Sunday, August 21, 2011

Numismatic Qualifications

"Answering" the questions in my last post by what can only be described as a strident rant in one of his many blogs, anticollecting archaeoblogger Paul Barford commented:

Now I have answered (actually again),

....I'd like to address the same questions to you.

In answer to my first question:

>> First: Do you hold a baccalaureate (or higher) degree in archaeology from any accredited university?

he wrote:

> yes thank you.

Which obviously leaves open the questions of what level degree Mr. Barford holds, from which university and when it was awarded.

In answer to my second question:

>> Second: What have you accomplished in the field of archaeology qualifying you to pronounce upon matters regarding numismatic science?

he wrote:

> Coin dealing is not a science. Neither is shopping for coins a science any more than buying or selling fashion shoes, house plants, Agatha Christie books or old Beatles LPs. We are talking about "clean" commerce in the public interest.

This is either confusion as to what numismatic science is (it is actually a distributed science primarily carried on by collectors and dealers, with some additional valuable contributions from academics such as archaeologists) or else a deliberate evasion of the question.

"Coin dealing" (as Mr. Barford puts it) can indeed become a scientific activity, to the extent that one involved in it goes beyond simple commerce and becomes involved in making numismatic discoveries and educating collectors. I have discovered several coin types previously unknown to science. Here is one example:

R2959* 1167 Gallienus: AE Antoninianus (silvered)
Obv. GALLIENVS AVG Rad. & dr. bust r.
Rev. FVNDATOR PACIS Gallienus stg. l., togate, hldg. olive branch
Sear 2959v; unpublished and presently unique (cf. Gobl, MIR 1624)
sl. uneven, oth. gVF, silvered

This specimen may be historically significant because it was struck in an eastern mint, as the Roman Empire began to disintegrate during the last years of the reign of Gallienus. Shapur I of Persia invaded Asia Minor while Gallienus was occupied in unsuccessfully attempting to suppress the usurper Postumus in Gaul. This coin may be the sole surviving evidence of an otherwise unrecorded Roman military campaign against Shapur, or alternatively, of an effort to make peace with Persia.

My website,

is as much about education as it is about selling coins, and is recognized as a valuable resource for those who desire to study ancient numismatics. The "Introduction" page provides a concise self-study course in the subject:

I am also actively involved in research into topics of significant numismatic interest. One example is this monograph, published on the Classical Coins website:

Lathe Machining of Bronze Coin Flans

This hypothesis has been widely recognized in numismatic circles as the most convincing explanation for spiral tool marks observed on many large ancient bronze coins.

Another example is this compilation of diagnostic and conservation methods for coins and other artifacts suffering from "bronze disease" :

Bronze disease is a self-sustaining corrosion process, which can destroy a bronze artifact (such as a coin) in a relatively short period of time. It is a principal cause of deterioration and eventual destruction of ancient bronze artifacts (the Capitoline Wolf statue has been severely damaged by bronze disease).

In answer to my third question,

>> Third: Apart from your brief archaeological career, what qualifications do you claim, to represent yourself as being an expert in numismatic science?

Mr. Barford wrote:

> None whatsoever, but we are talking about a commercial activity, not any kind of "science" [37 years is not really all that "brief", its longer than you've been a coin seller]

I dealt with the issue of whether numismatics can be considered a science above. As to the length of my numismatic career, it actually began in 1963 when I was employed by Willoughby's in Los Angeles, at that time one of the largest numismatic firms in the USA.

During this period I wrote many well received articles for publications such as "Coin World," "World Coins" and journals of societies devoted to the study of ancient numismatics, and gained recognition as an expert in detecting forgeries and ancient numismatics, which was then pursued by only a few dealers in the USA. I left Willoughby's in 1965 to become a self-employed dealer in ancient coins. Two years later, I gave that business up because I did not have enough capital to make a decent living at it. During a long second career as an engineer, technical executive and expert consultant, I was able to accumulate enough capital to be able to resume my numismatic career.

That came in 1995 when I began development of the Classical Coins website and acquiring inventory toward the day it would begin operations, which took place eight years later in 2003.

Thus, I have been active as a professional numismatist during the years 1963-1967 and continuously since 1995, a total of twenty years which is perhaps twice as long as the duration of Mr. Barford's actual employment in the field of archaeology.

In answer to my fourth question,

>> Fourth: If you do not (as I believe) have significant demonstrable qualifications in the field of numismatic science, why do you venture to assert that you have any right to criticize and instruct those who do have such significant demonstrable qualifications in the field of numismatic science, as to what they may or may not ethically do?

Mr. Barford wrote a long rant, from which I will address these two extracts:

> Because we are not talking about a science of importing coins legally. There is no such discipline.

This is once again evading the question. Of course there is no such science as "importing coins legally," any more than there is a science of "excavating Egyptian tombs." "Importing coins legally" is instead one of many aspects of being a professional numismatist.

> I have as much right to disapprove of a form of commerce in archaeological artefacts which is leading to damage to sites and monuments as I do to express my disapproval of the form of commerce and consumption that endangers whales, rhinos and our urban green spaces.

Mr. Barford is completely misled if he actually believes that collecting unprovenanced ancient coins has anything to do with "damage to sites and monuments." There is no credible evidence to support such an assertion.

Finally Mr. Barford attempts to turn the tables by asking me to answer the same questions regarding my qualifications as a professional numismatist:

> First: Do you, David Welsh, hold a baccalaureate (or higher) degree in numismatic science from any accredited university in the US or abroad?

I hold baccalaureate and master's degrees in Engineering. No accredited university in the USA (and only a few elsewhere in the world) offers a degree program in numismatics. To my knowledge there is only one dealer in the United States who has a university degree in numismatics - Jonathan Kern. A degree in numismatics is not, obviously, a required qualification for following numismatics as a profession.

> Second: What have you, David Welsh, accomplished in the field of numismatic science (publications in accredited peer-reviewed numismatic journals, book chapters, conference papers not cribbed from Wikipedia) qualifying you to claim the academic authority to pronounce upon matters regarding numismatic science?

I don't claim any "academic authority" - only professional expertise. I have above discussed my career as a professional numismatist in enough detail to establish that my qualifications in that field are as good as Mr. Barford's qualifications in the field of archaeology. As to numismatic publications, I wrote many well received articles between 1963 and 1967. Since then I have published on my website.

> Third: Apart from your brief career as a part time numismatic dealer, what qualifications do you claim, David Welsh, to enable you to represent yourself as being an expert in numismatic science?

Twenty year is not "brief," and I have addressed my qualifications in detail above.

> Fourth: If you do not (as I believe) have significant demonstrable academic qualifications in the field of numismatic science, why do you, David Welsh, venture to assert that you have any right to criticize and instruct others as to what conservation concerns they may or may not raise about the no-questions-asked commerce in dugup ancient artefacts of any type?

I have the same right any professional does to criticize those who engage in unjustified innuendoes and accusations regarding my profession. Such unjustified innuendoes and accusations have made Mr. Barford notoriously unwelcome in every online discussion forum he has participated in, except for Unidroit-L (a discussion list on the topic of cultural property law) of which I am the founder and listowner.

Mr. Barford ends his rant with a characteristic (and utterly misinformed) sneer:

> I think there is a great difference between a professional numismatist working for a museum, such as the British Museum, or the Fitzwilliam, or Yale University, and somebody who merely sells dugup coins.

Mr. Barford's profound ignorance regarding ancient numismatics as a profession goes very far toward explaining his antagonistic attitude toward dealers in ancient coins. I do not believe that there are more than perhaps two dozen "professional numismatists working for a museum, such as the British Museum, or the Fitzwilliam, or Yale University," or holding teaching appointments in universities. As I pointed out above, numismatics is a distributed science, and the vast majority of professionals in the field of ancient numismatics are dealers. Dealers and expert collectors have contributed perhaps ten times as much to the immense literature that has been published on that subject as have academics and those employed by institutions.


Blogger Paul Barford said...

Well, it beats me why an "ancient coins" blog has so little about ancient coins but a disproportionate amount about this awful guy "Paul Barford" - especially as the blog's author published a New Year Resolution that he was going to talk about ancient coins and not about the people who have different views and experiences from his own...

I answer this here:
"Qualities of a Professional Numismatist"

with additional thoughts here:

and here

I'd be grateful if you would draw attention to these responses on any discussion lists you have posted your text about me.

Here it might be nice instead of attacking others, if you would expand on why this new Galienus of yours is so jolly important and how it affects out knowledge of the society and economics of the Western Roman Empire in this period. Where was the coin found? Thanks.

9:32 PM  

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