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Collecting Coins: "a fundamental aspect of ... citizenship"

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) has issued a press release, "Sale of Old Coins Irks Archaeologists" (August 6, 2008), through PR Newswire. Wayne Sayles, the executive director of ACCG, is quoted:
Some archaeologists are piqued that genuine ancient coins are being sold in a benefit auction to preserve collectors rights.
The release notes:
In a recent post online, one archaeologist likened the private collecting of ancient coins to the slaughter of African elephants.
I presume that this is a reference to Nathan Elkins, "Why coins matter: Trafficking in undocumented and illegally exported ancient coins in the North American marketplace", on SAFE. Elkins writes:
Although ancient coin collecting has a long historical precedent, not all practices accepted in humanity’s past are still considered ‘ethical’ today. For example, the ivory trade, which also had millennia of precedence, once flourished until the African elephant became increasingly endangered; only after laws were passed to protect the elephants did it become widely accepted that the ivory trade was unethical. Like the African elephant, our common cultural heritage is an endangered species.
Such an idea has also been floated in the British press (see "Saving antiquities: the 'elephant ivory' model" , September 22, 2007). And we need to remember that third millennium BCE marble sculptures from the "Keros haul" in the Greek Cyclades were once auctioned in London for the benefit of the Save the Elephant Campaign ("Animal rights and archaeologists: a strange comparison?").

The ACCG is holding an auction to try to raise funds to maintain its "legal challenge of recent U.S. State Department (DOS) sanctions that they say were applied contrary to law and threaten their hobby." The issue relates to coins from Cyprus.

The ACCG release makes this closing statement:
American coin collectors, who view personal property rights as a fundamental aspect of their citizenship, seek to affirm their rights legally in the face of what they see as overreaching regulation on the part of the U.S. government.
Cosmopolitan archaeologists believe that stewardship of the finite archaeological record is appropriate in a civilised society.

And I am sure that rational and responsible coin collectors will agree.


David Gill said…
Dave Welsh has commented on the ACCG press release:
"I suspect that the archaeologist referred to was Paul Barford."
Paul Barford has briefly mentioned "elephants":
"I expect the captains of whaling ships, makers of elephant ivory walking stick knobs, loggers of tropical hardwoods and property developers tell the same type of jokes about conservationists."

I have made some other comments
Wayne G. Sayles said…

You wrote: "Cosmopolitan archaeologists believe that stewardship of the finite archaeological record is appropriate in a civilised society.
And I am sure that rational and responsible coin collectors will agree."

I don't want to twist your words, so I'll ask outright: Does this mean that in your view collectors who don't agree with the above statement are irrational and irresponsible? That is a pretty broad brush, don't you think? Also, since archaeologists are self-appointed stewards, what other view might they have?

No need to answer, we know that some archaeologists do indeed have other views, even if they are closeted out of fear of professional retribution. Some are, in fact, members of the ACCG. I would offer that not all collectors are irresponsible, just because they see private ownership as a benefit to society and choose not to recognize the stewardship of archaeologists as a divine right. Would the situation be improved if there were a legitimate degree granting institution that offered doctoral studies in private collecting and certified its graduates? I think not, unless archaeologists wrote the curriculum and signed the certificates. It's really all about control, isn't it?


David Gill said…
Dear Wayne
I will turn my question into a statement. Civilised citizens will want to be good stewards of the finite archaeological record. Would you agree?
Best wishes
Wayne G. Sayles said…

I do agree. Civilized citizens will want to be good stewards of the finite archaeological record. I will make a statement in response:

The finite archaeological record is not owned by archaeologists. Would you agree?


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