Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Greece is nearly bankrupt

With Money Drying Up, Greece Is All but Bankrupt

This is a very dangerous situation, in this observer's opinion. 

If Greece exits from the Euro, which now appears to be only a matter of time and perhaps not very much time, it is widely predicted in economic circles that the drachma would rapidly depreciate in value vs. the Euro making imported commodities and goods extremely expensive for Greek citizens.

That would exacerbate an already unsatisfactory cultural heritage management situation, making it more and more difficult for those in charge of the nation's monuments and antiquities to live on their salaries and perhaps preventing recruitment of additional personnel.

Meanwhile the far-reaching effects of inflation in the Greek economy are likely to create very strong incentives for illicit excavation of, and trafficking in, antiquities whose relative value would greatly increase in the drachma economy. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Anti-Tompa "Crusade"

Having failed to make significant headway in his efforts to discredit the ACCG and numismatic trade associations, Varsovian archaeology-centric blogger Paul Barford has now instituted an effort to personally discredit ACCG spokesman (and trade association lobbyist) Peter Tompa:


This observer views that unscrupulous effort as being both deceitful and dishonorable.

Attorney Tompa has very distinguished qualifications in his field, far more so that those of former archaeologist Barford. His representation of the interests of the ACCG, IAPN and PNG has been in this observer's opinion, ethical, honorable and professional.

Perhaps the difficulty here is that the words ethical, honorable and professional have very different meanings to Mr. Barford than they do to the average citizen of the USA, and quite possibly, also the average citizen of other English-speaking nations.

Peter Tompa's blog is a venue in which the real truth, as Dr. Tompa (J.D. cum laude, 1986) sees it, is honestly presented. Mr. Barford's blog on the other hand, is for the most part mere anti-collecting and anti-trade propaganda. Lately it seems that his attempts to disguise his extreme bias against private ownership of, and free trading in, "archaeological objects" such as ancient coins have become less and less noticeable, and the anger and bitterness he cherishes toward collectors, the antiquities trade, metal detectorists and the British PAS have been more and more overtly revealed.

Mr. Barford has not published a curriculum vitae, nor has he publicly disclosed relevant details of his present employment, political affiliation, and other matters of interest to those who seek to accurately assess his qualifications and objectivity as a commentator upon events and developments in cultural heritage affairs.

Mr. Tompa on the other hand, along with other officers of the ACCG including this observer, and others associated in the cause of pro-collecting advocacy, have published such curricula vitae and have made no attempt to conceal any relevant aspect of their lives and opinions.

Some observers, focusing upon Mr. Barford's extreme antipathy toward private ownership of antiquities and commerce in these objects, have contended that this is prima facie evidence that his 1986 hegira to Warsaw, where he subsequently served the People's Republic of Poland as a university lecturer and as Inspector of Monuments, was motivated by Communist sympathies and that Mr. Barford is actually a closet Communist.

Barford's secretiveness regarding his background certainly does not discourage such speculation.

This observer does believe that if Mr. Barford were in fact a Communist, he could hardly be expected to publicly oppose private collecting, the antiquities trade, and metal detecting with more antipathy and venom. The question therefore appears, for all practical purposes, to be moot.

UPDATE 5/19/2015

It did not take very long for Mr. Barford to react to the above remarks:

That is of course very much a matter of opinion. Suffice it to say that no one has appointed or elected Mr. Barford (or any other archaeologists) to be the arbiters of morality, regarding what is "right" or "wrong" with respect to the possession and sale of antiquities, for example ancient coins.

In this case I believe that Mr. Barford is deceitfully misrepresenting what he presents himself as being the spokesman for. He has taken to using the plural pronoun "we" to suggest that he is voicing the opinions and concerns of a great many others who concur with his ideological fixations regarding acquisition of, and trading in, unprovenanced antiquities. However, no information is provided regarding who these undefined "others" are, their numbers, or their knowledge of the issues.

Those prominent in the pro-collecting advocacy movement (including this observer) believe that Mr. Barford does not have many supporters within the archaeological establishment. Much has been said (in private) indicating that his extremism and discourtesy are actually regarded as an embarrassment by more open-minded archaeologists.

Mr. Barford's habitual use of the term "ad hominem" in an attempt to deflect the reader's attention from anything he regards as being unfavorable to his personal credibility is really quite incongruous, given the plethora of pejorative jargon that fills his blog whenever he discusses anyone connected with the pro-collecting advocacy movement, anyone involved in the antiquities trade, or collectors.

Another theme very frequently found in his blog utterances is the implication that doing something for remuneration or profit is morally wrong. Attorney Tompa, representing trade organizations in venues important to their interests, is described as a "paid lobbyist." This observer is habitually described as "Dealer Dave," sometimes even as "Dugup Dealer Dave," with frequent implications that my real motivation for being involved in pro-collecting advocacy is greed and selfishness. Such implications and insinuations do suggest a Marxist social and economic perspective.

I don't think it is in any way unreasonable or unjust to describe this passage in Mr. Barford's paean of hate toward attorney Tompa as being dishonorable:

"If a person associated in any capacity in the public eye with the PNG in his "personal blog" had expressed extremist anti-Moslem or anti-semitic views, or White Supremecist ones, would an organization truly promoting integrity and responsibility not distance themselves from him? If for example a person representing PNG had written his "personal view" that "little n***r girls who go out in the streets in white areas of the town in short dresses deserve to be raped", would the PNG still take the view that their representative is entitled to his personal views, or would they consider that such opinions are detrimental to the image of themselves and all of their members and put a stop to it? I see very little difference in the fictional view above and the victim-blaming "personal view" expressed throughout his lobbyist's blog by the chosen representative of the PNG that people who live in countries with (what he sees as) "corrupt governments" deserve to have their heritage raped by looters and smugglers, and dealers should not be expected to lift a finger to do anything."

Perhaps Mr. Barford really does believe what he utters in his blog, and is not just saying such things to score propaganda points or to create an effect. Sincerity may perhaps explain, but does not in any way excuse, the excesses of that hideously inappropriate and defamatory passage.


Saturday, May 02, 2015

Financing the Saving of the Past

Selling Artifacts to Save the Past?
by Peter Tompa

Chris Maupin asks why not?   And it's not just Maupin.  Others have also suggested that there be deaccession of duplicates from stores.  This does not only makes sense.  It will increasingly become a necessity for cash strapped cultural establishments in places like Greece and Italy.


A great deal has been said in the archaeological blogosphere regarding ethical objections to selling artifacts. The perspective upon which this "moral judgement" is based appears to be a belief that unearthed artifacts are inherently the common property of all mankind, and should not be owned, or traded in, by private individuals. 

A very consistent advocacy of this perspective may be found in the blog of sometime British archaeologist Paul Barford, who uses the words "collector" and "dealer" in his blog utterances with venomous scorn suggesting that such individuals are, in his view (and that of all true believers in the righteous cause of preserving the archaeological record), moral lepers.

A similar rejection of selling artifacts recently became a cause célèbre, when the St. Louis chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America deaccessioned a number of Egyptian and Mesoamerican artifacts which were not being publicly displayed. 38 of the 40 artifacts were placed with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, the AIA strongly objected to the sale, and eventually forced the entire board of the St. Louis chapter to resign.

It isn't clear to what extent the AIA leadership, Mr. Barford and other believers in the "iniquity" of private ownership of artifacts and the existing antiquities trade realize the economic, social and political implications of their perspective.

In this observer's opinion, a very crucial question must now be addressed: Who provides the custody, storage and display of artifacts? If their possession by private collectors, and exchanges via the antiquities trade, are thus deemed to be "unethical," then who are instead to be the custodians?

So far as one can judge from what has been published regarding this topic there seems to be general agreement that existing institutional resources, such as museums and universities, are overburdened and unable to take on responsibility for additional holdings without increased funding.

It also seems apparent that throughout the world, governments are likewise overburdened, and unable to take on responsibility for increasing funding to existing institutional curation resources, or creating new public resources. Doing so would require cutting back services in other important areas, or increasing taxes which are already perceived as being too high.

So who will pay for the custody, storage and display of artifacts, if private collectors, the antiquities trade and privately held museums are deemed to be "ethically unacceptable?"

It seems to this observer that such theorizing upon the "ethics" of private ownership of antiquities, and the antiquities trade, without providing any workable fiscal alternative is not an acceptable basis for public policy decisions, and that government officials should not accept arguments based upon "moral theorizing" of this sort without first determining and making responsible provision for the consequent financial, social and political effects.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Illicit" vs. "Illegal"

In an update to his reaction to my updated post on 
"Islamic State" Terrorists and the Antiquities Market , archaeoblogger Paul Barford took exception to this remark: Readers are cautioned that "illicit" is Barfordian doublespeak for "undocumented" or "unprovenanced." It does not mean "illegal."

There followed a stupefying lecture upon use of the word "illicit" -- whose plain English meaning is "forbidden," but which does have a somewhat different definition from that of "illegal." That is well illustrated here .

Mr. Barford apparently views posts in our respective blogs as constituting a sort of debate, and chides me for "not following the rules" by "dodging the issues" in a manner which is responsible "for the current state of the heritage debate."

I don't consider blog posts as being contributions to "the heritage debate." There is no such debate, except perhaps in Mr. Barford's mind, where many other uniquities reside. 

There are instead the unpleasant realities of what is taking place in the world today, and how they affect the interests of ancient coin collectors (and the professional numismatists and auction firms which supply them). That is the subject of this blog. It is written not for archaeobloggers, but for collectors.

Collectors need clear, understandable guidance regarding what they are (and are not) allowed to acquire. They will never get anything resembling that from  Mr. Barford, or others in the archaeological blogosphere. 

Thus in this blog the words "illicit" and "illegal" are used in a practically significant sense, instead of attempting to preserve every tortuous nuance of international conventions, foreign heritage laws and their various interactions and interpretations. 

Illegal - in this blog - means "in violation of the laws of the United States."
Illicit - in this blog - is used in its Barfordian sense as meaning "unprovenanced, or undocumented."

Collecting unprovenanced, undocumented ancient coins is the norm in the United States, as it is (and has been for centuries) in Europe and the UK. Much has been said here, and elsewhere, regarding the costs of documenting provenance and the consequently very small proportion of coins which have a documented provenance. Suffice it to say that if collectors were only allowed to acquire numismatic specimens with a provenance sufficient to satisfy Mr. Barford and his ilk, it would very soon be impossible to continue collecting ancient coins because the supply of such rarities would be exhausted.

Fortunately for collectors, it is not illegal to collect coins that Mr. Barford, and others in the archaeological blogosphere, would describe as being illicit

The key issue involved is the concept of coins being "innocent until proven guilty." That is, in fact, the law in the United States. However Mr. Barford and his ilk see it the other way round - coins (and all other antiquities) are regarded by them as being illicit unless proven to be licit by valid provenance documentation.

There is actually a rather significant difference between this interpretation, and the usage of illicit in the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Article 3 thereof defines illicit thus:
"The import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property effected contrary to the provisions adopted under this Convention by the States Parties thereto, shall be illicit."

In other words, an illicit coin is one which has been imported, exported or sold in violation of the provisions of the Convention. Nothing in the Convention states or implies that a coin is illicit if it does not have provenance documentation. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Islamic State" Terrorists and the Antiquities Market

The London Times reports that ISIS terrorists are stripping controlled areas in Syria of salable antiquities and surreptitiously selling them either directly to collectors, or into the Western art market. See
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/article4364471.ece http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article4299572.ece

In an interesting follow-on article, How ISIS created a terrorist art market , Michael Raggi provides informed commentary on the possibility that recent widely publicized video releases purporting to show jihadists destroying "priceless" ancient statues depict, in fact, only the destruction of unsalable museum copies of artifacts that had previously been moved to other locations. Destruction of monuments such as the Nineveh winged bulls was, however, genuine - such monuments have no market value.

Raggi's observations that "The ISIS brand intends to cultivate the image of a barbarian horde seeking to establish a Caliphate that will eviscerate all Arabic culture and iconography predating Islam ..." and "The pattern that emerges in this episode of cultural genocide is that ISIS is destroying only the art that is deemed to be unsaleable in the international art market ... " ring true.

Is this brutal, destructive on-camera cultural barbarism really a cynical marketing ploy aimed at creating and exploiting a presence in the international antiquities market?

Raggi and the Times present an appalling picture of  how this terrorist organization may be exploiting the "legitimate first world art market" by taking advantage of its traditional reliance upon confidence in long-established sources and personal connections, and a centuries-old tradition of anonymous sales by collectors unwilling to publicly disclose their divestitures for personal, security or financial reasons. 

It is time for Western collectors, especially US collectors, to realize that this situation is a direct and very dangerous threat to their interests. In particular, ancient coin collectors should be alarmed because governmental efforts to prevent (or at least control) such trafficking in "blood antiquities" will almost certainly lay a heavy and indiscriminate hand on the antiquities market, which includes ancient coins.

The ISIS terrorists are unlikely to be taking much (if any) interest in coins, as they are of small value compared to "art objects." The archaeology lobby however is enthusiastically championing the notion that "collection-driven exploitation" of "archaeological sites" must be prevented by restricting the importation of ancient coins into the USA. This is based upon ideological aversion to private collecting, not upon actual evidence that coin-hunters are in fact damaging archaeological sites to any noticeable extent.

There is so far no indication of any recent abnormal influx of ancient coins from ISIS controlled areas into the numismatic market. Collectors and dealers should exercise due diligence, prudent restraint and caution in considering acquisition of coins struck in, or known to have circulated in, Syria and Mesopotamia. Be certain that such acquisitions do not include anything not verifiably traceable to a collection or dealer stock prior to August 2011, when the ISI became active in the Syrian insurgency.

UPDATE 4/17/2013

One might think that there would be very little (if anything) in the above remarks to which a reasonable and responsible advocate of preserving cultural heritage could take exception.

That however did not preclude Varsovian former archaeologist Paul Barford from having his own inimitable "last word" on the subject: The Coin Dealer and Body Bags .

"So the sales of antiquities by militants fighting the US-led invasion from 2003 onwards do not concern collectors? The sales that allowed the purchase of weapons and munitions which led to the death of member of the anti-Saddam coalition? The sales that led to young men going home in body bags? This does not concern Dealer Dave, who is apparently only interested in erosion of profits through attempts to fight ISIL?"

Here Barford asserts that it's not acceptable (according to his perspective) to recommend due diligence, prudence and caution in order to prevent possibly becoming involved in acquisition of anything that may have passed through the hands of ISIS or its confederates. Why? Because that doesn't go far enough. It is apparently wrong, in his view, to take only one step in the "right" direction.

Now had I instead advocated exercising due diligence, prudence and caution in order to prevent possibly becoming involved in acquisition of anything that may have passed through the hands of "militants fighting the US-led invasion from 2003 onwards, including ISIS after August 2011," that would not be "correct" either because "The legislation deciding licit and illicit antiquities in both Syria and Iraq goes back a good deal beyond "August 2011". In Syria, to be precise at least 1963, and Iraq  back to 1936. Anything brought into any "old collection" after those dates without the proper release documentation are illicit antiquities."

Readers are cautioned that "illicit" is Barfordian doublespeak for "undocumented" or "unprovenanced." It does not mean "illegal." Since only a few per cent of ancient coins available for acquisition are "provenanced," that means nearly all ancient coins in private hands are "illicit" even though it is perfectly legal to acquire, own, collect and sell them. 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Italian MOU Comment Recap

For detailed breakdowns see Peter Tompa's blog:

Here are the highlights, and this observer's comments:

1) 94% of Public Comments Were Opposed to Renewal of Italian MOU and/or Restrictions on Coins

Only 15 comments supported MoU renewal without reservations (such as exclusion of coins). These 15 comments should not be discounted because with the exception of David Knell (actor and anti-collecting activist), Paul Barford, and an anonymous contributor (who identified himself as a collector and academic), they came from academics and archaeologists with relevant knowledge and experience:

Leila A. Amineddoleh, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
Francesco de Angelis, Associate Professor, Roman Art and Archaeology, Columbia University
Fiona Rose-Greenland, Associate Research Director, The Past for Sale project, U. of Chicago
Nancy de Grummond, Professor of Classics, Florida State University
Elizabeth Colantoni, Assistant Professor of Classics, University of Rochester
Gordon Lobay, Senior Consultant, Perrett Laver (executive search firm)
          Associate Scholar, Intellectual Property in Cultural Heritage Project
Jane Evans, Professor of Art History and Classics, Temple University
Kathleen Lynch. Associate Professor, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati
Clemente Marconi, Professor of Greek Art and Archaeology, Institute of Fine Arts - NYU
Alex W. Barker, Director, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri
Kris Lockyear, Faculty Member, Institute of Archaeology, University College London
David W. J. Gill, Professor and Director, Heritage Futures, University Campus Suffolk

In the past the Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy, under the direction of anti-collecting archaeologist Maria Kouroupas, has given very little evidence of taking appropriate notice of the overwhelming number of public comments objecting to restrictions on ancient coins, and has even disregarded such recommendations from the CPAC. Hopefully on this occasion the views of interested academics and archaeologists (harmonious with those of the CHC bureaucracy) will not again prevail.

Interested collectors would do well to review these comments. The problem of looting of archaeological sites is real, and insights can be gained into what is happening at Italian sites and why archaeologists naturally want everything possible done to discourage looting. However, the one real investigative report (Fiona Rose-Greenland's comment) was rather tentative. Its author believes that the MoU has had an effect toward discouraging looting, however her primary observation was that it has become significantly more difficult for looters to sell their finds into the international antiquities market, and in many cases they are instead keeping them. She notes effective enforcement action by Italian police authorities, and the success of an educational campaign to develop public awareness of the importance of Italy's cultural heritage. These laudable successes may in themselves suffice to explain the observed decrease in looting, and certainly indicate that there is now less reason to believe that emergency measures such as import restrictions are required. Significantly, the author did not differentiate between types of objects sought by looters and did not mention coins.

2) The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) comment presents a sobering portrait of Italy's unwillingness or inability to live up to its end of the current MOU with the United States:

Italy's grossly underfunded, over-bureaucratic cultural establishment is not up to that task.  Lack of effective and honest governance  negatively impacts  the preservation of Italy's  cultural heritage. Given the dismal performance of Italy's public sector,   Italy's antiquities and coin dealers should be allowed to sell not just to other Italians, but to the world.  Each MOU  has already called for Italy to ease the process for granting export permits for artifacts legally sold within Italy itself, something that has not happened (along with much else) because of Italy's choking bureaucracy. 

AAMD advocates opening up the Italian auction market so it can not only be a source of legitimately acquired artifacts, but help bring much needed money to help fund Italy's underfunded cultural establishment.  

 The AAMD   states that coins should be freed of foolish import restrictions:  
Export restrictions on many ancient coins...are illogical because they are not specific to Italy in origin and there is a ready, legal market for them in Italy. Many dealers in Italy advertise ancient coins for sale. Either Italy must agree to issue export permits for coins sold legally in Italy or the designated list should be amended to allow such coins to be brought into the United States.

Collectors should realize that it is difficult and time-consuming to obtain export permits for any sort of artifact from the Italian government. As a result, any unprovenanced coin included in the Designated List is effectively prohibited from entering the USA, even if it is sold at auction elsewhere in Europe and can legally be shipped almost anywhere else in the world.

3) Arturo Russo of Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG, a numismatic firm and auctioneer with offices in Milan, Zurich and London, comments regarding about the frustrations of dealing with the Italian cultural bureaucracy:

As a quid pro quo for all prior MOUs, Italy promised to facilitate the issuance of export certificates for archaeological objects artifacts legitimately sold within Italy itself. 2001 MOU, Art. II, F; 2006 Extension, Art. II, F; 2011 Extension, Art. II, G.

This has not happened. In fact, since coins were added to the designated list for import restrictions in 2011, the Italian cultural bureaucracy has made it almost impossible for me to export coins from the country.

I used to be able to secure export licenses for collections of ancient coins so they could be sold at auction abroad. After restrictions were placed on Greek coins from Italy and Sicily, Etruscan coins from Italy, Early Roman Republican coins, and early Imperial Colonial and Provincial coins to 37 AD, I was told this would no longer be possible. When I enquired why, I was told that if such export licenses were granted, the Americans would not think that the Italian cultural bureaucracy was serious about protecting its cultural patrimony. It is important to state that these denials have been issued for coins with a legitimate provenance.

This is entirely backwards. The MOU purports to require Italy to make such objects legitimately sold within Italy available for legal export abroad, but instead the MOU is being used to justify precluding legal export of even common coins sold within Italy itself. Furthermore, Italian authorities deny export licenses even for very common coin types based on the argument that even a small variety is a good reason to decline an application. Please note that they also deny export licenses for coins of non-Italian origin with the premise that they would be difficult to acquire for Italian Institutions. 

Another major problem is that most of the staff is not qualified to cast informed judgment on the rarity or importance of a coin, in fact they are archeologists and not numismatists. I must admit on several occasions I found myself informing them of the existence of the proper reference works required to establish the rarity of a coin type or even worse I had to draw their attention to the fact that several coins of that type were already in Italian Museums.

Unfortunately, since 2012 the attitude of the Italian officials towards export licenses for coins have changed dramatically. Italian collectors are still important buyers in auctions abroad, but in the eyes of Italian authorities every single coin of average rarity should remain on Italian soil. I find this position unfair and unreasonable especially considering that Italy has a gigantic numismatic heritage which is not published and more importantly very difficult to access for scholars and collectors.

In my experience, almost all European countries take a reasonable position by granting export licenses for most of the coins excluding only the exceedingly rare coin types.

Collectors should realize that the cultural bureaucracy in nations receiving import restrictions awarded by MoU are not likely to understand their reciprocal obligations involving issuance of export licenses, and will instead "automatically" seek to deny almost every request pursuing a retentionist policy whose goal is to keep artifacts in state custody and prevent their export.

This is a bad policy when applied to artifacts in general, but in the specific case of ancient coins, it becomes a critical obstruction to the normal functioning of the international market for ancient coins. Italy is an extremely important source for Greek, Roman, Carthaginian and pre-Roman Italian coinage, and the USA is the most important market for these coins with an estimated half of the world's ancient coin collectors.

If reasonable policies for issuance of export licenses are not instituted, the intention of MoU restrictions is frustrated and these agreements become de facto barriers to international trade in certain classes of artifacts, in particular ancient coins. 

In this observer's opinion, that result is not happenstance. It is instead exactly what could be expected when the requesting and issuance of import restrictions are being managed by bureaucrats with a strong anti-collecting bias, who (although they will not publicly admit this) would prefer to see the international trade in ancient artifacts suppressed, and private ownership of such artifacts declared to be unlawful.

4)  Organizations commenting were opposed to renewal of the Italian MOU or import restrictions on coins

Trade Associations
The International Association of Professional Numismatists, the Professional Numismatists Guild, and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art all opposed the MOU or import restrictions on the lawful trade in ancient coins.

Educational Organizations
Both the American Numismatic Association and Ancient Coins for Education expressed concerns about import restrictions on coins.

Professional Organizations
The Association of Art Museum Directors took a nuanced approach to the MOU. While supporting the renewal, AAMD requested changes to encourage Italy to live up to its part of the bargain.

Advocacy Groups
Two groups that advocate for the interests of dealers and collectors, the Association of Dealers and Collectors in Ancient and Ethnographic Art and the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, also argued against renewing the MOU or extending restrictions on historical coins.

Only one advocacy group associated with the archaeological lobby, the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, supports the extension unequivocally.

In this observer's opinion there is a very clear divide between the opinions of those involved in ancient coin collecting and the numismatic trade, and the archaeology lobby.

Those involved in numismatics understand first-hand the immense damage import restrictions have done, and will continue to do, to the numismatic trade and to interests of ancient coin collectors worldwide and especially in the USA.

Those in the archaeology lobby do not understand numismatics or the numismatic trade, and perhaps do not even understand antiquities collecting. They instead view antiquities collecting and the international antiquities and art markets as "incentivizing looting of archaeological sites," and believe as an ideological tenet that the international trade in ancient artifacts should be suppressed, and private ownership of such artifacts declared to be unlawful.

They also do not understand that numismatics is a distributed science that is much older than archaeology, in fact an important ancestor of archaeology, and that ancient coin collectors are the primary source of numismatic research. Very little numismatic research is being carried out by archaeologists, although that which is being done is typically of very high quality and is enthusiastically welcomed by collectors and professional numismatists.

There simply are not enough archaeologists and academic professionals interested in this field to support its research requirements. To most archaeologists doing fieldwork, ancient coins are artifacts whose primary importance is utility in stratigraphic dating, and whose secondary importance is analysis of local economic and trade patterns. Once coins have been attributed, unless they are assessed as being suitable for museum display (a relatively rare event) they are placed in storage, usually without conservation or cataloging.

5) The Italian MoU has a harmful effect on the study and appreciation of Italian culture:

Karen Antonelli, a dual citizen of the US and Italy, expressed these concerns about the impact of the MOU on Italian Americans:

I am a dual citizen of the United States and of Italy living in San Francisco, California. I have a Ph.D. in Italian Literature from the University of California at Los Angeles as well as an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. Although I lived most of my first twenty years in Italy (but born of American parents of Italian descent who were working for the U.S. government at the time), I have resided, full time, in the United States for more than forty years and treasure both my U.S. and my Italian heritage. I get tremendous satisfaction sharing my Italian heritage and culture with my fellow Americans and promote business relationships between Italy and the U.S. by teaching Italian language, literature and film classes as well as by performing professional translations for individuals and companies.

Unfortunately, the proposed extension (and perhaps expansion) of the present Memorandum of Understanding with Italy will do little to help, and a great deal to harm, the study and understanding of Italian heritage and culture, at the very least to the extent that it will restrict the import into the United States of abundant small objects like coins and other common artifacts. This is especially true as these objects were intended to, and did, travel great distances. These objects are useful not only in teaching the history of ancient Rome, its successor city-states and the modern Italian Republic, but in understanding so many aspects of its culture...societal relationships, religion, cultural tropes, trade and economics. 

The proposed MOU only harms United States citizens...restricting the import of the coins and similar common artifacts here, while they continue to be bought and sold, and travel widely, throughout Europe and even in Asia. 

As an Italian citizen, if I can purchase these objects in Italy as my heritage, why may I not bring them to the U.S. to share and teach?

Of course, I support the suppression of looting of archaeological sites (as I understand it, the purported reason for the ban on importation) but there are much better ways to do this than the extension of the MOU. Please do not renew it, or at least exempt from the extended MOU all common, abundant artifacts like coins. The goal of the Committee should be to preserve culture, not as an end in itself, but to promote the availability and awareness of culture to the citizens of the United States. 

In this observer's opinion, "cultural heritage" is not something exclusively possessed by a modern nation such as Italy, but is something that nation shares with the rest of the world which is interested (for cultural reasons) in that nation's past.Their cultural heritage is just as important as that of the present day citizens of that nation.

The cultural heritage of US citizens interested in classical studies, classical numismatics, ancient history and Italian culture is being restricted and damaged by efforts to sequester common and redundant Greek, Roman and Etruscan artifacts in Italy without regard for their lack of importance to science and archaeology.

As Antonelli observes, "abundant small objects like coins and other common artifacts" are of little importance to science, but of great importance to cultural appreciation and understanding. They should be disseminated as widely as possible, to enrich the cultural heritage experience and appreciation of all mankind.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Calling All Morons???"

CPO Calling all Morons

by Paul Barford

"It's Not Too Late ..." 
Fellow Collector: It’s not too late to post a comment that could help preserve your continued ability to purchase Roman Imperial Coins from abroad.[...]
This is followed by:
"CPO will not accept comments to this blog post"
No prizes for guessing why not. It is not too late for the numismatic professionals associations to change their lobbyist to one that does not use cheap tricks to rile up the brainless morons in the US collecting world. If he was worth half the money they pay him, Peter Tompa would explain why the particular coins that already are in the US-Italy MOU are there, and why that means that "Roman imperial coins" never will be. But he is not going to explain that, is he? Draw your own conclusions.

194 Comments Received - mostly cut-and-pasted mass mailing by the coineys saying what Peter Tompa tells them to say.


Hmm ... "... the brainless morons in the US collecting world."

It isn't Peter Tompa in his CPO blog who is "calling all morons." Mr. Tompa presents reasoned arguments and statements in plain English that intelligent persons can easily understand and make up their own minds about.

Mr. Barford presents incendiary propaganda, pursuing his "abolish private collecting" crusade in archaeology-centric doublespeak. He doesn't attempt to help intelligent persons understand all sides of the issues he comments upon. He instead (in this observer's view) only seeks to mislead and deceive them.

He falsely attempts to portray US collectors as "brainless morons." Actually quite a high percentage of them are very, very well educated and have attained far more distinction in their lives than Mr. Barford has (or ever will) in archaeology, in which field he could not even attain continued employment. 

Peter Tompa, Wayne Sayles and Arthur Houghton, all frequent targets of Barford's verbal abuse, are among these many high-achieving luminaries. As another "frequent target," this observer can feel quite comfortable in the company he keeps.

There will undoubtedly be some "brainless morons" who do need someone else to do their thinking for them. Are they US collectors, or are they those who unthinkingly swallow Mr. Barford's strident anti-collecting propaganda whole?

"Draw your own conclusions."