Tuesday 9 August 2011

Some of ACCG's Coins

A while ago the ACCG published a photo purporting to be some of the coins found in the packet that was seized at Baltimore airport which had been illegally imported by the ACCG. I remarked that some of these coins (bought from Spinks in London) looked less-than-authentic to me. Interestingly, to illustrate the "Legal Times" blog about the case there is another photograph used (reproduced here), attributed "Photo courtesy of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild" and captioned "Ancient Cypriot and Chines coins".

It shows seven apparently dugup cash coins and seven flat chemically stripped pieces of metal which presumably are supposed to be the "Cypriot" coins, dug up and seriously abused by an ACCG collector (or dealer - are these the coins bought from Spinks in that state?). Is this an example of the ACCG collectors "preserving the remains of the past" we hear so much about? Now I'm no connoisseur of coins minted in Cyprus, and its difficult to make anything out of the blurry outlines of this coin after its acid treatment or whatever household chemicals this sorry collection had been dunked in. The ones with anything on them at all look Roman to me. What a state however to let any ancient object to get into for mere entertainment. The metal detecting of ancient sites produces large numbers of metal objects including coins, and when the readily saleable goodies have been picked out the rest are sold (by weight like potatoes) through internet sales venues to "zappers" (many of them pimply US seventeen year old boys it seems from the way they write on forums) who strip and (often destructively) experiment with the coins for "fun", giving the sort of results we see here. Or perhaps these are the remnants of a "lesson" in the framework of the Treasure-hunting 101 "Ancient Coins for Education" (an initiative strongly supported by ACCG dealers) . This photograph is a vivid reminder that the way these sites are being treated by the antiquities market is not a sustainable, nor responsible, way to treat the world's archaeological record.

The seven Chinese coins may have more believable patinas than some of the ones in the first ACCG photo, but (where this can be seen) they show Northern Song and Quing coins of types which are not covered by the MOU and import of which would not be illegal under the CCPIA's MOU, and therefore their import is pointless. So why is the ACCG using them in their publicity photo? Something I did not realise from the previous coverage of the case by the ACCG was that among the Chinese coins imported was a Zhou 'spade coin' (memorandum p.13, fn 4)and a 'knife coin'. This is interesting because one of the many threads of the ACCG's extraordinarily rambling and unfocussed 'complaint' was that "findspot" was a crucial issue, because "many Chinese coins are found outside China". But not spades and knives surely? Whatever the coin trade thinks, as far as I am aware, properly reported archaeological finds show they are rarely found much outside the small provinces where they were made and used in the past. Let's take a look at that on a map. Here are the components of the Zhou state (from 'Alice's blogspot'):

and here that is within the borders of the modern Chinese state (source)

So were the spade and knife coins found in the ACCG's package found outside China? Where did Spink's get them from if, as ACCG's lawyer Peter Tompa himself point out, there have been restrictions on the movement of this sort of material out of China since the 1930 law he himself cites in an attempt to attack SAFE President Cindy Ho and the family of Quentin Roosevelt. Spink on the invoice stress they do not know the "findspot", but there is no mention in Judge Blake's memorandum that they state they have determined they were legally exported from China in the past and on what basis this has been determined.

What should happen to the coins the ACCG tried to import to the US? Judge Blake says they should not get them, and I agree, they'd only sell them in their next "benefit auction" to finance such pointless and degrading stunts. I would like to see the coins involved in this case confiscated by the state and either sent to both Cyprus and China hoping they will be used in travelling exhibitions devoted to the international artefact trade, naming and shaming the ACCG for its attempts to undercut laws intended to protect the archaeological and cultural heritage. Or, with the agreement of China and Cyprus, remain in the US as the basis of such a travelling exhibition (organized by the State Department's Education and Cultural Affairs department) on the pre-eminent place of the US no-questions-asked market in the looting and smuggling of archaeological artefacts and cultural material. Let it be set in context by including material looted from the archaeological record of the US (Four Corners pots and material looted from protected Civil War battlefields).

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.