Friday, November 20, 2015

XVI Numismatic Congress Warsaw

About six years in the future, a major numismatic congress is scheduled to be held in Warsaw:

Much has been made of the academic numismatic conferences held in Poland in the archaeological blogosphere. While suspicion on the part of collectors and their advocates is perhaps natural, given the hostility of that blogosphere toward their activities and interests, it is nevertheless true that knowledge is neutral and ought to be regarded as being beneficial to all.

Hopefully this conference will focus upon advancing numismatic science, without pursuing any partisan agenda.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Doxxing and the True Believers

If you don't know what Doxxing is, you are evidently not one of the "true believers" conducting the crusade against antiquities collecting and metal detecting:

There are things which, as the Holy Scriptures inform us, "pass all understanding" [Philippians 4, 7}. Surely the perspective of these "true believers" is one such mystery.

To begin with, it is not obvious at first glance what these "crusaders" actually believe in. There is a good deal of reason to doubt whether they believe in God, as their perspective appears to be essentially Marxist. Let me hasten to observe that they have every right to hold such a perspective, and that Marxism is in reality a philosophy, not merely a political perspective. It is however a philosophy that I do not subscribe to.

But despite uncertainty as to what these "crusaders" actually believe in, there can be little doubt as to what they oppose. The oppose antiquities collecting, except under stringent conditions that they advocate [which would for all practical purposes make collecting virtually impossible]. They likewise oppose metal detecting, except under similarly stringent conditions [which detectorists likewise believe would make their avocation virtually impossible].

It seems clear, from the perspective of the ordinary citizen not initiated into the mysteries of their beliefs, that these crusaders are not distinguished by what they believe in, but rather by what they are opposed to.

It is a real challenge to conduct a "crusade" on a negative platform. The public has a natural human tendency to want to pursue positive concepts which would lead humanity into the "broad sunlit uplands" of life and fulfillment of spiritual needs, and intellectual growth. It is by no means an easy task to lead the public into believing that pursuits such as metal detecting and antiquities collecting are inherently vicious and evil.

These "crusaders" have however addressed that difficult task adroitly. The approach has been one of exploiting the theme of guilt - guilt on the part of collectors and detectorists, and guilt on the part of the public which lacks the social consciousness to restrain such inveterate sinners. Some substantial part of the doctrine of Original Sin appears to have been appropriated for the purposes of this crusade. Eve's apple has been transmuted into the despoliation of THE PAST.

Despite their successes in preaching the doctrine of guilt, these "crusaders" experience frustrations. Such frustrations appear to be intense and to create psychological pressures which can only be relieved by "venting." In this particular case that psychologically necessary process assumes the form of invective, satire, ridicule and a host of other pejorative slanging inflicted upon those who deny the truth of their doctrine of guilt, and oppose their "crusade." This observer has been the target of just about every form of such nasty eruptions from the dismal depths of their dark and twisted souls.

Such eruptions have consequences, one of which is a desire to expose to the public the actual nature of those who carry on this negative "crusade" and who so viciously attack those who disagree with and oppose them. Such exposure has been labeled "Doxxing." It is not only inferred but positively asserted that "Doxxing" has the objective of encouraging intimidation, and perhaps actual physical assaults, toward the "true believers." But the reality is that its intent and goal is simply to place them in context so that the public can accurately judge them.

This seems to be taken as a very unfair and unreasonable thing according to their beliefs. It seems to this observer that such "crusaders" crave darkness and obscurity, so far as their actual persons are concerned, and want exposure only for their polemics against collectors and detectorists.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Confidential Information

On November 4 2015 well-known metal detectorist John Howland made the following post to John Hooker's blog [ ]:

"Hi John:
I think it's all down to professional jealousy. Dean appears to be a knowledgeable source, and is stealing certain thunder, One Warsaw website carries the following:-

"Celtic culture, especially its spiritual sphere, still hides many secrets. Particularly interesting are the issues of religion and mythology, being inspired many legends and literary works.
The aim of the workshop is to develop the skills of speaking and reading and expanding general knowledge. Work on language is based on materials that spice up language classes and encourage further work.
Classes are given by Paul Barford, who is a teacher of English and archaeologist, are designed for people at FCE, CAE. For further information: (22) 833 91 12


ul. Fr.. J. Popieluszko 21/24
01-595 Warsaw
+48 022 833 91 12
+48 022 833 91 12 "

The PAUL BARFORD Language School has its registered offices at:-

59c, 01-950 Warsaw / Wrzeciono 59c, 01-950 Warszawa

Best wishes

John Howland


Nigel Swift, in his website [ ] has made a series of remarks regarding publication of his contact information and that of Paul Barford, culminating in this observation:

"Mr Howland has now published an address and phone number for Paul Barford – twice – on the website of Canadian numismatist John Hooker. This is the seventh and eighth time he has revealed our addresses, phone numbers or personal descriptions or offered our photograph to anyone who asks for them (“I’m anxious to let anybody who wants them, have them“). He has added a denial that he is engaged in a campaign to encourage “violent attacks” on Paul or me (Paul’s“loathsome pal” as he terms me) or our families but the number of instances, stretching now over three years, strongly suggest exactly that. You judge. I have written to Mr Hooker requesting he takes action but have received no reply."


This observer notes that Nigel Swift and Paul Barford both appear to maintain that commentators who excite controversy in their remarks, such as they do, are entitled to a sort of anonymity in which their personal information, including contact details, is kept secret.

It seems to this observer to be prima facie evident that the reason for maintaining this reserve is to ensure that such commentators can say whatever they see fit in their venues without any possibility of being personally called to account for statements that their targets find offensive. 

Whether it is really beneficial to society for individuals such as Mr. Swift and Mr. Barford to be able to continue publish their views on subjects such as metal detecting and artifact collecting in an intentionally offensive and provocative manner, designed to provoke outrage among those who are assailed, is a matter worthy of  considerable thought and intelligent discussion.

Freedom of speech is a very important human right, but it is not an unlimited right. There are situations in which certain forms of speech are irresponsible, damaging and dangerous. Shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater is one example. Defamation of character, and libelous statements, are others.

This observer believes that a good case can be made to the effect that the right of freedom of speech extends as clearly and legitimately to publication of Swift's and Barford's personal details, which they desire to keep secret, as it does to their provocative and offensive attacks upon the antiquities collecting and detectorist communities.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Common Sense Interpretation Of IQ

British expatriate Paul Barford who presently resides in the enlightened humanitarian democracy of Poland, has recently made a post aggressively attacking a well-meaning and sincere collector:

Kudos to Vikan for so deftly exposing the bias inherent in Barford's latest assault upon collecting.

It seems to this observer that the metric to be applied in such cases is clearly one which best measures "social good," That is necessarily something rather elastic in nature and controversial in ideology. But it at least asserts a concept and principle that conceivably might eventually be agreed upon.

What is "social good?" Here is a very essential question, and a frustratingly elusive concept. I have pondered it long and hard, and am confident that others who have done so with a relatively open mind would agree that this is one of the most fundamental and difficult questions affecting human society. At present it has no universally agreed-upon definition. This observer believes that clear agreement upon a workable definition of "social good" would consequently resolve many significant concerns as to the ethics of various human activities.

In this particular case the "social good" metric to be applied to collecting activities must be construed as a complex balance of multiple "social goods." These are neither zero-sum calculable nor obviously in any simple manner, quantitatively interrelated. That which is highly positive with respect to one interpretation of "social good" may well have negative implications in regard to another. Perhaps I may be sustained in advocating a perspective that humanity's ethics are as yet insufficiently evolved and quantified to definitively and accurately weigh all the complex, conflicting factors in assessing collecting activities.

Now, it is appropriate to assert certain essential principles fundamental to democracy. In doing so I do not imply that those not discussed are insignificant, but rather that those discussed relate in an essential way to the question at hand.

The first such principle is that of common sense. The implication of this principle is that arguments which construe theoretical principles in a manner contravening "common sense" are invalid. The definition of "common sense" is what appears to the individual voter to be sensible and appropriate.

I do not propose to argue that the collective opinions of individual voters will necessarily be perfect, They will however tend to reduce arguments to simple, easily assessed concepts. The social benefit of assuring a widespread, simply assessed verdict regarding controversial questions is that the electorate will be likely to support that verdict should push come to shove.

In assessing Barford's arguments against private collecting, this observer is convinced that they are in every respect anti-democratic and anti-popular. His perspective emphasizes the importance of the educated, academically qualified few vs. the uneducated, unsophisticated, unqualified many who should not be allowed to lay their ignorant and grubby hands upon the "past" because they are not academically qualified archaeologists.

Unfortunately for Mr. Barford's perspective, his own formal academic qualifications in the field of archaeology are far from impressive. It is however only fair to say that his personal abilities in this field have far outstripped his formal qualifications, as his book "The Early Slavs" indicates. But where and how does one draw the line?

In deference to the principle of common sense, this observer declines to question Mr. Barford's credentials as an expert since he has contributed a valuable reference work. But, it is none the less appropriate to question whether Mr. Barford should not likewise extend some tolerance to those whose collecting impulses are motivated by a desire to comprehend and disseminate an appreciation of the nature and artifacts of the past.

A measure of the social merit of experts, not the only measure certainly but surely a significant one, is their desire and impulse to share their expertise with others. I call the attention of others to the nature and focus of my website, Ancient coins and reference works are offered for sale there, but they are presented in the context of their historical significance. It is in my opinion fair to say that this website emphasizes education equally with its commercial function.

What has Mr. Barford done to educate the public? Would in not be better socially, and more effective practically, for him to focus upon educating and constructively advising those whom he believes to be inappropriately focused upon excavating ancient artifacts without due respect to the principles of archaeology? Would not that better advance the concept of "social good?"

There is a lot to be said for the importance of archaeology and its systematic methodology of excavation. That subject needs able, articulate presentation to detectorists who focus upon artifacts themselves without adequate comprehension of the importance of preserving their context.

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.