Monday, September 28, 2015

The next Syria?

Afghanistan - the next Syria?

The Afghan government is under increasing military pressure from the Taliban, and lacks public confidence or public respect due to its pervasive corruption and toleration of repellent moral turpitude. 

I am concerned that this will be the next US supported regime to collapse due to its own internal flaws and US refusal to intervene with boots on the ground.

Throughout history no outside power has ever succeeded in establishing an enduring government in this fractious nation. Its unique cultural treasures, including superb ancient coins, and other ancient artifacts are now in significant peril, since collapse of the present regime could be rapid and violent.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Syrian Gambit

Is Russia now quietly asserting itself as the savior of western civilization in a post-Obama era of sensible, practical realism?

To quote a very well known Russian: "May God prosper this undertaking ..."

There are times when ideological and national differences surely must become insignificant compared to the difference between common sense and utter nonsense.

Kudos to Vladimir Putin, for understanding and acting upon that difference. He is a competent and decisive leader who sees clearly and is not afraid to act. Hopefully some easing of the terror in Syria will result from this.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Due Diligence???

Antiquities and Due Diligence: Business Models
by Paul Barford

American dealers are looking with apprehension at the European proposals to clean up the market. One, in California says:

"The proposed new German law is so onerous that if Classical Coins were located in Germany, I would be forced to leave that country, or close my business."

Indeed, the vast majority of coins offered by that dealer appear on his website with no collecting history given, and no mention of the seller being able to supply responsible buyers any documentation indicating licit origins. Perhaps that is precisely the kind of 'business' that needs to be closed."


> Perhaps that is precisely the kind of 'business' that needs to be closed."

Perhaps that is NOT the kind of business that needs to be closed. Perhaps what REALLY needs to be closed are instead anticollecting mouths vacuously and irresponsibly opened, to make foolish statements such as this, in almost total ignorance of how such businesses actually operate, and of the realities of the markets that they serve.

Any economist worth his or her salt will certify that economic forecasts need to be closely tied to actual data, and that theorizing of the sort indulged in above is fatuous at best.

Readers should understand that in his remarks above Mr. Barford is pursuing his long time hobbyhorse of advocating the requirement of a provenance history for all traded ancient artifacts.

I have previously pointed out that museums documenting provenance of acquired artifacts to the "1970 standard" are spending an average of 40 hours of curator time per acquisition assembling such documentation.

Documenting and verifying provenance in a meaningful way, even when the information is available, is onerous, time consuming and expensive. The factual data I have indicate that the cost of doing so is likely to be on the order of $1000.00 USD per artifact.

I don't think readers will have a difficult time deducing why no numismatic business such as Classical Coins could possibly operate under regulations demanding such costly provenance documentation.

For the past ten years I have endeavored, without the slightest success, to educate Mr. Barford in the realities of the numismatic trade, in what collectors really do and how they acquire their coins, and in a myriad of other relevant practicalities.

Mr. Barford has steadfastly refused to be influenced or restrained by such realities. He evidently believes that his theorizing is upon such an elevated plane as to be inherently superior to reality.

It seems to me that such theorizing is on such an elevated plane as to instead be out of touch with reality. One can find the like in public parks, where sidewalk orators mount soap boxes to preach a variety of far out theories and beliefs.

Mr. Barford's soapbox is his blog. It can seem interesting and plausible to those who do not cross check what is said there against actual facts and realities. Those who do such checking will, in this observer's opinion, find it to be deceptive and misleading.

Update 8/6/2016

Mr. Barford has just come up with a real classic of a blog post, illustrating better than anything I could possibly say, the truth of the remarks above:

Numismatists and antiquities collectors interested in why I view him as being completely ignorant of the realities of coin collecting and coin dealing will find that post very informative. Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Warsaw - There is a City

On August 1st of each year, the people of Warsaw commemorate the 1944 Warsaw uprising:

by Paul Barford
Once a year on August 1st, the people of Warsaw pay homage to the fallen heroes that fought for freedom in 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising. The biggest rebellion against German Nazi occupation during WWII cost over 200 000 lives and destruction of the capital.

Both before and after the Uprising, the Nazis carried out in Warsaw (as well as many other cities of the occupied country) a deliberate policy of annihilating Polish culture. This included emptying museums, stealing or destroying the contents, burning libraries, blowing up landmark buildings and monuments, closing cultural institutions and imprisoning or executing their staff. By their brutal and barbarous acts, the occupiers wanted to wipe out the identity of the conquered nation by deleting its material and non-material. Poland and the Polish people resisted, and it seems to me still today place a higher value on cultural property than many other nations in the EU.

It is in this context that it is particularly disturbing to see the German signatures on the anti-best-practice petition premised on the notion of German superiority to the interests of the citizens of the source countries. Shame on you, have you not learnt any lessons?


The first two paragraphs of this post by Mr. Barford are commendable, and give insights into both the ordeal and the resurgence of the Polish people.

The last paragraph is a regurgitation of his extreme antipathy to collecting antiquities and the antiquities trade. It reveals nothing other than his well-known personal biases.

It is also noteworthy that Barford does not even mention two very important aspects of the Warsaw uprising which are a matter of historical record:
1) The Russian propagandists called for this uprising, and it was in response to this incitement and the expectation that the Red Army was about to attack, that the Polish patriots launched the uprising they had been secretly preparing.

"The Uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces.  However, the Soviet advance stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance, which fought for 63 days with little outside support. The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II. ...

Winston Churchill pleaded with Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt to help Britain's Polish allies, to no avail. Then, without Soviet air clearance, Churchill sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force and the Polish Air Force under British High Command. Later, after gaining Soviet air clearance, the US Army Air Force sent one high-level mass airdrop as part of Operation Frantic. The Soviet Union refused to allow American bombers from Western Europe to land on Soviet airfields after dropping supplies to the Poles."

"More recently, blame for the Rising’s failure has fallen squarely at the feet of the Soviets. Stalin was playing a double game that wasn’t apparent to the Americans at the time, in part because President Franklin D. Roosevelt tended to believe Stalin. The Poles were deceived as well; Komorowski and his fellow commanders made their decision to fight based on what seemed to be safe assumptions at the time. “Ever since the outbreak of the Rising, the people of Warsaw had been living by listening, listening to hear the Soviet guns,” underground commander Stefan Korbonski, who spent months in Soviet captivity before escaping to the West, wrote in his postwar memoirs. “It never even occurred to anyone that the Soviets might deliberately stop their offensive, so as to enable the Germans to destroy the City of Warsaw.”
Soviet troops didn’t enter Warsaw proper until January 17, 1945. Even then, members of the Home Army were imprisoned or executed by Communist officials. (Komorowski spent the remainder of the war in the notorious Colditz officer’s prison, and escaped to England after the German surrender.) For Poles, the Allied victory over Nazi Germany was bittersweet. As Pawel Ukielski, the deputy director of a new museum in Warsaw devoted to the Rising, explains: “One occupation was just exchanged for another.”
Despite the dramatic fighting and the tremendous losses, the Warsaw Rising is one of the lesser-known conflicts of the war. The reason is simple: publicizing the events of August and September 1944 was in nobody’s interest during the Communist era. For the ruling regime in Poland, it was a direct attack on their legitimacy. The struggle has been largely forgotten outside Poland as well. The Rising was an uncomfortable reminder that Poland and the nations of central Europe had been cynically abandoned to Stalin during and after the war. None of the German officers responsible for the brutal reprisals against civilians in the city were tried at Nuremberg. In fact, the events of August and September 1944 were barely mentioned, for fear of roiling the tense relationship with Moscow."

2) As is mentioned in the above but not discussed in depth, Stalin was pursuing a political strategy intended to destroy Polish nationalism in preparation for the Communist puppet government he intended to install after occupying Poland.  

The Polish government in exile in London had learned through their agents that the Russians had massacred a large number of Polish officers at Katyn and elsewhere after occupying eastern Poland:

Disregarding Churchill's advice that it was politically very unwise to make any public announcement of this horrifying atrocity, the Polish government in exile publicly rejected the Soviet lie that the massacre had been carried out by the Germans:
"In April 1943, the Germans announced that they had discovered at Katyn Wood, near SmolenskRussia, mass graves of 10,000 Polish officers (the German investigation later found 4,443 bodies) who had been taken prisoner in 1939 and murdered by the Soviets. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The other Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this; the Polish Government in Exile refused to do so.
Stalin then severed relations with the Polish Government in Exile. Since it was clear that it would be the Soviet Union, not the western Allies, who would liberate Poland from the Germans, this breach had fateful consequences for Poland. ...
During 1943 and 1944, the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption of talks between Stalin and the Polish Government in Exile. But these efforts broke down over several matters. One was the Katyń massacre (and others at Kalinin and Kharkiv). Another was Poland's postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the territories annexed by the Soviets in 1939, which had millions of Poles in addition to Ukrainian and Belarusian populations, should remain in Soviet hands, and that Poland should be compensated with lands to be annexed from Germany. Mikołajczyk, however, refused to compromise on the question of Poland's sovereignty over her prewar eastern territories. A third matter was Mikołajczyk's insistence that Stalin not set up a Communist government in postwar Poland."

Mr. Barford fails to mention the suppression of any discussion of the Katyn Massacre in Poland until the fall of the Communist government, whose loyal and enthusiastic employee he had been:
Mr. Barford also fails to mention the suppression of any objective discussion of the Warsaw Uprising by the People's Republic of Poland:


It appears to this observer that the above should give an objective reader some chilling insights into Mr. Barford's far-left-wing mentality, his distortion of the record by suppression of that which does not suit his purposes, and his well-known propensity for advocating measures "in the defense of cultural heritage and the archaeological record" which impress many of us as being Marxist in concept, and totalitarian in their scope and probable consequences.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Petition Against New Anticollecting German Law

German collectors are appealing for support of their petition against a new German law that very seriously threatens collecting of all ancient artifacts, including coins:

Here is what they have to say to collectors everywhere about this malevolent law:

"The stipulations of the amendment of the law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage threaten the collecting of cultural objects by private individuals. This law will effect everybody specialized in traditional collecting fields, such as books, stamps, furniture, ceramics, coins, classic cars and paintings. Retroactively, this new law will impose due diligence guidelines that are impossible to follow even for the most meticulous collector. When it comes to a dispute, the law will require, by reversing the burden of proof, the owner of a “cultural good” with a value of at least 2,500 euros to provide proof as to the item’s provenance for the previous 20 years; this affects “archaeological cultural goods” with a value as low as 100 euros. 

This is an unrealistic demand which misrepresents most of the objects that are currently traded on the domestic and the international art market in full accordance with the law as being illegal, and will result in a considerable decline in value of the objects in question.

We therefore demand a law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage that observes the following principles:

• No retroactive effect of the law
• No reversal of the burden of proof
• A clear definition of the term “national cultural heritage” and a limit to claims by the state to “national cultural heritage” only 
• Free movement, unimpaired by bureaucratic obstacles, of cultural goods which are not classified as “natural cultural heritage”, EU-wide, according to the free movement of goods 
• An appropriate participation by the parties representing collectors and dealers in the law-making process

For centuries collectors have protected cultural heritage. Private collecting adds to national efforts and promotes the tradition’s preservation in all its variety, in a way museums alone could never accomplish. Collecting is an immaterial cultural heritage that is currently threatened by the latest drafts of the new German law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage."

This petition is supported by the ACCG, and I have signed it myself.

If these recommendations don't suffice to motivate you, here is another:

Infamous Warsaw archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has attacked the petition in his usual derogatory and insulting manner:

This is the same blogger whose qualifications as an archaeologist are apparently so obscure and unimpressive that he refuses to disclose them publicly.

I am very glad that Mr. Barford has assailed this petition in such offensive terms. I can think of no better incentive for collectors everywhere to make haste to sign it!

This is a threat to collectors everywhere: "Today Germany, tomorrow the world." 

********** UPDATE 7/23/2015 **********

It did not take the archaeo-blogger posing so unconvincingly as the "collectors' friend" to find some specious and characteristically misleading remarks in response to the above:

"Interestingly, a Californian dugup coin dealer tries to spin proposed new due diligence requirements in Germany as an "anticollecting law" ... (much turgid anticollecting verbiage omitted) ... So, if you are a sheep, sign the petition to (allegedly) "Save Collecting and Save the World". The rest of you who can think for yourselves, work out why dealers are upset about this, and why they are so desperate to get a petition signed to oppose real due diligence and act accordingly. To the pathetic and unconcerned sheep I say, be careful what you wish for."

Indeed, be careful what you wish for. You might perhaps get a world in which honest, law-abiding people such as you don't have to worry about grossly unfair and unreasonable anticollecting laws, or being scolded by the outrageously offensive likes of Mr. Barford, who has yet to demonstrate that he is anything remotely resembling a success as an archaeologist, or anything else of real merit.

Perhaps his greatest impact upon society has been his notorious blog, which specializes in finding ingenious ways to insult and provoke almost everyone involved in collecting, or metal detecting, or the late, lamented PAS in Britain, other than those few misled souls who closely agree with him.

That strikes this observer as a very negative, perhaps even despicable achievement. No doubt Mr. Barford glories in it.

To Mr. Barford, I say, John 21:17 (pardon me if a closet Marxist, as you seem to be, lacks a Bible to consult). It's better by far to be a good sheep and be loved by Jesus, than a malevolent hyena.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lathe Machining of Bronze Coin Flans

July 2015 marks the 11th anniversary of the presentation of this article, published on the Classical Coins website [ ], to the Ancient Coin Club of Los Angeles.

It explains the reasons for the central cavities or dimples noted on large bronze coins of the Ptolemaic and Roman Provincial periods. Since its initial publication, to the best of my knowledge there has been no article published challenging these conclusions. 

Many members of Moneta-L took part in the informal online and email collaboration that led to this article. Those who contributed key images are acknowledged in the text. Among these, Bart Lewis and Robert Kokotailo made especially important contributions. The article would hardly have been possible without the insights and images they and others provided, however any errors that may be found to exist in this article are entirely my own responsibility.

I have uploaded this file to the Moneta-L file archive, both in appreciation for the contributions listmembers made to it, and to ensure its long-term preservation online.

Its address in that file archive is 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Privacy, Qualifications and Blogging Ethics

Everyone has an inherent "right to privacy," but public figures must be prepared for the reality that the public is interested in them, and that this affects their right to privacy. Actors, actresses, politicians and royalty have long been plagued by "paparazzi" and understandably resent such uninvited attention.

Relatively recently, the Internet has provided a new venue for becoming a public figure: the web log, or "blog."

Blogs began as personal logs and repositories of information found on the Internet, interspersed with commentary  regarding the blogger's interpretations of logged items, personal interests and concerns. The great majority of blogs are still personally oriented, and are frequently kept private - only being shared with a few friends and associates.

Blogs which are open to the public (such as this one) are in reality a form of publication. Very often such blogs address a particular interest of the blogger -- in the case of this blog, collecting and dealing in ancient coins. The majority of problems and concerns in these interest areas now center upon cultural property law, and the one-sided conflict between archaeology and collecting. Archaeologists are on the attack, while advocates of collecting do their best to present the merits of this avocation and to highlight inconsistencies and inequities in the demands of archaeology's extremists.

One such extremist has recently restated a longstanding, oft-repeated view that "his personal life" has nothing to do with what he posts in his blog. Certainly, he needs no one's permission to say there whatever he likes. However, some aspects of what he considers to be "his personal life" are indeed relevant, as to how those who read his blog react to it. These aspects include his qualifications as an archaeologist, and as an observer of (and commentator upon) events relating to antiquities collecting and metal detecting. 

This archaeologist has not published a resume or curriculum vitae, nor has he disclosed relevant information that would enable readers to make an informed, thoughtful judgement regarding his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives. All these are essential background necessary to decide how much weight to give to his remarks and opinions.

He clearly has developed a "public," which includes those who unreservedly applaud his crusades for "responsible collecting" and against "irresponsible metal detecting." It also includes many who see some merit in his concerns, but dislike his confrontational manner of presentation. It further includes many who see little merit in his views and concerns, instead regarding him as an offensive pest and perhaps even a public nuisance.

Whether this archaeologist likes it or not, he has deliberately and intentionally made himself a public figure through his blogging activities, and must accept the consequences. These include public interest in learning more about his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives, and a tendency to wonder why he is reluctant to make this information public.

In this observer's opinion, it is at best disingenuous to publish a blog that is intended to have a wide readership, and at the same time insist upon keeping one's own background and qualifications (as an expert observer upon the blog's subject) secret. That certainly isn't my conception of "best practice" where blogging ethics are concerned, and is especially inappropriate when a blogger frequently criticizes (and even castigates) others for not following "best practice" in their activities.

Those whom this blogger criticizes have not maintained such a reserve regarding their own backgrounds, and have considered it proper to publicly disclose their qualifications.


Here it is clearly appropriate to once again present my own qualifications as a numismatist and numismatic blogger, in a convenient Internet-accessible public disclosure of my background.

My numismatic background and interests are outlined here:

My focus upon education as a primary objective of my numismatic website begins here:

My focus on numismatic research and information-sharing is apparent in these pages:

My technical background is the focus of the ATM consultancy website:

That background is additionally discussed here:

The most recent [2006] version of my technical resume is available here:

Readers who play chess might be interested in the best-known game of my brief  career as a competitive chess player:

While this has nothing to do with numismatic blogging qualifications, it gives insight into the diversity of my interests. This game received the Brilliancy Prize at the 1968 U. S. Open and was published in that year's Chess Informant. After I stopped playing competitively, I concentrated on furthering the development of computer chess.

********************UPDATE 7/2/2015********************

The archaeo-blogger referred to in this post apparently still is not convinced that it is important for him to disclose his credentials as an archaeologist, so that the public may make an informed, thoughtful judgement regarding his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives. 

This, despite a great deal of discussion in the comments section of this blog.

Perhaps he believes that there is one set of blogging ethics for "archaeologists," and another for everyone else. What he has posted in his blog recently indicates that he instead prefers to further criticize and attempt to ridicule this observer and other pro-collecting advocates.

One would think that the public which reads his blog would eventually  realize that this blogger is continuing to construct an immense edifice of highly controversial opinionating, without providing any publicly  visible foundation to substantiate his pretensions to being an archaeologist.

He seems to think that this omission can instead be dealt with by challenging the traditional definition of numismatics as the collecting and study of coins, and the traditional definition of "professional numismatists" as those who make their living, or a significant part thereof, dealing in coins or writing about them.

According to this archaeo-blogger, "numismatics" should instead be regarded as an academic discipline carried on by those who have degrees in that subject, or in archaeology and related disciplines, and contribute by presenting papers at academic or archaeological conferences relating to numismatics.  He goes on to say: "The problem is that elsewhere, and in the US particularly (but not exclusively) mere coin collecting is also called "numismatics". Dealer Dave Welsh wants coin selling to also be called "numismatics". I suppose a parallel would be stamp collecting which its practitioners call "philately". But just using a catalogue to put rectangles of paper with colourful pictures of butterflies (or round pieces of metal with blurred pictures of Roman emperors) in order in an album/coin folder or tray is not really any kind of "study" and any "methodology" of this kind of ordering is the most primitive."

I can only observe that a great many real numismatists will regard these remarks as an almost incredible intersection of arrogance and ignorance.

********************Update 7/4/2015******************

David Knell, a supporter of the agenda of the archaeoblogger referred to above, has taken umbrage at my views on qualifications and blogging ethics:

It is very interesting, and somewhat puzzling, to observe that he regards a call for this archaeoblogger to publicly disclose his credentials as an archaeologist, as amounting to a personal attack on his credentials. Now, how could such a call be regarded as an attack on those credentials, unless there is some reason why they will not stand the light of day?

I did not really imagine that such could be the case, although John Howland indicated such a suspicion in his comment on this post.

My concern was rather that the public, seeing this archaeoblogger's identification of himself as an "archaeologist," may imagine him to be a peer of luminaries such as Lord Renfrew and Roger Bland, and ought to be able to accurately assess for themselves his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives.

Then Mr. Knell went on to sarcastically characterize my approach toward managing comments to this blog as being "pompous." He ended by saying:
"Ah, and there was innocent 21st-century me, naively thinking a blog was just a blog."
Perhaps Mr. Knell does not notice pomposity or arrogance in this archaeoblogger's blog utterances, however others do, and it is quite clear that this "archaeologist" does not envision his venue as being "just a blog," but instead as a forum for conducting a crusade (some might go so far as to characterize it as a jihad) against antiquities collecting and metal detecting. As such, it has become widely known and in the opinion of many opponents of antiquities collecting, important.

Given the combative tone of the archaeoblogger's comments toward which my comments policy statement was directed, it was important to explain to other commenters why I had allowed those comments to be published.