Sunday, 3 May 2015

More on Metal Detecting and Coin Digging in Bulgaria

Peter Tompa (Bailey and Ehrenburg) representing the numismatic trade associations IAPN and PNG is a little confused about artefact collecting in Bulgaria. On the one hand he sees it as something totally unregulated ('Tompa Versus Elkins on the Bulgarian Antiquities Market' PACHI Sunday, 19 January 2014) yet on the other hand as a representative of US collectors he thinks that the Bulgarians should clamp down on it ('Two Coin Dealers Associations Want to See Metal Detectorists "Targeted" ' PACHI Saturday, 17 December 2011 ' PACHI Sunday, 5 February 2012, see also CPO Public CPAC Meeting on Belizean and Bulgarian MOU's, Nov. 16, 2011 , and [for a similar case in Cyprus] 'Rebuffed by Peter Tompa' PACHI Sunday, 5th February 2012 [he never took the invitation up to provide the opportunity to put his money where his mouthy Washington mouth is]. Tompa seems oblivious to the fact that metal detecting already is regulated in Bulgaria.

Anyway, here's a case that will please him, the Bulgarians have clamped down on two artefact collectors who were metal detecting and found coins. The treasure hunters have received 1-year suspended sentences with 3-year probation periods, and fines of BGN 3,000 (approx. 1500 EUR).

Rumen Ivanov and Kiril Zhelev, treasure hunters exploiting sites in Southeast Bulgaria, were reportedly arrested by the Bulgarian police in April 2012 at a petrol station restaurant while they were meeting with a third man to negotiate an artefact  sale. They were found guilty of culture crimes by the Sliven District Court, whose sentence has now been confirmed by the Appellate Court in the Black Sea city of Burgas. The police confiscated 386 coins and other archaeological artefacts from different archaeological periods which have now gone to the Regional Museum of History in Sliven (Ivan Dikov, 'Bulgaria’s Sliven Receives Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Austrian Coins Seized from Treasure Hunters', Archaeology in Bulgaria April 23, 2015).

The coins seized include two Roman and Byzantine gold coins (Aelia Pulcheria, Heraclius), ten silver units (dated to 480-350 BC), from Thracian Chersonese, Mesembria and Apollonia. There were also other Roman and  Byzantine coins as well as Medieval examples from the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD). Also confiscated were two coins of Maria Theresa (r. 1740-1780). Artefacts seized included:
 bronze decorations; 23 fragments from a Thracian-Roman chariot from the 1st-3rdcentury AD; two stone axes from the Bronze Age; a bronze earring; a bronze ring; a ring seal; a fragment from a votive tabled with Ancient Greek and Thracian god Hermes; among others. The total worth of all 386 archaeological items is estimated by the Bulgarian court at BGN 14,000 (app. EUR 7,160). While the initial ruling of the Sliven District Court put the net worth of the archaeological finds at almost BGN 15,000, the Burgas Appellate Court has reduced it by almost BGN 1,000 after reassessing the value of two coins minted in Romania in 1879 and 1882, which were also discovered among the confiscated items. 
 Peter Tompa, the IAPN, PNG and ADCAEA and all no-questions-asked portable antiquities dealers and collectors everywhere are all happy with this. Cases of the authorities in the source countries fighting culture crime allow them to parade their self-serving exclusivist views which declare that fighting culture crime is a matter for the source countries to deal with. They do not consider that combating the trade in illicit antiquities is something we can and should all do something about. "If the unreliable furriners cannot look after their own stuff", their argument goes, "they should not expect us to do the job for them". So there.

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