The Gospel According to St. Paul Barford
"... for a number of years I was employed by the editorial board of the Polish academic numismatic journal Wiadomości Numizmatyczne, though sometimes my name appeared on the cover (like vol XLVIII zes. 1 (177), 2004 which I have before me), some of the time it did not.
So actually, I know quite a bit about how professional numismatics looks in a European country where it is well developed. From what Welsh says, it certainly is better developed in the country where I have worked alongside numismatists for many years, than it appears to be in the USA. Far from being a "distributed science", here it has a structure and a place within the academic establishment. Oh, and it also has very close ties with the archaeological establishment. We all work together here, often in the same institutions (see below). In the United States one often hears coineys expressing extreme hatred and loathing for archaeologists ("a wolf in sheep's clothing"), the term is commonly used in coiney circles a pejorative one. I have never heard of that happening here in Poland.
Welsh - in explaining why he himself can call himself a "professional numismatist" while he has no academic qualifications in the field - claims that there are very few university programmes of studies. Well here there are a few in this one country alone. He will find that in Warsaw there's a choice of at least two places to study the subject to doctorate level. It is taught at other Universities too - one of them is Poznan, I think Łódź (I'd have to check that), probably others (we have a lot of universities now).
Welsh says that the reason why he is a professional numismatist but has no formal post as such is that there are only "two dozen" professional numismatists employed anywhere in institutions in general. This I find an odd statement. I studied in London, UCL, Institute of Archaeology, and - among others - learnt Roman archaeology literally (his lectures were very popular) at the feet of Richard Reece who I suspect has more numismatic knowledge in his left foot than Welsh has in his spiteful engineer's head. When a few years later I was working on some material in the storerooms of my local provincial museum, I had my tea breaks with the museum's numismatist; working on material from the same site, I went along to the Ashmolean (that's in Oxford Mr Welsh) where I met two numismatists to discuss the finds, corresponded with another. The British Museum has numismatists, though I've only corresponded with some of them. I've travelled to a number of provincial museums in England doing finds research, I cannot say how many numismatists they employ, but I think that its a fair bet that in England alone between the provincial, national museums and universities there will be more than "two dozen" numismatists employed professionally in that one country alone.
In Warsaw, at the University (Institute of Archaeology) where I studied and then was subsequently employed, I was able to take part in seminars on Early Medieval numismatics led by Stanisław Suchodolski, again a brilliant scholar. In the archaeological Museum I know two numismatists, in the Coin Cabinet of the Royal Castle there are I think several, in the (my) university several in teaching and research posts (Institute of Archaeology), in the Academy of Sciences I think now there is only one (hard times) and one professor emeritus. Certainly in Poland there are more than "two dozen" professional numismatists employed as such. Coin dealers are coin dealers here, no more, no less."
If we are to take this verbiage at face value, then according to the Gospel of St. Paul Barford, the nation of Poland alone can claim to the distinction of having a larger number of qualified "professional numismatists" than the United States, in which it is credibly estimated that roughly half of all ancient coin collectors in the world reside and half of the world's numismatic trade is carried on.
I must begin my remarks by noting that I have nothing at all against the progressive nation of Poland, apart from its being the residence of one of the world's most notorious anticollecting archaeoblogger fanatics.
It seems to this observer that Mr. Barford has once again confused academia and its academic "qualifications" with genuine professional expertise. Could Mr. Barford, when confronted with a tray of 100 randomly selected ancient coins of various types - Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Persian - provide a sight attribution of each coin, as to its issuing authority and type, with an error rate of less than five per cent? I can do that, and so can many (if not most) other US dealers in ancient coins. I believe that my ACCG colleague David Sear (who did not ever attend any university) would have an error rate of zero. David Sear is in my view a far more significant professional numismatist than anyone employed in academia today. His name will be remembered for millennia, when that of Mr. Barford (and probably my name as well) have sunk into obscurity.
I do not think either Mr. Barford or very many of those whom he reveres as "academic numismatists" would do well in such a simple test of elementary qualifications, and I caution all observers to realize that Mr. Barford is apparently afflicted by what is at best confusion, and at worst delusions, as to what really constitutes professional numismatic expertise and qualifications.