Tuesday 27 December 2011

Coiney Mag: Libyan Looted Coins "Hard to Trace"

ACCG supporting coiney journalist Richard Giedroyc has an article in the Dec 27th 2011 issue of World Coin News: 'Looted Libyan Hoard Proves Hard to Trace'. Well, first of all, the so-called Treasure of Benghazi is not a hoard, but a group of disparate items (perhaps more than 10,000 ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins as well as small statues and jewelry from the same periods) held in secure storage that was looted:
During World War II, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini seized the artifacts when he conquered Libya [...]. The coins and artifacts were placed on view in an Italian colonial exhibition in 1940. Following Libya’s independence during the 1960s the coins and artifacts were returned. According to an Oct. 31 British Broadcasting Corporation report, “The collection has been kept in the vault of the Commercial Bank of Benghazi ever since, waiting for the opening of a museum that was never built. The coins were never photographed or documented and seemed to have been forgotten.” [...] The treasure was pilfered during the chaos in Benghazi between February and May when the city was in the midst of Libya’s recent civil war. Several reports indicate the treasure was in a basement vault. Thieves appear to have broken into the vault by using a jackhammer to break through the reinforced concrete ceiling.
There are reports of some of these coins appearing in the back room of a jewellery shop in Benghazi’s souk seen in November by a Reuter's reporter, several hundred coins may have been recovered in Egypt, according to an unconfirmed reports in the Nov. 1 issue of Al Arabiya News.
There are also reports of part of the treasure already having illegally entered antiquity markets in Europe. Without the existence of photographs or some form of inventory, it will be difficult to prove any of these items originate from the Benghazi Treasure.
Note the careful avoidance of the suggestion that any of them are on the US market...

So, let us get this right, there are "perhaps more than 10,000 ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins" now on the market that were not there at the beginning of the year. So a bloke in Wisconsin in the market for buying coins is not going to be asking a supplier who says he can get large numbers of "ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins" where they come from? Where and when they surfaced? Note that what concerns Giedroyć (himself involved in the coin trade) is whether anyone having bought these coins runs the risk of having it proven that they have ended up with one or more items originating from the Benghazi Treasure. Surely the emphasis should have been on avoiding buying potentially dodgy goods in the first place? How many dealers will be helping 'trace' the Libyan loot by getting on the phone to local law enforcement authorities reporting that they have been offered a batch of coins or other antiquities of undeclared origins which could be from the Libyan loot (or other looted artefacts)?

Or will those who have these artefacts have absolutely no problems passing them on to the no-questions-asked market now dealers and collectors are assured that in this case (too) there are not likely to be the coiney equivalent of the Medici Polaroids to trap them if they buy such items? Is no-questions-asked purchase of items of undeclared origins in such case really an "innocent until proven guilty" situation, and not a "so-what, they can't touch you for it" one?

Vignette: F & W Publications, Iola, Wisconsin, WCN - note the definition of "World" ("item can be shipped only within the U.S.")


Unknown said...

10,000 coins is not very many - there are over 28,000 ancient coins on ebay now, and ebay s a tiny fraction of the ancient coin market.

It is no exaggeration to say that the number of coins struck in ancient time are probably in the billions from all areas. Millions if not more survived. 10,000 is a drop in the bucket.

Paul Barford said...

That's an amazing blog you have there Mr Thrasher. I take it from reading it that you are a Republican?

So your point is that ten thousand ancient coins of dubious provenance can surface and get absorbed without trace by the coin market in its current state?

Seems to me we are in agreement there. The thing is though I bet we can never agree that this is NOT the way it should be.

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