Friday, August 8, 2008

ACCG "Benefit Auction" Press Release

David Gill has commented on the press release about the ACCG "benefit auction," which the group has blasted throughout the internet via the PR Newswire (D.W.J. Gill, "Collecting coins: 'a fundamental aspect of citizenship'," Looting Matters, 8 August 2008; on the "benefit auction" see N.T. Elkins, "The ACCG 'Benefit Auction' and Intrinsic Interests," Numismatics and Archaeology, 8 July 2007). The lobby's founder and executive director, Wayne Sayles, an ancient coin dealer, is quoted several times in the release, which also appears to have been authored by him since "Gainesville, MO" is listed as the origin of the release and his contact information appears at the bottom of it.

The press release also reiterates the dubious and argumentative claim that tradesmen and collectors are better stewards for ancient objects than trained professionals. I have critically evaluated Sayles' unsubstantiated assertions regarding this subject before (see N.T. Elkins, "Archaeologists don't care about ancient coins?" Cultural Heritage in Danger, 26 October 2007). The press release also declares that archaeologists (which would include many numismatists), who are concerned about the effect of indiscriminate market demand, are "wildly radical."

There is also a promotional aspect to this press release as well:

"The ACCG, a numismatic advocacy group, is currently selling ancient
coins donated by its members to fund a legal challenge of recent U.S.
StateDepartment (DOS) sanctions that they say were applied contrary to law
and threaten their hobby. The benefit sale, closing on August 17, is being
held at the online venue"
Beyond the rights of American consumers to purchase whatever ancient object they desire without concern or about the circumstances in which it was procured, David Gill observes:

"Cosmopolitan archaeologists believe that stewardship
of the finite archaeological record is appropriate in a civilised

And I am sure that rational and responsible coin collectors will

Indeed it would seem he is correct. In a thread on the British Archaeology list regarding the ACCG's auction and its efforts, one metal detectorist wrote [the quoted text to which he is referring is in blue]:

"I have found it impossible to follow this debate from the start due to work commitments, but the following paragraphs posted by 'invisible planet' did
jump out at me:

'Elkins is clear to make a distinction between those 'numismatists who are more sensitive to contextual study' and those who 'search for coins to fuel market demand [, which] contributes to the destruction of valuable information for serious numismatic research *and *archaeology'. [ibid]

'It seems inevitable that laws will come to pass which will attempt to restrict illicit
trade in the antiquities of 'foreign' countries, and seems wise that numismatist dealers such as yourself should take measures to bring your business in line with current thinking in ethical practices. It would be better in the long term to stand with those of us who do do support the preservation of contextual knowledge for future

I have to say that even as a metal detectorist, I whole heartedly subscribe to this kind of thinking.

From what I have been able to read then I do feel that perhaps Mr. [Dave] Welsh is misreading the current climate in the UK within providers of artefacts/coins to collectors that there is an ever growing movement towards the necessity to preserve any contextual knowledge that may be gained from a find and indeed many of us within the hobby work hard towards this.

Markets such as Ebay UK are woefully lax in allowing the selling of non treasure artefacts/coins that have not been recorded with a body such as the PAS and, although the PAS is not in place to 'legitimise' the trade in antiquities, it is only in this way that any potential knowledge can be saved and tighter restrictions placed on the
illicit trade. Without the proper recording of all finds and proper documentation, whether they are for the collectors market or not, then any arguments that private collectors are a force for a wider academic study is hogwash and the whole situation of buying and selling and collecting becomes nothing more than a rush of hogs to the trough.

While I as a detectorist am against any move to restrict private collecting, it, as with the hobby of metal detecting, simply has to respond and react to its very real responsibilities."

The message above stands in stark contrast to remarks and assertions made by Dave Welsh, a coin dealer and head of the ACCG's International Affairs Committee, on the same list. Some of Welsh's comments there have echoed those made previously by Wayne Sayles. It seems that other collectors, and at least one metal detectorist, are not able to reconcile themselves with the "wildly radical" views maintained by some of the ACCG's leaders.