I have been reflecting on a series of questions to answer at a conference next week. One of them asks this, Is self-regulation the way forward?
One of the ways that this could be answered is by looking at the responses of auction-houses or galleries when 'toxic antiquities' are identified. The organisations can either open negotiations with the source countries or they can press ahead with the sale. But the second approach is not always successful because potential buyers can get 'spooked' and the objects get left unsold and perhaps unsellable.
But then there is the topic of freshly surfaced ancient coins. Does the market self-regulate? Or do national bodies have to set up procedures?
I have read with much interest the reaction to a scholarly article by a North American academic in a high profile archaeology journal that addresses aspects of this issue.
A Washington lobbyist who is paid for his services by the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) has reacted sharply to this piece of academic research, and has even complained that the author of the article shared an electronic offprint with colleagues ("provided advance copies of his article to his fellow archaeo-bloggers"). (There has also been an unsightly discussion of how those who deal in ancient coins seem to define collegiality.)
It gets worse: the lobbyist appears to misunderstand that copyright rules that restrict the author (or anyone else) from posting the article in a place where it can be downloaded for free.
And this same lobbyist has been outspoken about the movement of archaeological material removed from Syria to western markets.
And what has the IAPN said about one of its members linked to a recent incident?
It appears that IAPN spent $40,000 on lobbying for 2014, and $10,000 so far this year (to Messrs Bailey & Ehrenberg). (But I rely here on information that has been made available in the public domain to aid transparency.)
If the IAPN does not 'reign in' its paid lobbyist, it could suggest to the academic and policy-making communities that 'self-regulation' does not work in the area of ancient coins.
And, if I can use a soccer image, the lobbyist will have scored an 'own goal' and encouraged North American authorities to intervene more closely in the market in ancient coins.