Monday 13 February 2012

GeeGaws for Trophy-Seeking Imperialists on Sale on V-Coins

"Imperial Coins & Artifacts" in partnership with vAuctions has announced its "second electronic auction of ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval coins via the vAuctions venue".
The sale closes February 16th, 2012. This sale of 247 lots includes many rare Greek and Roman coins as well as a selection of exceptional, high quality pre-Colombian pottery and antiquities.
V-Coins has a code of ethics. It does not include anything whatsoever about providing information to the potential, or actual, customer verifying the legitimate origins of the items on sale. Thus it is with Mr De La Fe's offerings here. This applies however not only to the Cuban dealer's coins (we remember the coiney whinge that it "has not been traditional" to associate collecting histories with traded items) but also every single artefact Mr De La Fe is offering. These include: four "Luristan" (ie western Iran) projectile points, three items metal detected items from a Roman site (otherwise how dated?) in Israel (admittedly listed as "Ex-Amphora"), three Mayan objects from Guatamala, four objects from Mexico, and as many as seven Moche and other items from Peru (some with "good mineral deposits" showing they are real dugups). There is also an ancient Egyptian necklace "in excellent condition, ready to wear or display" and a knocked-off Buddha head from Thailand (is this actually an antiquity Mr De La Fe?). So basically all the sort of arty-trendy trophy stuff that looks nice in a case in the living room, adding nothing very much to the possessor's knowledge of any ancient society. This is the same range of stuff as we saw in the Edward Owens auctions I discussed a while back here.

How many export licences does Mr De La Fe have in his archives to back up his claims to title to be selling these objects? Where did they come from, and how did they get there? Why - in the current climate of the market - is he not loudly proclaiming every scrap of information legitimising his goods, instead of maintaining a stubborn silence about the previous histories legitimising any or all of them? Is HIDING this information "conducting my business in a professional and ethical manner [...] to ensure that no discredit is brought to VCoins or other VCoins dealers". I would say not. I would say if De La Fe has this information legitimising the presence of these items out of the ground, out of the source country and in the USA, it should be prominently displayed in the sales offer to show the legitimacy of the objects he is openly offering. Otherwise how is he not discrediting V-Coins? If there is not this information in a form allowing legitimacy to be established, then obviously no ethical dealer would have any involvement in handling their sale.

Of course it goes without saying that this should apply to all dug-up antiquities, including round flat ones with pictures and writing on them.

Imperial coins and artefacts is a good name for this firm, as what it is doing here embodies perfectly the naked ambition of US imperialism and the apparent attitudes of the average US citizen to the culture of other peoples. By what right is Mr De La Fe selling this material in a New York shop? On a US-based Internet auction?


Alfredo De La Fe said...

Every single antiquity offered in my sale has verifiable provenance. It is provided to the purchaser and we have our reasons for not disclosing provenance publicly.

In closing, you are an idiot.

Paul Barford said...

Where does it say that in the offers? Surely they too are a selling point, and the QUALITY of that documentation is of paramount importance to the conscientious buyer, indeed JUST as important as the actual object. But here you are asking them to make their choice (bid on it) unseen. How can you offer something for sale that the buyer cannot see and assess the value for themselves. (That, by the way, is not allowed on ebay for example, but you say V-Coins allows you to treat their customers like that?).

THAT Mr De La Fe is idiotic, if I may say so.

Talk about buying a pig in a poke...

Let us note what is missing from the V-Coins code of ethics: there is nothing there saying "I will describe the items I offer for sale fully and accurately". Mr De La Fe by leaving this information off his descriptions quite clearly is not providing a FULL description of what he is offering, but that... it turns out... is not what V-Coins "ethics" consists of.

Brian Mattick said...

"we have our reasons for not disclosing provenance publicly"

That's a puzzle.

I wonder,does Mr De La Fe swear the purchaser to secrecy regarding the nature of this provenance? If so, then how can the purchaser sell the object on since he won't be at liberty to tell future buyers where it came from.

On the other hand, if Mr De La Fey DOESN'T swear his purchasers to secrecy then he can have NO legitimate reason not to disclose the provenance since he will know his purchasers are free to blab about it the instant they buy it!

No. A provenance that is kept a secret between supplier, dealer and purchaser isn't a provenance at all is it? It's a secret account of origin that all three have a vested interest in not disclosing elsewhere. I think Mr De La Fey has just been hoisted on his own tangled web, caught in his own petard. Or just plain rumbled if you prefer!

Paul Barford said...

Those "vested interests" are the crux of the matter. Why do buyers accept the secrecy of the trade which demands "transparency" in administrative procedures potentially affecting it?

How about transparency being the criterion by which the trade is judged? No transparency, no custom.

Alfredo De La Fe said...

What about protecting a collector or his estate from potential thieves or fraud? Or protecting the public from fraudulent sellers that fake provenance information by finding similar items and "borrowing" their provenance data?

Or of greater importance, the fact that provenance information is NOT REQUIRED nor is it deemed important when it relates to minor antiquities unless it involves a well known individual or institution? And that traditionally provenance information has not been kept for minor antiquities.

Or a business' right to protect its sources and suppliers in a very competitive field.

You are an idiot. You are the one man PeTA of archaeology. On the surface, the name is something everyone can agree with- ethical treatment of animals, but in reality many of their positions are ridiculous and are done just to get attention.

Paul Barford said...

well, I suppose we might have guessed that an antiquities dealer would be against animal rights. Own a gun, do you Alfredo? Shot anything big recently?

Yes, I'd certainly like to see a "People for the Ethical Treatment of Archaeological Artefacts" in America (the UK already has its Heritage Action).

In what way does selling unprovenanced antiquities help stop theft and fraud? It seems to me that it is sheltering those who commit theft (of archaeological artefacts from sites and smuggled out of the source countries) and fraud (passing fakes off as newly surfaced artefacts).

The reasons proffered for lack of transparency (apart from the one that first comes to mind) are incredibly weak and laughable.

I suppose an analogy would be with horses. The form of a racehorse depends where it comes from, and the addresses of the stables are all known. If you want to keep race horses (any horses) to stop people nicking them you install a security system, not try to hide them under a tarpaulin. That is ridiculous. They are also registered, which means getting rid of one even on a black market becomes troublesome.

I bet anyone who cared to look could find out the address of the shop and home of an "Alfredo De La Fe" from New York business records, or a Dave Welsh or any other ACCG dealer or collector. So why don't you guys trade under assumed names to avoid getting robbed?

I fail to see the logic of "providing no provenance information" to "protect the public from fraudulent sellers that fake provenance information by finding similar items and "borrowing" their provenance data". I said VERIFIABLE collecting histories, not ones that can be made up and faked.

Who said collecting histories are "not important" or "not needed"? They are very important, and may well indeed be "needed" very soon. The moment ICE and FBI come knocking on a few doors (did De La Fe submit a comment against the Cyprus renewal? I hope he's on the watch list).

Odd that somebody who supports the free market and "free enterprise" with the passion of Alfredo De La Fe should want to see people with stuff to sell "protected" from somebody making them a better offer than Alfredo De La Fe. Do they need "protecting" from better offers, or does de La Fe simply want to have a monopoly like a UK metal detectorist knocking on a farmer's door?

If De La Fe refuses to let people know with whom he has done business for the reason he gives, is it because he is aware that the price he has paid for these items undercuts the competition? That in effect he is ripping his suppliers off?

Who is he "protecting", from what?

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