Monday 20 January 2014

Balkan Antiquities Manna on US Market: Five years on

Five years ago today (Tuesday, 20 January 2009) I posted a text here "Balkan Artefacts like Manna?" which has raised a lot of interest. I thought in the wake of the signing of the US/Bulgaria cultural property MOU, it might be instructive to go back there. Readers may recall that what I did was take the "Woefully incomplete list of recommended dealers” of a coin collector's website (with one addition of my own). Let's have a look at them again to see what has changed.

First on my original list was Empire Ancients (Danny Harris, Cordova, Tennessee, ebay: empiredanny). He's gone from 1302 feedback to now 7443. Basically five years on he's still offering the same range of goods, with perhaps a greater influence on cleaning and 'preservation' materials than before. In his eBay listings, he has at the moment 3,147listed items on sale, mostly coins and artefacts - mostly the sort of thing you'd find on archaeological sites in the Balkans. He indeed admits they've been found with a metal detector in the Balkans. They are still being sold singly and in bulk lots, with no mention of excavation permits or export licences.

Next, on the "Recommended dealers" list is Ancient Treasures (Plamen Arsoff Granada Hills CA 91394, eBay ancient_treasures). He has gone from 37196 feedback five years ago to  55997. He currently has just 150 coins and artefacts on offer, again mostly the sort of thing you'd find by metal detecting on archaeological sites in the Balkans, under some of the bulk lots it says "Found in the former Yugoslavia" (since that country ceased to exist long ago, why not say the name of the country they came from unless he wants to hint these are conflict antiquities from the 1991-99 wars in the region?) and "We have been selling ancient coins and artifacts on ebay since 1998 and buy our items from reputable dealers in Europe", whose name he refuses to mention. The bronzes have for the most part been atrociously stripped, not all are what they are said to be, the Greek coins probably come from regions other than "the former Yugoslavia". They are still being sold singly and in bulk lots, with no mention of excavation permits or export licences.

Cameleon Coins (Alex Stanichev, Winettka, also in Los Angeles CA, United States, eBay  cameleoncoins) currently has 14171 feedback, up from 6938 back in 2009. At the moment 258 items on sale, coins and artefacts - some of which are the sort of thing you'd find metal detecting on archaeological sites in the Balkans. There is a lot more post-medieval stuff mixed in than I recall being sold back in 2009. Lots of Ottoman (and imperial Russian) 'silver' coins, many pierced, some Hungarian ones and a Polish one, the offering gives the impression of the dregs end of a larger assemblage, mixed in with modern tat. The descriptions are a bit wonky, such as a (Roman) pottery flask labelled "Exactly as pictured. (Kylix, Pyxis, Oinochoe, Guttus, Olpe, Kantharos)". Hmm, swallowed a dictionary and spat out the wrong words. The artefacts are mostly  being sold singly with no mention of the place they were found, excavation permits or export licences.

Then there is Ancient Caesar (Ilian Lalev, Newton, MA 02458, eBay ancientcaesar) His feedback has gone up from 12009 in 2009 to 18939. He currently has 567 artefacts on offer, eBay pages, coins and various artefacts - many the sort of thing you'd find by metal detecting on archaeological sites in the Balkans, though his "Medieval coins" (POST medieval, please!) are groschen of the Polish king Sigismund III. There is no mention where most of the objects are "from", the somewhat amateurish descriptions leave a lot to be desired, like the post-medival (nota bene)  metal icon which actually says across the top who it is for goodness sake (the St Nicholas of Mozhaisk) but I guess out dealer cannot be bothered to try and read the cyrillic and he says  "Some of the most successful rulers in the Medieval centuries were depicted as Saints. Broken and cracked in the antiquity. Intact suspension loop, perfectly wearable". Huh, he may take his lady friend out wearing broken cracked tat like that, the lady in my life would not be seen dead with that round her neck. Maybe its the photography, but at first sight not all of his artefacts look all that convincing to me... The artefacts are still being sold singly and in bulk lots, with no mention of excavation permits or export licences.

Diana Coins (Gantcho Zagorski, Hackensack , NJ ebay dianacoins/paganecoins0oh6, feedback 2112 + 7617) is no longer in business under that name.

The ebBay feedback increases are interesting, Harris 6147, Arsoff 16801, Stanichev 7233, Lalev 6930. If each one of these is a single dugup ancient artefact or group of artefacts, that is 37111 items sold by four dealers alone in five years, some 7400 a year. Four dealers alone selling seven thousand dugup items a year. How many dugup artefacts are passing no-questions asked onto the market?

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