Friday 20 April 2012

Lootwatch: "Freshly Surfaced" Hecatomnid Material, Twenty Months On

Some time ago Dorothy King ('Coins and The Looting of Hecatomnus' Tomb', PhDiva blog Saturday, September 18, 2010 - Post scriptum 20/4/12: This link now goes to an updated version of the original article, which can still be found with a bit of effort in Google cache) published some highly interesting reflections following up from her discussion of the  Tomb of Hecatomnus discovered being looted in the middle of 2010 (click on the tag Hecatomnus to see her posts on this, several other bloggers also mentioned it). In May 2012 Dr King is speaking at a conference in Copenhagen about the tombs of kings and ruler cult before Alexander the Great with emphasis on finds in Caria and at Vergina and the approach of that event invites reflection on what has been happening since she drew attention to these issues twenty months ago.

Dr King reports that in preparing for her talk she ran a search for Hecatomnus' coins. She was surprised to find quite how many Hecatomnid ( Hecatomnus, Mausolus, Idrieus, Pixodarus) coins had come up at auction in 2010. In particular she was "surprised how many coins of Hecatomnus have been showing up in auctions, many of them centred around Munich".  Numismatik Lanz München and CNG were  auctioning these coins. In Dr King's original post there are links to a number of coins which attracted her attention. She cautiously notes:
I wouldn't want to be libellous and claim that these coins were looted or that that they have anything to do with the complex built around Hecatomnus' Tomb at Mylasa. It just seems rather coincidental that the Turkish police catch a bunch of looters working in the area, and that a number of coins now seem to be trickling onto the market. And the same names in Munich and Turkey keep coming up. [...] The sudden appearance of so many coins linked to Hecatomnus and his family may well be a coincidence [but] Everything I've heard suggests a hoard. We'll probably never know when it was found, let alone where, but it's been slowly coming onto the market.
She notes several phase of the "surfacing" of these coins on the international market, one group started appearing about 2008, while another (with a lion head and a rosette) had been trickling through since about 2003. Another type starts to emerge on the market with a few in 2005 and 2006 and then a break and then again starting in 2010. She concludes:
To me the patterns would suggest two hoards. One in the early 2000s, and in 2008. The dealers will, I am sure, assure us that they were legally acquired from old collections. Coins travelled in the ancient world, but Carian coins with find spots come from Caria. A so-called "Hecatomnus Hoard" is given as the provenance of some much earlier sales. This hoard, not unearthed by archaeologists, and not legally exported from Turkey, was sold by Bruce McNall's Numismatic Fine Arts in the 1980s. He worked a lot with Robert Hecht. And he admitted smuggling coins to Vanity Fair. He formed the Hunt collections, then sold his own. That hoard was apparently found in 1977 at Söke (between Miletus and Ephesus), and published as having been burried 390-385 BC - though frankly I don't know how curators could publish a looted hoard, let alone be so certain about it (Ashton, Richard H.J., Philip Kinns, Koray Konuk, and Andrew R. Meadows. 2002a. The Hecatomnus Hoard (CH 5.17, 8.96, 9.387). A “Pixodarus Hoard” of around 340 BC was found in 1978 by the theatre in Halicarnassus, which is why so many of his coins are 'available' for sale. Because of the people whose names come up, the sellers involved, and the way so many of the coins are centering around Munich - where material looted from Turkey tends to end up - I think there is another hoard coming onto the market.
Certainly the evidence she presents makes that an entirely plausible conclusion. So, what has happened in the intervening twenty months? Have collectors stopped buying this type of material, concerned about potentially being involved in handling dodgy goods? Are dealers selling such material only accompanied by full collecting history showing they do not come from freshly-looted material? Or has it been "business as usual" in coiney circles?

If so, if I were a collector, I'd be worried by the news, which I have from a reliable source, that Turkey has very recently been taking a very keen interest in certain volumes of the "Coin Hoards" series which contain very full publications of certain groups of coins which passed through the hands of Bruce "Proud to be a loot-dealer" McNall. In fact, I have heard that the Turkish authorities have bought several copies of each. Could they be now planning to go after collectors who have these items which are actually published as having been looted from Turkey? Oh, I really hope so. Really I do. Because no-questions-asked collecting is bad enough, but to buy coins which a little research would show are actually published as coming from looted and smuggled finds is an entirely different thing. 


Dorothy King said...

I just updated the post with more information, so apologies if I messed up your quotes.

I cannot comment on what Turkey might or might not do.

This was just a personal appeal from me as a human being for collectors to "do the right thing" with coins which are clearly of problematic provenance, and which they might not realise have "problems" because dealers might not have told them

Paul Barford said...

Please don't apologise, I'm glad you raised the topic and are keeping us up to date.

While we human beings might expect collectors to "do the right thing", they seem to have problems seeing things that way...

Well, obviously what Turkey does is up to Turkey, but there are a lot of us that would support them if they decided to go after people who had bought goods that not only may be "suspected" of being dodgy but are published as such. Even the shoddiest due diligence would have shown this up.

Paul Barford said...

OK, how did you do that? The link ON MY BLOG instead of going to a post of 18th September now goes to one made today. Magic? Weird. So have you deleted the old post? If you've got rid of the one you did on Jennifer Lopez a few days later, you are going to upset thousands of people...

Dorothy King said...

Blogger switched to New Blogger and it seems the new thing is that if you update posts they re-publish as new ones?!?! I put posts back up - my kinda feeling is that a blog is not a "record" but hit and run ... the Lopez posts are both still there - the original one you liked, and the one breaking news of their divorce, which your readers might like as confirmation that Ms Lopez is available for them ;-)

I should quickly clarify in case of confusion at your pun, that this was not an official post, and that the Turkish Government have not requested their return - this was just my personal opinion, as a human being. I was thrilled though to see that Wayne G Sayles left a comment agreeing that collectors and dealers should known about potential issues with these coins

kyri said...

hi paul,
it seems dorothy king upset a few dealers with her post on hecatominus coins[personally,i thought it was a great post].it will be intresting to see how this unfolds.i wonder if wekileaks will leak the "confidential emails"that were sent to dorothy because w.sayles comment on the blog was fine,in fact it was complementary towards dorothy.peter tompa and wayne sayles ,as far as i can tell have allways been on good terms with her.did mr sayles even know the accg lawyers were emailing dorothy?i think they have upset her but she seems like a tough cookie to me.

Dorothy King said...

LOL - no, I won't send WikiLeaks the emails, as decided they were best ignored.

I think they were the straw that broke the camel's back, nothing more - and I simply won't give them the benefit of the doubt ever again.

I just posted a reply to your comment (well, several comments as mine was too long for Blogger) - less because I was annoyed with the ACCG, more because I think what they are doing in terms of policy is very dangerous to dealers and collectors in terms of what they are claiming smears us all with the same brush

Paul Barford said...

"I think what they are doing in terms of policy is very dangerous to dealers and collectors in terms of what they are claiming smears us all with the same brush"

Absolutely. Though, from my point of vierw, they are a Godsend to critics of no-questions-asked collecting.

But here's a question, if they are so atypical, how do you account for the fact that there is so little criticism of them in collecting circles? How often do you see a collector requesting Tompa, Sayles or Welsh to keep their mouths shut because of the damage they do when they keep up their yapping?

Dorothy King said...

Well, to use the old cliche ... Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Or - don't argue with idiots, they have more practise and are better at it ...

I think the collector and dealer representatives on the CPAC in effect argue against them by ignoring them? As the ACCG often point out, they are victims of everyone including the judge who found against their test case.

They are a very vocal fringe only if you read blogs. And in the same way that the Parthenon Restitution people cite each other constantly in support, so do they.

I think most collectors I know have barely heard of them let alone waste their time on them.

And most dealers are members of much bigger groups, and take the attitude that it's better not to bad mouth others - and that includes the ACCG. There's an unwritten rule that you don't bad mouth others in the market, and certainly not behind their backs or to others. Usually a simple "yes, I know him" and no elaboration is enough to get the message across

kyri said...

"there is so little critism of them in collecting circles"
you cant say anything ,otherwise they will set dave welsh on you.i had people sending me private emails calling me a commie,im sure some people thought i was you.for the average collector paull its just not worth the not getting paid for this,i havent the time to get into flame wars,i would rather spend my free time with the kids.
i know you have your dissagreements with them paul but i ohnestly believe that they are decent,honest blokes,its just that they believe that the policies they are following are the right ones for the hobby and they are doing and saying anything they can if they think it will help their cause.

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