Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ancient Coin Dealer Pleads Guilty to Attempted Possession of Stolen Coins

In January of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents seized three rare Greek coins from Arnold Peter Weiss, a partner of the ancient coin auction house Nomos AG, at the New York International Numismatic Convention.  Agents were acting upon information that he told an undercover informant.  In spite of the provenance information that had been supplied in a catalogue for an upcoming auction, he stated: "There's no paperwork. I know this is a fresh coin. This was dug up a few years ago."  The coins were alleged to have been looted in Italy.  The three coins that were seized were worth an estimated $3 million on the market.

Today it was announced that Weiss has plead guilty to trying to sell coins that he thought were stolen, although they turned out to be high quality forgeries.  The fact that they are forgeries was determined through the aid of a scanning electron microscope.  The three coins remain property of the District Attorney's Office and will be destroyed.

As part of his plea agreement, Weiss must complete 70 hours of community service, pay a $3,000 fine, and "must author an article warning of the risks of dealing in coins of unknown or looted provenance for publication in a coin collection publication."

Below is a short bibliography on the trade in looted and unprovenanced ancient coins:

Beckmann, M. 1998. "Numismatics and the Antiquities Trade," The Celator 12 (5) 25-28.

Butcher, K. and D. Gill. 1990. "Mischievous Pastime or Historical Science?" Antiquity 64 (245): 946-950.

Center for the Study of Democracy. 2007. Organized Crime in Bulgaria: Markets and Trends. Sofia: Center for the Study of Democracy. Online available: http://pdc.ceu.hu/archive/00003706/01/organized_crime_markets_and_trends.pdf.

Dietrich, R. 2002. "Cultural Property on the Move - Legally, Illegally," International Journal of Cultural Property 11: 294-303.

Elkins, N.T. 2008. "A Survey of the Material and Intellectual Consequence of Trading in Undocumented Ancient Coins," Frankfurter elektronische Rundschau zur Altertumskunde 7: 1-13. Online available: http://www.fera-journal.eu.

Elkins, N.T. 2009. "Treasure Hunting 101 in America's Classrooms," Journal of Field Archaeology34.4: 481-489  with editorial introduction by M. M. Kersel and C. Luke.

Elkins, N.T. 2012. "The Trade in Fresh Supplies of Ancient Coins: Scale, Organization, and Politics," in P.K. Lazrus and A.W. Barker (eds.), All the King's Horses: Essays on the Impact of Looting and the Illicit Antiquities Trade on Our Knowledge of the Past. Washington, D.C.: Society for American Archaeology Press. 91-107.

von Kaenel, H.-M. 1994. Die antike Numismatik und ihr Material. Schweizer Münzblätter 44 (173): 1-12.

von Kaenel, H.-M. 2009. "Coins in Context - A Personal Approach," in H.-M von Kaenel and F. Kemmers (eds.), Coins in Context 1: New Approaches for the Interpretation of Coin Finds. Mainz: von Zabern. Studien zu Fundmünzen der Antike 23. 9-24 (pp. 22-23 discuss the coin trade specifically).

Walker, A.S. 1977. "The Coin Market Versus the Numismatist, Archaeologist, and Art Historian," Journal of Field Archaeology 4: 253-258.

Witschonke, R. 2009. "Guest Editorial," The Celator 23 (1): 4,22.

Consultation with many of the works will reveal further bibliography.

And, of course, there has also been the series of editorials discussing ethics and practice in the past several issues of the American Numismatic Magazine.

UPDATE:(7/5/2012) Contrary to  initial reports in the media, Safecorner is reporting that there is no court order for the destruction of the forgeries.