Tuesday 24 May 2016

IAPN and PNG Statement on Greek MOU FAIL

IAPN and PNG solve lead theft conundrum?
I see Peter Tompa of Bailey and Ehrenberg PLLC still claims to speak for both the international Association of Professional Numismatists AND the Professional Numismatics Guild (IAPN and PNG Statement on Greek MOU). Collectors and dealers in both these groups should ask the boards of both why. They were discussing yesterday the US implementation of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The IAPN AND the PNG claim that preventing illicitly exported coins from entering the US has somehow "already damaged private and institutional collecting". Does that mean that these rely on illicit antiquities to be sustainable activities in the US? If so, I would consider it very rash of collectors to go shouting their mouths off about it in Washington.

Tompa sees the problem of the the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as being resolvable by being
either more careful in issuing [metal detecting] permits or adopting something akin to the PAS in the UK
This is weak logic. Firstly many of the designated antiquities covered by the existing US legislation are non metallic (statues, ceramics etc) and thus not acquired using metal detectors. Secondly, it remains to be seen how may times one has to explain to superficially-thinking US commentators that the PAS of England and, for the moment, Wales has absolutely no connection with import, export and transfer of ownership of any type of cultural property. Like his equally-ill-informed but mouthy compatriot Rabbi Zev Friedman (here and his students here) blaming the Holocaust on the people of Occupied Poland in their so-called "Polish Death Camps", Tompa places the blame for looting on archaeologists:
Rather than overbroad restrictions that adversely impact Americans interested in Greek culture, let’s consider modest steps archaeologists can take — like ensuring their sites are monitored in the long off-season and ensuring local people they employ are paid a fair living wage so they don’t have an incentive to loot to help make ends meet—instead.
That is like saying that preventing lead roofing theft from English churches should be countered by the "modest step" of creating a broad social programme by ensuring that vulnerable remote sites are guarded by a parishioner spending the night on the church roof and ensuring all local people "have employment with a fair living wage so they don’t have an incentive to loot to help make ends meet". Presumably he would advocate the same approach to preventing "nighthawks" too. I think the problem with this is that as a lawyer, Mr Tompa should be aware that crime is not caused exclusively by opportunists who "cannot make ends meet". The fact that lawyers can make money defending people accused of culture crime suggests that not all of them are without financial resources. Of course the way to stop rural crime like stealing building materials and scrap metal is to make it more difficult to monetise them by putting restrictions on transactions on the market and raising public awareness among buyers. It can be seen from their conrtribution to the public discussion here this is something the IAPN and PNG have totally failed to do.

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