Monday, 4 July 2011

Baltimore Seizure Cash Coins: When did they leave China?

Running away again.
I will publish no more comments from Mr. Barford and Ian on this subject. Others may feel free to comment ...
writes Washington legal expert Peter Tompa. So I shall just have to ask him about the implications of what he has just added to his website here, and he can pretend he did not see it. But the other coineys will and wonder just what kind of a lawyer they have representing their interests.

Peter Tompa in mean-mindedly hounding SAFE's Cindy Ho has now posted on his website an extract in translation of the Chinese law on archaeological relics from 1930 which was the precursor of the stiffer legislation of the People's Republic of China (see J. David Murphy (1994), An Annotated Chronological Index of People’s Republic of China Statutory and other Materials Relating to Cultural Property, Int’l J. Cultural Prop. 159 for some of the items Tompa does not cite).

The Washington lawyer uses the 1930 law (Art. 6 and 13 taken out of context) to suggest that artefacts sold to "aliens" and which are outside China are stolen property, illegally removed from the country. He concludes:
China's 1935 law may indeed be applicable. It covers artifacts from "other cultures" and bars their sale to "aliens." Barford claims the law does not apply, but is that all that clear?
well, it is clear to me, but Tompa seems to be of another opinion. OK, he's the lawyer - let's follow his argument through to its logical conclusion.

Let's first reflect a moment about the collecting of Chinese antiquities in the West. In particular cash coins (the ones with the square hole in the middle). That this was not very prevalent in the west before the first decades of the twentieth century seems to be very strongly suggested by the date of the appearance of the first basic catalogue for western collectors, Frederick Schjoth's "Chinese Currency: The Currency of the Far East" in 1929 - still treated by some US dealers as the standard numbering system. So, though there must have been such coins in circulation earlier, it is really only after the date of the publication of this work that one might expect to see increasing numbers of imports of these artefacts into western (European and North American) collecting circles from China. So basically the date of import of coins of this type currently on western markets is far more likely to be post 1929/1930 than before that date.

Readers may remember that Peter Tompa is the lawyer participating in the Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt organized by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and supported by the Professional Numismatists' Guild and the International Association of Professional Numismatists. The subject of an ongoing lawsuit include some Chinese cash coins bought from a London dealer and imported into the United States in that stunt. I've discussed this disgusting self-serving stunt many times on this blog. But now looking specifically at those "cash" coins, I presume Peter Tompa can document that these artefacts left China before the Relics Act of June 1930 which he himself cites and which he says absolutely prohibits the sale of relics to "aliens" and their removal from the country. Has he done his "due diligence"? If they were removed subsequently, by his own arguments they are stolen property and therefore as 'tainted' goods, cannot be legally sold in the US (Stolen Property Act).

In that case, what Tompa himself has published on his own website now makes it very difficult for the ACCG to argue that the Chinese cash coins should be handed over to them, since in all likelihood (and in the absence of any documentation to the contrary) they left China after 1930, when the legislation which Tompa applies to the material Cindy Ho was handling was already in force (or later versions with the same basic idea). How can the ACCG, PNG and IAPN (represented by Peter Tompa's law firm) ask state authorities to hand over to them material consisting of dugup antiquities which in all probability are stolen in the light of the law of the country from which they came cited by their lawyer Mr Tompa. I bet the ACCG and its lawyers cannot demonstrate each of these specific items not to be post-1930 exports. So that would rather mean their whole case with regard to the cash coins falls flat on its face.

[I know you chaps at the State Department read this blog. If you have not already done so (as I can see you are already running circles round and one step ahead of the dullard dealers) please make sure your legal team know about Mr Tompa's blog post on this topic and bring it up at any hearing there may be as it well shows the hypocrisy and double standards that obtain in the antiquity market which is precisely why upholding legislation like the CCPIA is so necessary].

Photo: Reportedly, the actual coins imported by ACCG dealers through Baltimore, did they leave China before 1930?


Cultural Property Observer said...

My, you are obsessed. But you are also silly. Chinese cash probably exist in the millions, if not billions. They circulated widely outside China, as far as West Africa. They even find them in the US brought there by Chinese immigrants. If you are comparing them to rare texts and art from the Naxi you really are off base. Also, doesn't the fact that the standard work on them predates the Chinese law suggest they were widely collected in the West before 1930? In China, they were likely still treated as media of exchange as opposed to relics at the time the statute was written. (They were made until the end of the Chinese Empire, c. 1911.) Even in China today, they are widely collected without any provenance information whatsoever. I'm not sure you are helping Ms. Ho by your multiple posts in response to my one, but I assume you will persist nonetheless.

Paul Barford said...

No, the lack of intelligent reasoning is entirely on your side.

You challenge the Library of Congress and Harvard using the legislation you cite on your blog (ignoring totally the points I made earlier on your blog about the context of the bits you cherry picked) which basically undermines your own efforts trying to make a case by importing coins you cannot prove do not fall under the same legislation - you cannot have it both ways.

Yes, Mr Tompa, I will indeed persist in opposing the no-questions-asked trade in dugup antiquities and doing my little bit to inform opinions about it.

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