Saturday 26 April 2014

Ed Snible's Fouree and Views on the Egypt MOU

In general, I regard Ed Snible's "Gift for Polydektes" blog to be one of the more intelligent in the coiney blogosphere, miles ahead of the bitter ranting, posturing and conspiracy theorising of the ACCG herd. Sadly, fuzzy thinking is never far away in collecting circles. Mr Snible (Friday, April 25, 2014) decided to try and garner support for opposition to the Egypt MOU currently under consideration. he does so with reference to a coin he "could not buy because of the MOU" which he says is a die link with a chewed0-up one he already has in his collection ("Let's not forget to comment on the ancient Egyptian coins for the proposed MOU"). Now, I do not think that the two coins, though obviously the same type,  are in fact die-linked [look at the relationship between stock and shank of the anchor and the position of the crayfish within the anchor for example], but that was merely a secondary rhetorical device. My concern was with the way Mr Snible quite clearly misunderstands the CCPIA. I commented on his initial post:
Did you actually ask the seller whether details needed to comply with the CCPIA were out of the question? What did he say? Did you actually ask, or did you just assume? section 307. Since you are importing from Germany and not Bulgaria, the requirement section 307 (a) does not apply. Your import would, in the event of any queries, come under section 307(b) and (c).

Note the requirement in (c) is for the importer to supply customs with one of two types of documents. These are in fact "best belief" statements.  Could you not do that if you believed that the coin you bought was indeed legal to import into your own country under the CCPIA? The wording of the CCPIA involves quite a lot of wiggle-room, don't you think? It actually is an incredibly poorly-drafted law.

So, how do you think that coin reached Germany? If you believe (or ascertained) that the German dealer could not assure you that it was by squeaky-clean legitimate means, then is the MOU not doing its job?  Other countries have similar legislation, a UK buyer could not legally buy it if it was illegally excavated and smuggled (2003 Dealing in Cultural property (offences) Act).

[...] As for Egypt, why would anyone  want to oppose an MOU on a whole range of artefacts because you Americans want the "freedom" to buy loose coins without having to ascertain whether they were on the international market outside Egypt before a certain date? Given the degree of thefts from museum stores and sites 2011 onwards, why would anyone WANT to buy such items blind? Surely anything which cleans up the US market should be welcomed by buyers?
His reply totally ignored most of the issues raised. He was very concerned to convince me that the two coins were die-linked. Despite me laying it out in black and white for him, he dodges the question of what documentation he actually needed to legally import that coin from Germany to the US  and admits that his approach was assumption rather than checking. He ignores the point about cleaning up the antiquities market, which is disappointing. In reply to the point I made about his caution as a buyer and the MOU doing its job, he gives an astoundingly wonky definition of what he sees as the intention of the MOU/CCPIA and 1970 UNESCO Convention.This is my reply to his fact-dodging response. I began by suggesting we agree to differ about the die link - a subjective coiney picture game:
You wrote: "I did not ask the auctioneer about the possibility of documentation"

So I do not see how you can use this as an example of why the MOU is in any way a hindrance. Your problem was your own fear and misapprehensions, than the actual status of that coin.

The problem seems to be that instead of finding out what the CCPIA, together with the Convention mean for you, you have let yourself be led astray by the dealers' lobbyists and tub-thumpers.

We see this here: "I see the MOU's job as getting accidental finders to report discoveries to the Bulgarian authorities instead of having them handed off to antiquities "runners" .  Eh? How on earth do you get from the texts of the CCPIA and 1970 Convention to that odd conclusion? I suggest you stop uncritically accepting what the lobbyists are telling you, and start looking for yourself. Your interpretation 100% parroting Peter Tompa and the ACCG and is 100% wrong.

"I can't think of a system that would have the effect you want except a PAS-like scheme implemented on the Bulgarian side."

Ummmm. I suggest you really have not the foggiest what it is the proponents of the CCPIA consider its only function. Please read it up. It has nothing to do with any "PAS" - this is another Tompa/ACCG red herring which you have allowed to mislead you. If you are going to oppose the MOU, then please at least do it actually knowing what it is and is not and not parroting what others have told you to think.
This is dreadful, Ed Snible seems to me to be one of the more intelligent and thoughtful of the US dugup ancient coin collectors one can meet online. If someone like him is being so badly misled by the ACCG and their propaganda machine, what hope is there for the less well endowed intellectually? Wayne Sayles and Peter Tompa are personally responsible for this and have a lot to answer for. In pursuit of their own agenda, they have consistently (and I am inclined to believe deliberately) totally misled the US coin collecting community. It is astounding to realise that there are people out there collecting coins without the foggiest idea of the context. These are the sort of people that will believe the stories about the coin fairies and coin elves and all of the other worthless junk-arguments of the no-questions-asked trade.  Disgustingly, instead of helping collectors understand their position and obligations, the ACCG and other dealer-interest-groups working in the same direction are exploiting their intellectual weakness and confusion to the furthest extent. Absolutely sickening, totally legal, but morally reprehensible.


Ed Snible said...

Paul, I'm not a lawyer. My rule-of-thumb is to not attempt to import anything minted in a time-period & country covered by an MOU unless there is a provenance predating the MOU. My understanding is that this means from anywhere -- for example, don't import from Canada the coins the Greeks struck in Sicily.

My understanding about the purpose of the Convention on Antiquities comes more from reading the autobiography of smuggler Michel van Rijn than from ACCG's newsletter. Statues and icons were stolen from temples and graveyards. Hacking off statue heads is terrible! My government tells me [ ] that the convention is to "reduce the incentive for pillage of archaeological and ethnological material.".

I have sympathy for laws that help me get the kind of documentation I want for study (findspots) and that you want (stratiography). I would like to see sellers become proactive in documenting coins as being on the market before the MOU. I published an editorial in the major US ancient coin magazine toward that purpose. Unfortunately it isn't happening. My assumption is that there is enough of a market in Europe and the Gulf states for ancient Egyptian coins that a US boycott will not be sufficient to motivate the market to produce the documentation you desire.

Ed Snible said...

After further study I think you correct and I am wrong about the reverse die. I am still convinced the obverse die matches.

Paul Barford said...

"My rule-of-thumb ...."
but that is not at all what the CCPIA and MOUs actually say. It is YOU who are thus making of them a system of regulation more restrictive than they actually are.

"My understanding is .... " wrong.

I suggest you'd get a better "understanding" of the documents by reading their actual texts.

The ones we are discussing are nothing to do with "getting documentation" neither of findspots nor stratigraphy. Really.

"My assumption is that there is enough of a market in Europe and the Gulf states for ancient Egyptian coins...
The ancient Egyptians did not strike coins.

a US boycott ..."
WHAT "US boycot"? One based on your own "rule of thumb"? Get real, you are fighting phantoms.

And of course once again, we are not talking here just about importing freshly dugup coins, as even a cursory glance of a few dealer's webpage shopfronts will easily show, today they are in fact a very minor part of the market for portable antiquities from ancient Egypt. Why oppose cleaning up this market?

Ed Snible said...

At least one Pharaoh struck coins. See for an example of a gold stater struck by Nektembo II, probably to pay mercenaries. You are mostly correct in that coin usage did not really take off in Egypt until the Macedonian occupation. I would call the Ptolemaic coinage "Egyptian" but I see your point. Later there was coinage under the Roman occupation, mostly with Roman themes but also series struck for the nomes which I would call "Egyptian".

Paul, I am a collector and not a dealer. I typically buy 12 to 24 coins a year. All I need to learn about the laws is a simple bright line that will keep me out of court. My normal occupation is in software engineering. Reading the law is hard for me, as words like "should" and "must" have different meanings than I am used to.

Yet if I had to make an ethical stand it would be for my current position. I *want* dealers to put provenances in catalogs for future scholars. If I receive the provenance only upon making the winning bid then I become the custodian of that documentation -- a responsibility I do not need.

By "a US boycott" I was referring to "reverse trade sanctions" imposed by the state department but not being picked up by our allies in Europe and the Gulf states. The US is considering voluntarily shutting down imports of minor Egyptian antiquities, a situation analogous to a consumer boycott. I was not referring to a grassroots consumer movement in the US.

As for why I oppose, *for coins*, the proposed MOU, it is because I believe it will provide a false sense of security and accomplishment. Me not buying a coin merely means it goes to the underbidder. There is a whole economic literature on the effectiveness of boycotts and sanctions, which I am not qualified to discuss technically, but I can say a small boycott in a large market does nothing measurable.

To clean the market we need legit antiquities dealers who have the ability to inform on crooks and smugglers. We also need *local* stakeholders, e.g. farmers and municipal authorities, to feel their farm or municipality gets a better deal on the legit market than the black market.

Paul Barford said...

Well, obviously a US coin collector's definition of the word "boycott" has a different meaning from that used in the rest of the world. It is this deliberate imprecision of the words used by the likes of Mr Tompa in the public debate which I find annoying.

You seem to think most artefacts enter the market from individual "finders" rather than through criminal looters. Ask yourself whether that is would be the case if (to use your pal lawyer's favourite analogy) in the UK, the PAS was shut down and metal detectorists restricted to beaches. Who would be putting the finds on the UK market then?

I am not sure why you think we/you do not already have "legit antiquities dealers who have the ability to inform on crooks and smugglers".

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