Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Der Handel mit antiken Münzen. Ausmaß und Netzwerke (The Trade in Ancient Coins: Scale and Networks)

Earlier this year I gave a lecture in Frankfurt entitled "The Ancient Coin Trade in North America: Scale, Organization, and Politics," which generated a fair amount of interest from German scholars, law enforcement, and culture ministry officials. Subsequently, I was invited to provide an abbreviated form of that presentation at a closed conference that occurred today in Berlin, in which I focused primarily on the scale of the trade in "fresh" (recently surfaced) ancient coins and the organization of trade networks. The report was entitled "Der Handel mit antiken Münzen. Ausmaß und Netzwerke" ("The Trade in Ancient Coins: Scale and Networks)." I've been asked to give the same presentation to the Hessian Police Academy later this month.

The aim of the conference was to promote dialogue and exchange information between academics, government officials (culture ministry), customs, and law enforcement. It was interesting to see how these groups interact with each other in Germany - I presume better than in the U.S. - and there were a number of interesting reports and perspectives about current issues pertinent to the protection of archaeological goods going in and out of Germany.

The coin trade presentation generated a lively discussion. The research that I presented will be incorporated into a couple of publications and so I will not lay it all out here, but several found the model of trade networks very useful and so I thought it might be worth sharing an English version of that model here. It is based on various types evidence provided by active members of the trade community. The model pertains only to the trade in recently surfaced or "fresh" material coming directly from source countries. The class of dealers known as "wholesalers" dispose of their damaged, worn, and less collectible coins (i.e. less valuable according to the market) in bulk directly to collectors in venues like eBay and they often "wholesale" coins of higher market value to mid-range dealers and auction houses. A detailed explanation of the relationships will be given in future publications with specific references to the supporting evidence.