Tuesday 7 February 2012

Coin Thieving: "basic logic may also be a weakness for these folks"

Ethically-disadvantaged coin collector Jorg Lueke has a new post in his onslaught on preservationists: 'Why Calling for Effective Import Restrictions on Ancient Coins Means an end to the US Market'. This deserves close attention from anyone under any delusions about coin collecting in the US today. He starts off by asserting his belief in the Bogeyman, that although very few proponents on the US actually behaving like it is a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention will "come out and say that they are against collecting or that they would like to see collecting ended", they really are, even if they do not understand it themselves.
I understand that art and liberal arts majors often profess little knowledge of math so basic logic may also be a weakness for these folks. Thus, as a public service, I shall attempt to connect the dots step by step as working with computers I am not allowed to escape formal logic.
Ooooo a computer nerd. Well, my previous experiences with computers leads me to the conclusion "junk in, junk out". So let us look at the information about the essence of collecting of ancient dugup coins Lueke provides as a "public service". He sees two mechanisms connecting "import restrictions' and "stopping looting". The first is economic, you make it unprofitable to smuggle coins to the US, and the looting to produce coins to smuggle to the US stops. Or:
One could also make a purely ethical argument, stating that while the restrictions have no real impact that it is nonetheless wrong for collectors to acquire such coins [...] and those the arguments that have been made in front of CPAC so I'll put the ethical argument aside.
That's typical of those who want to buy stolen goods, "let's put the ethical argument aside" he urges. But then, why should we (normal ethically unchallenged people) "put aside' any ethical arguments? Why can we not be witness to an ethical collecting of antiquities? Is it so difficult to collect items coming from a finite and valuable resource sustainably and ethically? I really see no reason whatsoever to "put aside ethical considerations".

Lueke concludes:
If reduced demand is the goal then the current import restrictions are insufficient. As I outlined previously most coins being traded today by volume are not covered MOUs.
Well, of course they jolly well ARE covered by the 1970 UNESCO Convention, as well as by US Customs law as well as the National Stolen property Act. Collectors (and dealers' lobbyists especially) are unwilling in the extreme to discuss this, but this does not mean that these are non-existent problems for the no-questions-asked trade in and "ownership" of coins without documentation of legal provenance.

Lueke concludes that:
Requiring import restrictions on all coins coming into the US from certain countries could, if enforced, end the collecting market of coins coming into the US as any package could be held up if not confiscated making it impossible to profit as a dealer.
Well, again Lueke (who seems not to have read the CCPIA at all) needs reminding that as far as those on designated lists related to bilateral cultural property agreements (MOUs) go, the ONLY coins and antiquities which would be stopped at the US borders would be those without documentation of lawful or licit export as defined by three separate types of documentation identified in US law by the 1993 CCPIA. Coins which have that documentation can be imported without hindrance. Those coins on the Lists with no documentation of licit export will not find a way onto the US market. Where's the problem in that? So it is not "any package" which will be held up, but those which have contents which (in the eyes of US law) contain artefacts on the designated lists with no proof of lawful export. Maybe Mr Lueke himself has no qualms about handling stolen goods, wants to buy stolen coins, but is that true of the entire ancient coin collecting community on the US?

What nonsense to write:
The biggest problem is that all the existing low value coins from source countries don't have export certificates since it hasn't been necessary and is an extra cost.
Most certainly such certificates are necessary from most of the source countries concerned. Even the UK. Who told Lueke that they were not? The ACCG legal team?

I really do not follow Lueke when he says:
If all the coins currently on the market could be distinguished from any new finds then import restrictions could be used effectively.
The CCPIA does not concern itself with coins already on the US market (apart from the bit about goods stolen from collections), it is solely concerned with regulating imports of fresh coins and making sure that they are legitimately moved between states parties of the UNESCO Convention.

There is therefore a total breakdown in logic when the collector writes:
Without this ability [to distinguish coins currently on the market from "any new finds"], the call for effective restrictions is tantamount to calling for an end of the US market. I look forward to hearing proponents of import restrictions actually coming up with a practical methods whereby a drachm in Zurich that was discovered in 1999 can be distinguished from one in 2012.
The collector should be aware that drachms do not tend to be dug up near Zurich. If it was, Swiss law would require it to be reported. There would therefore be documentation of its origins. A Swiss dealer packing it up for dispatch to a buyer in the US, being aware of the US legislation, would include a statement to the effect that to the best of his knowledge (since it was dug up in Switzerland) the coin had been outside Greece ten years prior to the signing of the MOU, and on that basis, the coin will be legal to import into the US. Basically distinguishing between the two groups of artefacts which Lueke mentions is pretty easy. Coins currently on the US market sold by a Chicago coin dealer to a Seattle collector are not likely to turn up in ICE Baltimore as part of a shipment sent FROM Zurich to Chicago, are they? Coins dug up by Toothless Todor the Bulgarian bulldozing looter and sent to his brother-in-law Lootshop Svistov without any paperwork will though.

If preventing only the illegally exported coins reaching the US market will actually lead - as this collector asserts - to its demise, one might ask the very pertinent question of what precisely is being sold (by whom, from whom and to whom) on the US dugup antiquity market today? If stolen and unlawfully exported material is such a strong component in the market today, then obviously this is something we all have to take a very close look at.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

May I also suggest to those responsible, more educated and well read coin collectors that they distance themselves asap from this self-proclaimed historian super brain Lueke?

Since Lueke can obviously not only not read, but sees no problem in buying and dealing in stolen coins and he is ignoring not only ethics but even the law, NSPA etc, it is just hilarious to think of Lueke doing anyone a "public service." Or is Lueke the new Wunderwaffe out of Sayles and co.? No responsible collector can take this man serious after his recent posts.

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