Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Chinese/Cypriot Coin Saga Continues

As a private antiquities collector and tax-paying American citizen, I'm outraged at this stunt pulled by the ACCG. To deliberately break the law for the express purpose of forcing a trial is just unbelievable. No doubt this was cooked up between the "officers" of the organization without bothering to ask the 5000 members they supposedly serve. What would have been the answer if they had? And what of the millions of American taxpayers that will be footing the bill for this farce? I bet no one in the ACCG thought to ask how they would like their tax dollars being wasted on such a scheme. After all, we are already paying for their Freedom of Information Act litigation, but apparently the wheels of justice weren't moving fast enough for them, so the moved to "Phase 2".

What the ACCG fails to acknowledge is that it's not the importation of the coins that is being prohibited, it is the importation of coins without a valid export license or proof that they left before Jan. 16,2009 (for the Chinese coins) or July 16, 2007 (for the Cypriot coins) that is prohibited. They know full well that if the coins they "attempted" to import had proper documentation, they would have never been retained by customs. This was posted by Peter Tompa himself:

Under the provision, restricted artifacts must be accompanied upon entry into the US with either a valid Chinese export certificate or certifications indicating that the artifact in question left China before the effective date of the restrictions, January 16, 2009.

This was also posted to the ACCG website by Peter Tompa and Dave Welsh:

The burden will then shift to the importer to prove that the coin was outside of Cyprus before July 16, 2007 (the date of the restrictions). Coins lacking such documentation are subject to seizure.

the ACCG can't even follow its own already loosely worded "Code of Ethics" (Coin Collectors and Sellers will not knowingly purchase coins illegally removed from scheduled archaeological sites or stolen from museum or personal collections, and will comply with all cultural property laws of their own country.) or even its own bylaws (The guild does not in any way support, condone or defend the looting of designated archaeological sites, nor the violation of any nation's laws concerning the import or export of antiquities.) This conduct shows them to be an organization that can't be trusted or even respected by ethical antiquities collectors no matter what type of antiquity they collect.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

German Coin Collections Seized

Although I don't collect coins, I have read a lot of coin collectors' blogs lately, and there is a post to a blog here that I would like to comment on.

This post is regarding the recent raids on German coin collectors and the seizing of some collections, written by a coin collector from Wisconsin.

the *one thing* coin collectors need to stand united against is any intrusion by government to meddle in something that isn't worthy of government involvement. Coin collecting is certainly one of those things. When the government get's involved in harmless, innocent pastimes like people's hobbies - where does the government stop?

Apparently it is worth government involvement, since the coin collectors seem to think they should be exempt from cultural property laws. Do the coin collectors ever stop to think that the government wouldn't have seized those collections if they'd had proper documentation of those coins being legally excavated, exported, and purchased? For some reason that escapes me, coin collectors in general seem to think that their items don't need any proof of legal acquisition. They don't seem to think they should be bound by the same laws as any other antiquities collector.

This is where the rubber hits the road for collectors. Do I want the government to suddenly be involved with and regulating my hobby at every turn or worse, do I want my hobby to turn into a criminal activity overnight?

Unfortunately the collectors have brought this on themselves. If they had used due diligence in buying their items, and made sure they had all the proper paperwork, they would have nothing to worry about.

Collecting, especially of medieval and ancient coins, has been accused as a criminal act; under the unjustifiable accusation that collecting is the result and cause of the illegal looting of archaeological sites around the world.

The criminal act is not collecting. It is the clandestine digging of artifacts, not reporting them where required by law, and exporting them without permits. When the collectors buy items without asking the pertinent questions, they run the risk of buying what is essentially stolen property, and as such it is subject to confiscation. Why do coin collectors think they shouldn't have to follow the same laws as everyone else?

Collecting is not the cause of looting, but no-questions-asked buying certainly contributes to it. Who do you think the looters sell to? Collectors and dealers that are willing to buy without asking where it came from and how it was obtained.

If you collect responsibly, you have nothing to worry about in regards to government involvement. You will already have all the proper paperwork on your items to show that they are perfectly legal, and you'll have the added comfort of knowing that you are not contributing to the destruction of the historical record by possibly buying recently looted items.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

There's No Link Between Buying Undocumented Items And Looting?

A comment from Dave Welsh in a post to the Ancient Artifacts forum on Yahoo:

"collectors (and dealers such as myself) actually do understand what collecting is all about,and also understand how specimens are discovered and eventually become available for collecting, thus they realize that collecting such common, low value artifacts as coins does not have anything at all to do with looting of archaeological sites."

Does this comment apply to ANY "low value" artifact, or just coins? Why do coin dealers think that coins shouldn't fall in the same category as other artifacts? The idea that illegally digging coins never destroys a potential archaeological site is just absurd.

For anyone that doesn't understand the damage that looting does, or how no questions asked buying perpetuates it, I recommend reading the book "Stealing History" by Roger Atwood. It gives a startling picture of the damage done, not only in terms of the knowledge lost by ripping items from their historical context, but also the physical destruction of precious antiquities that are deemed unsaleable by the looters.

After reading this book, how can anyone who has a love of antiquities or history not stop and think about how the "don't ask- don't tell" mentality of many collectors and dealers is contributing to this destruction? These are exactly the people that looters sell their ill-gotten items to. How can anyone say with a straight face that there is no connection between undocumented buying and looting?