Monday 13 May 2019

UK Antiquities Market Watch: PAS Monitoring EBay? Nah, not really. [UPDATED]

Bloomsbury Pete, the heritage pigeon
  comments on the BM approach to
monitoring UK antiquities sales
I followed up my comments on EBay seller Durham Digger and some revealing email correspondence emerged:
From: Paul Barford
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 10:38 AM
To: ''; 'Michael Lewis'
Cc: ''; 'Nigel Swift'
Subject: Durham Digger

Dear PAS, Treasure police,
I was alerted to seller ‘Durhamdigger22’ by one of my readers, it looks like he’s emptying whole archaeological sites onto eBay and the descriptions give no information about possession of legitimating documentation for any of it, let alone PAS records. THis raises questions about where this material is all coming from and how – in such quantity.
What is odd however is that the copper and lead alloy finds are all blithely claimed as “finds” (some specifically mention a metal detector being used) while the several precious metal ones are all equally blithely stated to be from an [unspecified] “old collection”. Does that not look suspicious to you? Just in case, and to send a signal, can these finds be verified as not falling under the Treasure Act by the PAS? The links to all of the questionable items can be found in my blog post.

Is eBay no longer being monitored by the PAS for items like this? If not, who has now taken over this vital task?
Sincerely Paul Barford

UPDATE 13th May 2019
From: Treasure [] Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 10:38 AM
To: Paul Barford Subject: Automatic reply from the Treasure Team
Many thanks for your email. The Treasure team will respond to your email shortly. If the matter is urgent, please call us on 0207 323 8243.
Since I am not a metal detectorist whose collecting activities did not generate more Treasures for them to fondle, that's the last I heard from the BM Treasure police. Here however is the FLO response to mail and blog post:
Dear Paul, Many thanks for your email. I have had a chat with the Treasure Registrar this morning about this ebay seller, and they are making inquiries (sic).
I agree that it is very disconcerting to see material such as this for open sale, especially as none of the objects would appear to have been recorded either by me or one of my colleagues. Unfortunately, none of the objects, or indeed the seller’s name (which is very generic) are familiar to me. Just to let you know, the seller has listed coins too (e.g. Best wishes, Ben
And Bloomsbury joins in:
From: Michael Lewis [] Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 12:34 PM To: Paul Barford; Treasure Cc:; 'Nigel Swift'; Ian Richardson Subject: Re: Durham Digger
Dear Paul,
Many thanks for bringing these to our attention. We will ask the seller questions and contact the coroner/police as relevant.
As far as sales on the internet are concerned we are mostly reactive to people highlighting potential illegal activity, though of course anyone can directly contact the police or the auction site - which is sometimes better than a third party report. Best wishes,
Dr Michael Lewis Head of Portable Antiquities andTreasure,  British Museum
From: Michael Lewis []
Sent: Monday, May 20, 2019 1:32 PM To: Paul Barford; Treasure Cc:; 'Nigel Swift'; Ian Richardson Subject: RE: Durham Digger
Hi Paul, Through our eBay monitoring we have found that it is mostly third partly sellers (so dealers) who are selling non-reported Treasure – that is why the BM is supporting proposed changes to the Treasure Act that means anyone who comes into possession of Treasure will have a duty to report (not just the finder).
As you know I was once a Police Officer who worked for the Art and Antiques Unit. Based on that experience I do feel that it is best that people who spot (witness) possible offences do contact law enforcement authorities directly, rather than report crime through another entity.
I am sure it is possible to report crimes from abroad, especially given much antiquities crime crosses borders.

Best wishes,
Dr Michael Lewis FSA MCIfA Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure Portable Antiquities Scheme ( Dept. Learning and National Partnerships British Museum, London, WC1B 3DG (0044) 0207 323 8611
Research Associate, Department of Archaeology, University of York, Visiting Fellow, School of Humanities, University of Reading
The security classification of this email is OFFICIAL
My question about the current situation on eBay monitoring went unanswered. Obviously as the number of detectorists increases, there will be greater, not lesser, need for such monitoring to cut down the illegal activity. As for the suggestion that "anyone can directly contact the police or the auction site - which is sometimes better than a third party report", I wonder how effective that is. We know how effective alerting ebay tends to be, you now get what seems to be AI robots dealing with it - basically just saying the same as the PAS "we are looking into it'. As for Durham police, is a notification better coming from an institution with ‘clout’ like the BM? Is the PAS not any more the first port of call for such portable antiquities issues? I am not sure what I, based in Poland, could directly ‘contact the police’ about and what does the PAS imagine the Durham police would (realistically) do on receiving such a report?

UPDATE UPDATE 27th May 2019
Two weeks on, and Durham Digger still has the same items up for sale (but without any expansion of the description detailing the additional information about collecting history that the PAS says it would elicit).

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.