illegally exported coins from Greece without US Customs poking their noses in, Mr Lavender's contribution to the effort looks decidedly half-hearted:
I am writing to oppose the extension of the MOU with the Hellenic Republic if coins have been added to the list of items prohibited as I do not believe the Hellenic Republic has met the criteria established by the governing statute requiring non-discrimination against American coin collectors and dealers.
And if not? To which "governing statute" is he referring the CPIA? Where does it talk about "non-discrimination against American coin collectors and dealers"? Surely US coin collectors and dealers are not going to be "discriminated against" if they are penalised for buying illegally exported ancient artefacts like the rest of us.

I loved the one by a George L. Beke representing "Urskola" (can't work out what that is...). He pleads:
Please do NOT impose import restriction on coins of Greek type. Currently, I'm doing research on ancient Greek and Roman religion and cosmology. Without access to Greek coins, such research would become almost impossible.
Ah a "researcher", we've heard those arguments before. Now is it impossible to study Greek and Roman cosmology and religion without coins? Is it possible to study them solely on the basis of privately owned coins? I would have thought that given the number and quality of the written sources that survive, not to mention the archaeological evidence (such as temples etc.) that coins were only a relatively minor part of the evidence (and mainly illustrative of the written sources rather than being our main source of information). Then I found a webpage where George L. Beke presents some of his results. That's what some of this coiney research looks like, huh? That is what archaeological sites are being trashed to enable? Can't he write this sort of nonsense without clutching a coin in his hand then?

In contrast to these sorry examples of coiney dullness, the contribution by Patty Gerstenblith is a fascinating and thought-provoking document and well makes the case why the US would be placing itself in an awkward situation if it refused the to agree an MOU with Greece after signing the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Required reading for those that can cope with big words - the US coineys of course will not bother.

FURTHER UPDATE (28/9/10): John Hooker later commented on the characteristics of the submissions of the two opposing groups. He says: "The difficulty, with these submissions, is that they were not for a single issue. The majority of those who supported the MOU seemed unaware that there was such an issue over the inclusion of coins". Well, there is not, coins are archaeological artefacts as much as Greek arrowheads, finger rings, earrings, etc. and were lost and dropped at the saame sort of locations. If people are supporting an MOU against looting of Greek artefacts then it will include coins, which are one of the main artefact types men with metal detectors are looking for. There should be no "issue" with this at all - the only problem is that no-questions-asked dealers and collectors will not accept this.

Hooker concludes that what the submissions of the supporters of the MOU did not include "virtually to a person -- was any consideration of a valid opposing view"; this is of course entirely the case with the submissions of the coineys who rarely strayed betyond the six points laid down for them by the dealers' lobby.

Hooker, while pretending to have adopted an objective approach, misleads his readers he says of the supporters of the Greek request: "A lesser number of them, gave personal accounts of seeing the effects of looting..." which is true, and then sneaks in: "... or said something to the effect that they would like to continue doing archaeological work in Greece..." which is totally untrue and has been inserted to support the "only doing it out of fear" postulate explaining why archaeologists oppose looting and the illicit trade in antiquities. Many of the supporters said their observations were made while they had taken part in fieldwork in Greece, but no mention was made, "in effect" or otherwise to support the "scared of withdrawal of excavation licence" thesis. This is typical coiney misrepresentation

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