Monday 22 August 2011

One Like it on the PAS website

Like metal detectorist 'Flying2Blue' discussed here before, EBay seller 4t9a (1048) ("fortyniner"? address "England United Kingdom") has for a number of years been a firm believer in private sales for antiquities. He's selling things like for example this:

230662801178: Stunning Medieval Knife Handle Terminal ~ see PAS,
"Medieval English, Believed to represent 'PUCK' the mischievous Sprite of Medieval folklore. These terminals turn up occasionally and are very collectable. There is a picture of one on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website. Length 20mm starting at $45.57
He forgot to give the PAS numbers of the reported find and its supposed parallel. Now this is quite an interesting use of the database of artefacts hoiked from Britain's archaeological sites mainly by artefact hunters, to use to sell other artefacts hoiked from Britain's archaeological sites by artefact hunters.

But this does not often pay off. There's this "PILGRIM BADGE ~ Believed to be Knights Crusader related" 230661993295
Knight's Pilgrim Badge Cross Fleury with 6 Petalled Rose Solid bronze (i.e. not repousse) Beautiful Pilgrim Badge ~ primitive construction yet very detailed. One fleury end slightly awry but the badge is complete. The 6 petalled Rose is rarely seen and is usually associated with Mary Magdalene. More likely worn by Crusader than ordinary Pilgrim in my opinion. Would have been attached to clothing with four stitches. Measures 31mm Not seen this type before and can't find no reference to it.
Only five quid, and all those BIG WORDS, my my the guy must know what he's talking about, eh? Somehow the mount reminds me of something else... I think this seller is looking in the wrong part of the PAS database.
Thoughtlessly, the PAS don't have a keyword "Knights Crusader", which rather hinders this member of the public finding what he wants on this resource (mainly used it seems from the annual reports by metal detectorists "seeking parallels to their finds". I bet it is, easier than books isn't it?). How can they advertise things for sale on eBay if they can't find out what it is? That's probably why instead of going to the PAS they were going along to forums like UKDN.

Then there's 230662804944 VIKING RARITY ~ British Find ~ HOWLING BEAST Bowl Mount
Fascinating artefact. Made from Bronze. All four limbs intact. The beast has some scales on its back. Detailed hands. Open mouth in howling pose. Slight incurve to rear suggesting this mount was from a bowl. Evidence of iron near shoulders and possibly had iron tail for affixing to bowl. Note: this is not a pendant with a broken loop, the jaws are moulded. VIKING ART IS VERY STYLISED ~ THERE IS NO DEFINITE HEAD AS SUCH, JUST THE JAWS [...] STYLE IS FROM THE 'BORRE STYLE' PERIOD (900AD APPROX) THE 'KANGAROO' TYPE REAR LEGS AND THE 'CUFFED WRISTS' IS SEEN IN VIKING ART FROM THIS PERIOD. Quite big. Dimensions 46mm x 36mm Extremely rare artefact A very low starting price here"
only 75 quid, no possibility then that it's anything else? I mean its not really CLASSIC "Borre Style" is it? Sort of 'crude-commercial-spin-by-ignorant-metal-detected-finds-seller-trying-to-con-you-probable-Late-Medieval-harness-mount-fragment-is-viking' type Borre, isn't it? Again the seller got the wrong part of the PAS
database. [Actually it looks more like Kermit the frog with a hangover.] Perhaps PAS might decide that to help their "partners" get the most out of their ("only interested in it for the history- honest") hobby, they could provide guidelines on "How to use the PAS database to get better prices for your finds on eBay"?

And here's a rarity, an object with a "provenance":
EDWARD the ELDER ~ Extremely Rare Anglo-Saxon Penny
230662191742 starting at 275 quid:
EDWARD the ELDER 'Hand of Providence' Penny minted in Anglo-Saxon England between 899 - 924 AD Edward the Elder was the son of Alfred the Great. He ruled over Anglo-Saxon England with the help of his sister Aethelflaed (The Lady of the Mercians). The coin has been folded over possibly from Anglo-Saxon times as the condition on the inside looks good what I can see of it. The Hand of Providence can be seen as well as some random letters (different letters from the coin in Spinks 1081) these I believe make up the moneyers name. Small amount of damage to the outer face but generally a very legible coin. Small crack as indicated by white line in one of the photos, done some time in antiquity (I have not tried to open the fold although sorely tempted!). Very low starting price

As for provenance: This coin has been purchased from a collector. It has been part of his collection since 1998. He in turn received the coin from the original finder. Details of informative correspondence from the collector about the coin will be included which includes the interesting find location. The original Find location will be given to winning bidder only.
Don't bother mate. We know the provenance. Its a Trevor Ashmore copy. It is a shame the "finder" did not show it to the PAS, it would have saved everybody a lot of hassle and accusations that
4t9a is selling a FAKE. I believe that several collectors have already written to him informing him of it, but the object still has not had its description altered or been removed from sale. In fact what was this "finder" playing at? You'd have to be pretty heavy-handed to get a freshly minted coin that's never been in the ground to crack like that when bent once. What did he do, drive his car over it a couple of times to give it that battered look? I bet the correspondence with the collector is a cracking good laugh.

Never mind, if he comes across this, the coin's buyer can ask me and I'll give him the name of a metal detectorist in the UK who can get it unbent, an abusive, illiterate and unpleasant little twerp, but good with his hands. So at least he'll have a flat Trevor Ashmore copy.

4t9a says "OVERSEAS BUYERS MOST WELCOME BUT PAYMENT BY PAYPAL ONLY PLEASE" (he forgot to say they'd have to wait for the export licence)

But that's what you get when you buy antiquities irresponsibly put onto the UK dugup antiquities market (ie items unreported to the PAS). You are in the hands of sellers with unfettered imaginations about what the find is who know jolly well that the people buying this stuff are as ignorant, many of them, as planks. You are in the hands of sellers who'll swear blind that they "honestly did not know" that what they are selling is not authentic (and refuse to believe it when they are told). Anyone can sell old things and present themselves as an expert by throwing in a few big words they saw on the back of a cornflake packet. Seller 4t9a has sold over a thousand artefacts in the past couple of years. Sadly since his or her sales are hidden we cannot see if they were all as poorly described as these four. The entire antiquities market is a swamp, some bits of it are less smelly and quagmirish than others, but generally its not a good place to venture.

So what is the point of collecting "pieces of history" if they are the wrong bits of history and you are too ignorant to tell the difference?

UPDATE 22.08.11
Over on the EnglishHammered (coins) forum there has been some discussion of the coin all day, several members have been stubbornly giving this seller the benefit of doubt, offering to send him pictures of known Ashmore fakes so he can modify the listing... well, look for yourselves what his reaction was reported to be and their conclusion. The long and short of it the coin has been reported to eBay as a fake this evening. Let's see if they react (they do not always) Note the added question and answer added, after the seller had already been informed that its a copy:
Q: Hi, Is this the original coin or an Ashmore copy? Thank you Aug-22-11
A: Thank you for your question. I believe it is an original, I bought it as such and was given the Metal detector find location by the collector/dealer. If it is a copy then it is the best I have ever seen, I would think it impossible to age silver like this coin. If you think it is copy then best not to bid as I am not offering a refund on this coin due to its folded condition. Best Regards, Pete
Of course the copy is not all that good, the cut of the lettering is all wrong. The coin is not particularly "aged" either, except by somebody mistreating it in some way. But it's got a "metal detector find location" hasn't it? Of course anybody can say they "found" any object anywhere can't they? Here (because the object is in fact modern), we have a clear example of a false "metal detector findspot", how many that get into the PAS database have similarly false findspots?

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