Saturday 17 December 2011

Two Coin Dealers Associations Want to See Metal Detectorists "Targeted"

At the November 16th Public Session of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee it emerged that a split is developing within the ranks of the representatives of the international numismatic trade on the subject of metal detector use to recover collectables. The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG), an organization governed by American dealers in ancient coins and with a broad base of collector membership, who awarded Roger Bland of England's Portable Antiquities Scheme its "Friends of Numismatists Award" (which to his shame he accepted), stands for the cloning of this system all over the world. The idea behind this dealer-based initiative would be liberalising the antiquities preservation legislation everywhere to allow metal detector and spade-wielding collectors free access to a larger part of the archaeological record than is the case today. At the Nov. 16th Washington public meeting Kerry Wetterstrom presented the ACCG standpoint on this. He suggested that:
it would be a better approach if Bulgaria were to adopt a scheme similar to the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) in England and Wales. Under such a scheme, metal detectorists would be allowed to operate and would be encouraged to report their finds to the authorities, which may in turn record or remunerate them for their finds.
So in effect to pay them for looting the archaeological record! Attorney and coin collector Peter Tompa serves as an officer of the ACCG too, but is also a lobbyist representing the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG), two international trade organizations for dealers in ancient coins. On their behalf he opposed any measure to control the illicit trade in smuggled items, but instead indicates that his organization favours getting tough with those that bring fresh material to the market, singling out metal detectorists as the root cause of the problem of illicit finds. Tompa:
stated that metal detectors should be targeted as as opposed to collectors.
I wonder whether metal detecting forums in the UK and US are writing about this. The two major coin dealing associations, the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG), are both calling for an end to some of the - already limited - freedoms their hobby currently enjoys. I would imagine the members of such forums taking a resolution to consider applying a boycott and not selling any material to dealers affiliated with either of these trade organizations until they specify more clearly their policies towards the definition of what constitutes responsible and irresponsible artefact hunting in relationship to their closer definition of their own policies for the responsible trading of dugup artefactual material. These collectors are excluded from their codes of ethics for example.

It is odd though that one will find such a split over the issue of metal detecting among the officers of the most active dealers' lobbying group, the ACCG concerning whether metal detectorists are to be encouraged and rewarded (the Wetterstrom-PAS approach) or punished (the Tompa-numismatic dealers approach). So what is the ACCG's actual policy towards metal detecting, and the purchase of artefacts which derive from metal detecting? In the light of the discrepancies over this fundamental issue, can we expect some kind of definition of ACCG policies applicable to metal detecting everywhere (in the USA as well as the source countries of the dugup ancient coins ACCG dealers and collectors handle)


Cultural Property Observer said...

I think you are overstating this. IAPN's and PNG's written testimony stated that PAS and the Treasure Act is the preferred method of regulation, but in any event it is far more effective and fair to regulate metal detectors at the source.

Paul Barford said...

Can't be both though can it?

I am not sure the metal detectorists(who see themselves as having collectors' "rights" too) would see it as "fair". In any case as I pointed out in an earlier post, Bulgaria does indeed already regulate (control) metal detector use.

And if you persist in not believing it, I CHALLENGE you to take a metal detecting holiday in Bulgaria and we'll see what happens. Just tell me where you go and when...

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