Sunday, August 16, 2009

New SAFE "Resource" on Numismatics

The archaeological advocacy group Saving Antiquities for Everyone ("SAFE") has announced a new "resource" devoted to numismatics. See

I've read many of the offerings listed before either elsewhere on the SAFE web site or on blogs of SAFE associates. Overall, the new "Coin matters" site appears merely to centralize in one location more of the usual SAFE fare, i.e., tales of looting of archaeological sites, speculation about the quantity of information that is lost, and allegations of criminal conduct in source countries, supposedly encouraged by U.S. dealers and collectors buying "unprovenanced coins."

From the looks of it, I suppose "Coin matters" is really designed as a "resource" to aid SAFE's and the AIA's ongoing campaign to convince the public and government decision makers that "unprovenanced" or "undocumented" coins must be "stolen." See

In any event, in my opinion, "Coin matters" would be more more complete and hence more useful if it also covered:
  • Successful efforts under the U.K.'s Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to encourage the public to report finds of coins and other antiquities;
  • The existence of large, open and legal markets for "unprovenanced" ancient coins in such "source" countries as Bulgaria, China and Italy;
  • The hypocrisy of source countries with strict laws like Cyprus that demand the U.S. to impose import restrictions on unprovenanced coins, but which allow their own wealthy and/or "connected" registered collectors to import unprovenanced coins at will;
  • The failures of archaeologists and source countries to adequately preserve, publish and display hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of coins already in their care.

There are far too many historical coins out there for an "archaeology over all" approach to have any realistic prospect of ensuring historical coins are protected. If SAFE intends this resource to be more than just another advocacy piece in the "culture wars" between archaeologists and collectors, "Coin matters" will need to cover far more ground and, in particular, place more emphasis on cooperative approaches between archaeologists and collectors like that embodied in the U.K.'s Treasure Act and PAS.

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