Thursday 12 March 2015

A Collector's Undefined "Difficulty"

Urged on by coiney dealers, Elijah Jordan Montgomery   decided to write to the CPAC to persuade them to allow the Italy anti-smuggling regulations to lapse. He says his hobby of ancient coin collecting means so much to him and his friends to whom he shows his coins and "this MOU already severely impacts my ability to collect the type of coins I collect" and places other collectors in "severe difficulty". He says anti-smuggling regulations 
do nothing to actually protect cultural property, as it actually further strengthens a blackmarket created by countries unwilling to work with collectors. I implore you to take a look at my coin gallery at and my blog at to see that a collector isn't some horrible person who supports looting but someone who legitimitely tries to preserve cultural inheritance for the future while also educating people about it.  
"Implore", eh? How could anyone reading that resist? So let us look at the Elijah J. Montgomery collection of coinage from ancient to modern times. Well, the good thing is that the ancients section is not very extensive (25 coins - there is no medieval or early modern in the gallery, so the 'history' exhibited there is limited in scope).

The ancients break down as follows:  5 "Miscellaneous" Greek (Kyzicus, Apollonia Pontika, Apollonia (Illyria), Alexander III and a Ptolemaic Ae). There are five Seleucid coins, mostly bad condition (job lot?). There are two coins from the period of the Roman Republic. This is followed by six Roman Imperial (Augustus, Hadrian, Diva Faustina, Septimus Severus, Gordian II, a Victorinus radiate, and Constantinian), there is also one Judaean prutah, two Roman Imperatorial and three Byzantine (Heraclius and two scyphates). Interestingly, though in the CPAC comment he suggests that he shares his coins with his friends, this seems to be belied by the number of times the coin pictures have actually been accessed (three to five times most of them when I looked)...

This collector appears to have acquired items to obtain at least one example illustrative of a period of history/numismatic typology - so a bit like the approach known as 'stamp collecting' in some circles. Quite a few of these items would probably have been 'bargain box' examples, the aim seems to have been to get 'gap fillers'. In about half the coins the collecting history goes back to dealer bought from and no further, and the rest do not even have that information.

OK, so what about that statement that the existing MOU caused him "severe difficulties"  in his collecting? I sent a comment to his blog ('The Other Side of the Coin') on 3rd March 2015 referring to his CPAC comment and asking him to expand on that in the case of the coins he collected. I appended it to the Gallic Empire coin from Aegean Numismatics and asked also (given the restrictions in placed like France [Gaul] on artefact hunting) how this related to his comment on the black market when he does not state he knows (did he ask?) where his supplier got the coin from.

How can a collector claim that he is not "some horrible person who supports looting" when he supplies no evidence that he has taken steps to avoid buying artefacts resulting from looting? Isn't not asking the question "where did that come from and how did you get it?" supporting the passage of looted material onto the otherwise licit market? Yes, of course it is - though collectors will deny it until they are blue in the face. In what way then is buying stuff without checking it did not come from the illegal trashing of archaeological sites in France or anywhere else "legitimitely tr[ying] to preserve cultural inheritance for the future" as Mr Montgomery claims in his CPAC comment? I think the rest of us can see that financially rewarding middlemen for paying looters for stuff they've trashed yet another productive would be no way to go about preserving anything. Into whose pockets did Mr Montgomery's money ultimately go? Does he care enough to try to find out?

It seems Mr Montgomery has no answer to that one. Over a week later, he seems not to be willing to post the comment on his blog and discuss the issue resulting from what he wrote. It seems to me that the "other side of the coin" is that US dugup ancient coin collectors write one thing to the CPAC and do something else.

Oh, Mr Montgomery, you are welcome to come onto MY blog and explain in as much detail as you like the "severe difficulty" you personally have with US legislation on importing coins from Italy, the ones you wrote about on a public website. Please.

UPDATE 13th March 2015
Oh look, innat "Little-Town-on-a-Prarie"-cutesy-sweet?  Peter Tompa, from what seems to be his lawyers' office computer, has sent the man a patronising comment which the recipient has gratefully published in place of the one he rejected from me:
Peter Tompa March 12, 2015 at 10:21 am Thanks for your enthusiasm for collecting. Your blog shows that enthusiasm and tells a bit about what interested members of the public can learn from handling ancient coins of the sort that have been in private hands for generations. Thanks also for your comment to CPAC. It’s important for collectors to be heard.
"Love and kisses Peter Tompa" eh? Like a teenager eager to show off, "enthusiastic" Mr Montgomery may be about collecting his junk box reject dugups and composing twee online texts about them, he may be "enthusiastic" about joining the dealers in trying to get restrictions on coin smuggling lifted. He apparently is less enthusiastic however about actually joining in an adult discussion about it all. It is not so much important for collectors to be merely "heard" parroting by rote what they are told to say, it is important for them to actually have something to say. Elija Jordan Montgomery folks, apparently feels he has not.


Unknown said...


I'm terribly, terribly sorry you didn't enjoy my gallery. It is a recent project and I have simply not had time to photograph, edit and post the great majority of my collection. I can assure you there are many, many more ancient, medieval and modern coins as you would have seen had you simply scrolled down the page after finding my blog but I have only been collecting for around a year so my collection may not be as impressive as some others available online. I can tell it means a lot to you since you were willing not only to comment but to write an entire blog post about it. I've even met a few collectors and dealers who found my blog through your links, so I should thank you for that. I must ask however that you at least attempt to spell my name correctly next time, as you misspelled it no less than twice in this post.

I could go through your points and we could argue back and forth in the comments for days but it honestly isn't worth the time. Your goal is the absolute elimination of personal collecting and I'm not going to support it by allowing you to link back to your site by posting on my blog.

-Elijah Jordan Montgomery

Paul Barford said...

"Your goal is the absolute elimination of personal collecting
Absolute rubbish, I suggest you read a bit here before assuming you "know" through osmosis what my goal is.

"I can assure you there are many, many more ancient, medieval and modern coins as you would have seen had you simply scrolled down the page after finding my blog "
Well, you can "assure" as much as you like, but the actual fact is there are NINE ancient coins on the blog (as anyone can check) all of which figure in the gallery, so "many many more" really means "less". What do you take us for?

Likewise nobody is asking you to "argue back and forth in the comments for days" I was simply asking you to substantiate (on your own blog) what you told the President's CPAC on a public website. It seems to me to be totally FALSE (sort of like the "many-many-more-ancient-coins-on-my-blog"-false). Can you do that without the crown falling off your head?

I note you do not have a single item in your collection that falls into the categories listed in the US-Italy MOU (many of which would be beyond, I would imagine by looking at what you have bought and in what state, your preferred price range). So what personal experience do you base your assertion of this "severe difficulty"? Imagination? fantasy? Or parroting Peter Tompa's say-so?

You see, Mr Montgomery what "means a lot to me" is the TRUTH behind heritage policy decisions and the longterm effects of them on the archaeological heritage. That is why I am asking you what that truth is.

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