Tuesday 14 February 2012

V-Coins: Buying a Pig in a Poke?

I commented on what I saw in an ongoing V-Coins auction, and in particular the lack of any information allowing bidders to assess whether the object added to their collection has any documentation legitimising its purchase should it be challenged. Dealer Alfredo De La Fe has left a comment on my post "GeeGaws for Trophy-Seeking Imperialists on Sale on...". He says I am "an idiot" for raising these issues and assures my readers that:
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.
Verifiable "provenance" really? So what "reasons" can readers think of preventing even that fact being disclosed publicly? Where does it say that in the offers, and does that apply to all 247 lots in the ongoing auction? If not, to which does it apply and to which not? Is the information of equal quality for the various groups of artefacts offered, or do some have more detailed information than others?

Surely the fact that an artefact being offered on the market has verifiable provenance and more to the point evidence of legal export and thus import is indeed a very important selling point, indeed one might argue in responsible (and safe) collecting, JUST as important as the actual object. It is equally obvious that the QUALITY of that documentation is of paramount importance to the conscientious buyer. But here the seller Alfredo De La Fe is asking potential customers to make their choice (bid on it) unseen. How can anyone offer something valuable and important for sale that the buyer cannot see and assess the value for themselves? EBay for example forbids its sellers to do this and auctions can be - and are - taken down for infringing this rule, but it seems V-coins has no such scruples.

Let us note what is missing from the V-Coins code of ethics. There is much about not selling outright fakes, but 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.

So, artefact collectors are being asked to buy here a pig in a poke, but they like it that way. It's a sort of antiquitist tradition, a point of honour not to ask. Mr De La Fe will provide as a surprise present for each of them a "verifiable provenance" for "every single antiquity" offered in his ongoing sale. But what is there to say that when they've forked out their eight hundred dollars its not going to be a piece of paper saying Cletus Nouveauriche bought this piece from internet dealer Silas Thugwit in December 2007 ?

What kind of verifiable provenance will Mr De La Fe be offering and why can he not say when putting the artefacts on offer?

Vignette: Buy something sight unseen: Pig in a Poke (Larry Adams)

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