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.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Decline and Fall of the PAS

This observer is troubled and apprehensive regarding the future of the highly regarded British PAS, a voluntary antiquities discovery reporting and recording scheme administered by the British Museum, under the expert leadership of highly respected archaeologist and numismatic expert Dr. Roger Bland.

It seems to this observer that Dr. Bland did as much as could reasonably be considered to be humanly possible, to reconcile the conflicting interests of archaeologists on the one hand, and amateur investigators and metal detectorists on the other hand, and steer them toward a beneficial collaboration.

It cannot be questioned that there were very significant, indeed historic, successes resulting from that collaboration when it functioned at its best.

On the other hand there were also irregularities (perhaps even culpable negligence) in the manner in which certain excavations were conducted, which aroused the understandable ire of doctrinaire archaeologists, when the collaboration functioned at its worst.

It seems to this observer that the triumphs far outweigh the irregularities/negligence, which however must not be neglected, but instead addressed in a manner inspiring confidence that they will not continue.

The most vocal critic of the PAS regime to date is unquestionably Paul Barford.

In his blog reaction to this development,

Mr. Barford conveys commendably serious second thoughts regarding this incontinent discarding of an arrangement which had genuine merit in spite of the flaws he reported, and the consequent resignation of the universally respected leader of the PAS.

Dr. Roger Bland is not only a very distinguished archaeologist but also a very distinguished numismatist. This observer does not perceive anyone in the remaining administration of the BM and the remnants of the PAS as being professionally worthy of carrying Dr. Bland's boots. No doubt they do have organizational harmony merits and political connections sufficient to make them more comfortable colleagues for the beleaguered politicians who have now sacrificed the PAS upon the reeking altar of budget reductions. Dr. Bland always impressed this observer as being very moderate and thoughtful in his tone, and cautious but firm in his principled approach to the conflict between the interests of archaeology and collecting. Such circumspection was in every respect appropriate, considering his manifold and serious responsibilities.

One might think that it would not be possible to unite Mr. Barford and this observer in expressing serious doubts and grave reservations regarding the wisdom of any UK government policy development. It seems however that this particular "restructuring," involving as it does the exit of a very distinguished and trusted public servant, imposes an almost impossibly high expected standard of achievement and performance upon his successors.

To Dr. Bland: Kudos in excelsis. You have very ably (and indeed nobly) discharged your weighty and complex responsibilities for the preservation and dissemination of mankind's heritage.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A glimpse into Amorality and Corruption

Here is a very troubling report:


Is it really necessary to comment upon such a report?

Conservative political pundits have, for many years, repeatedly alleged that the UN is a corrupt organization deceptively pursuing a left wing Socialist, if not actually Communist, oriented "new world order."

This observer believes that the UN would do well to restore public confidence that its policies and intentions are consistent with traditional American beliefs and core values.

The UN was founded upon the impetus and success of US and British arms during the Second World War. Large numbers of British and American patriots gave their lives or limbs to defeat totalitarian Fascism and make this world organization a reality.

It is now incumbent upon this embattled organization to demonstrate that their sacrifice was not in vain, and that Socialism, administered by a totalitarian bureaucracy unaccountable to voters, has not triumphed.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Collecting Ethics

The ethics of antiquities collecting (of course including collecting ancient coins) are constantly being assailed by leftist archaeologists and their sympathizers. With due respect for the principle that the tenets and motives of such archaeology-centric activists cannot accurately be encompassed in a few words, a reasonable attempt would be to advance the concept that the archaeological record, and all of the artifacts and situational context comprising it, inherently belong to all mankind and must not be disturbed by, still less possessed by, private individuals.

This observer believes the above to be a neutrally worded statement of fact which everyone involved in any side of the question ought to be able to agree upon.

What does the above statement imply? A great deal. To begin with, it asserts an overriding declaration of inherent ownership based upon a concept of cultural and societal identity, as being superior to and overriding all traditional principles of personal ownership and property rights.

Speaking in admittedly very general terms, the above declaration of inherent ownership of cultural identity most easily fits the tenets of the far left wing of the present political spectrum, i.e. left wing Socialism and Communism.

Before anyone trundles out the heavy artillery of their personal political persuasion for a barrage against that observation, this observer must declare that he is primarily concerned with individual human rights, and the extreme desirability of individuals enhancing their understanding of the past. If that understanding is improved by the efforts of left wing Socialism and Communism to present their social perspective, which should not be rejected without careful study, so much the better. But that understanding also unquestionably depends upon the efforts of concerned individual students of the past, expert in their discipline, to present and assert their perspective.

This observer is neither a Communist nor a left wing Socialist. He will, however, confess to being an inveterate idealist willing to go to to great lengths in defense of his ideals.

That is a description which could also be varyingly applied to almost everyone from American Kennedy Democrats (mea maxima culpa) to SS Totenkopf storm troopers. This observer's father was a naval officer in the great War against Fascism, who hated Fascism and Naziism with an impulsive aversion difficult to convey in today's terminology, for in those days when Communists were our cordial allies he was equally far from being a Socialist, and farther still from being a Communist. But he was unquestionably also something other opponents of Fascism all shared: a resolute defender of personal freedom.

There is a great deal to be said for the ancient Roman tradition of mos maiorvm, societal morality or  'the customs of our fathers." Therein lies societal stability, a sense of social identity and a genuinely rational personal commitment to liberty and freedom.

Mr. Barford very freely advocates being completely "up to date" regarding one's personal attitude toward left wing Socialism and Communism. Perhaps it would be better if he also equitably addressed the values and merits of moderate Socialism, and even those of socially responsible Capitalism. This observer tends to see them all converging upon a social perspective Barford ought to be able to support.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time to Rewrite the 1970 UNESCO Convention???

Archaeology-centric blogger Paul Barford made this provocative (but uninformed) statement at the end of a recent post to his notorious blog:

"OK, UNESCO, time to rewrite that 1960-ish document the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property."

Changes to the text of the adopted 1970 UNESCO Convention are not allowed, except through the agency of a revising Convention adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This in effect would become a new Convention, and "Any such revision shall, however, bind only the States which shall become Parties to the revising convention." Article 25, part 1.

In other words, no signatures or instruments approving or acceding to the original Convention would be valid as approval of or accession to the revised Convention.

UNESCO did, in fact, collaborate in "rewriting" this document in the process of preparation of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, which is now a "dead letter," having failed to secure accession from any nation having a major art and/or antiquities trade, other than Italy. 

This observer would be pleased should UNESCO decide to follow Mr. Barford's suggestion. It would be extremely interesting to see how much real-world political support there is for his anticollecting notions. Should a revising Convention follow them, it would be very surprising if the USA signed or acceded to that document, given the flagrant abuses resulting from the existing Convention.

It is quite possible that the firestorm of controversy that would culminate in the defeat of efforts to secure US approval of or accession to such a revised Convention would eventually lead to revocation of, or modifications to, the deposited US instrument of accession to the existing Convention.