Saturday 15 May 2021

Asking the Dealer [UPDATED]

Thought I'd write to him. Why don't you too?
Lot 3 the “Greek” arrowheads, how do you know they are “Greek”? As your cataloguer should know, very similar items were used right across the Pontic region and deep into the steppes, they are looted from sites in Bulgaria, Ukraine, right into Russia [For example]. How does a “dealer’s ticket” establish that they were legally obtained (actually a criminal offence in all three countries I mentioned) and legally exported – a “dealer’s ticket” is not an export licence. Where do you get the “date” from? Archaeologically excavated examples come from a much wider date range, were these recovered from a dateable context? And if so, why does your description, such as it is, not state that?
When you started these antiquities sales several years ago, you assured me, and others, that you would be applying the highest standards. Yet what we see in terms of accuracy and fullness of descriptions, and documenting collecting history, at Hanson’s is at a far lower level than even eBay (I am thinking here of the continental eBay portals that have strict standards about these things). Surely, you can do, and afford, better.
Yours sincerely
Paul Barford
Do you reckon I'll get a reply? There are 200 lots of metal antiquities. I think one could ask the same questions of almost any of them, the descriptions are so offhand. I rather think if just 200 of the UK's 6000 archaeologists wrote to him each about just three of these items, perhaps this seller would get the idea that flogging off bits of the record of the past like potatoes is not as "easy" a money-spinner as he thought and start to pay a little more attention to documentation and proper descriptions. Will we find two hundred archies willing to stick their necks out and spend five minutes tapping out a question or two? Actually, from what I see of the jobsworth British archaeological "community", I doubt that. They might write to ask about the one they're interested in publishing. And this is why the antiquities market gets away with acting as if its still the nineteenth century. "All that is needed for evil and injustice (read: "bad practice") to prosper is for good people to remain silent", as they say...

Sunday 23rd May 2021
Still no reply from the auction house. Arrowheads sold for 85 quid, on their way to their happy buyer (can get the same thing on eBay direct from the metal detectorist in Ukraine much cheaper, who'd no doubt be happy to write out a dealer's ticket if asked).

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