Monday 6 February 2012

Coveting Others' Property

When they are not maliciously sniping at fellow numismatists who raise the alarm about the damage done by the atavistic attitudes of the no-questions-asked antiquity collector, we have seen the coiney makes all sorts of excuses for what they do. All of this is aiming to deflect attention away from one simple fact, what they want to take is not theirs to take. They proclaim all laws and mores which stand in the way of them getting their hands on what they want as illogical, ill-conceived and in some way not applicable to them and what they want to take. Thus it is we learn the view of US coin collector Jorg ( "put the ethical argument aside") Lueke that the "pot hoards" containing the antiquities he would like to add to his personal hoard of geegaws
are usually not found in places excavated, based on the archaeological reports I have read coins when found are not often what anyone would consider treasure.
So up for grabs. This ignores the fact that more often than not, the cultural property laws of the place where these "pot hoards" and other coins are dug up do indeed "consider them as Treasure", and removing them to private possession is illegal, is theft. Not that such a thing would concern a selfish US collector of course.

Lueke considers that the coins dug out of archaeological sites which he dismissively calls "Roman junkers" are "ultra common" (in the soil of his OWN country, surely not) and thus
one wonders if they can really be considered cultural property at all.
But they are, aren't they? In the law of the source countries they, like any archaeological find, are considered to be cultural property - a view to which the citizens of those countries are perfectly entitled (as embodied in, among other places, Article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention), whether or not the US collector thinks it is "fair" to foreign would-be collectors. The collector assures us that he would "look after" at home such coins as "certainly wouldn't be found in any museum", whether or not the laws of the country they come from allow that or not. It does not concern the self-centred foreign collector that removing such items from the archaeological record to private possession is illegal, is theft. Not that such a thing would concern a US collector of course.

Where do such attitudes of entitlement to the property of others come from? When is theft not theft? I am sure many common thieves can come up with excuses as good as any coiney why they steal. The two do not really seem so far apart do they? Who'd feel comfortable however attempting to be an advocate for tolerating culture theft in a state where criminal court cases can be checked online? After all, somebody could do a search for such people who may (or may not) already be on a Gubn'mint watch-list, and find that it is public record that somebody with that same Christian and surname apparently has a 1994 conviction for theft (Case No. 55-K1-94-001769, it does not say what of, but a guilty plea apparently warranted a sentence of ten months so it was not a packet of fags).

Coincidence, no doubt, a case of mistaken identity perhaps. Nevertheless it seems to me that those individuals who indulge in trying to trash the reputations of fellow (though academically better qualified) coin scholars ought to watch out in which direction they are hurling their mud and rocks, lest they find themselves getting injured by flying glass.

Vignette: Glass houses.

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