Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Collector-Dealer Relieved of his Coins

The US Government has repatriated several valuable coins produced in Greece millenia ago to that country as part of a plea deal agreed to by prominent collector Peter Weiss.

There is no suggestion that the coins that have been repatriated were "stolen" from Greece.  Rather, it appears that the only basis for their repatriation was that they were produced in ancient cities now located in that modern nation state and that they were on Dr. Weiss' person at the time of his arrest on an unrelated charge.

So, is this an example of good police work or rather of how culture cops can and do use the threat of criminal conviction to force the repatriation of objects with little regard to concepts of private property that are supposed to be enshrined in our Constitution?

And what of the coins themselves?  Will the bankrupt, modern nation state of Greece be a better steward for their care than American collectors?  One really wonders.


Wayne G. Sayles said...

Curioser and Curioser! The NYT article touts this as "...Ending U.S. Ordeal", but it raises as many questions as it answers — undoubtedly prolonging the "ordeal"rather than ending it. I wonder whose interest that serves?

kyri said...

hi peter,for these coins to have been repatriated,its obvious that dr weiss could not provide a decent collecting history for the coins or even worse that they came from the same source as the fake coins he was trying to pass on to other collectors.he bought the coins cheap[because they were fakes,not recently looted as he believed],held on to them for just few years than tried to sell them on for a massive profit.is he a collector or dealer??,i still have the first coin i bought over 25 years ago and have never bought anything to sell on after a few years hopeing to make a profit.there were many people who were very dubious about these coins [ some of whom are friends of yours]and to their credit, raised their concerns with the auction house but greed and the thought of big commissions can make even the most respected auction houses blinkered in their opinion.as for greece,yes they have financial problems but i challenge you to name me one nation in the world who cares more for their cultural heritage than greece.they have spent a fortune on their museums and have world leaders in conservation ,restoration and preservation of ancient objects.dr.weiss knew what he was doing,he got exactly what he deserved."wisdom outweighs any wealth" sophocles

Ed Snible said...

The Herakles coin that the Times attributes to Thrace is uncertainly attributed to Dikaia by numismatists. Wikipedia provides a nice map of Dikaia's location and a map of Thrace which shows Dikaia is on the modern territory of Greece, but only barely so. The city was just a day's walk from both Bulgaria and Turkey.

John H said...

The commissar of ad hominen abuse, who could well be described as the shyster's shyster, has this to say about the CPO blog:

"Peter Tompa today has managed to get 200 000 hits on his sniping, snidey, slimy xenophobic, anti-preservationist lobboblog. He started his before mine, I have more than a million hits - which must mean that as far as public reception goes, Tompa and the lobby he represents are voices crying in the wilderness. Times are a'changing and antiquity collecting must change with them. Those who resist development like Wayne Sayles and Peter Tompa will inevitably find themselves in the dustbin of history with the hula-hoop and Rolf Harris records."

Rolf Harris is a convicted child abuser and is currently doing a 6-yr stretch for his vile crimes.

All of with highlights the depths Paul Barford will sink to in his jealousy-ridden spat against legal collectors.

This kind of vile abuse which is apparently par for the course for this heritage oddball, seems to me at least to be a tilt at those he recognizes as his intellectual superiors.

His dwindling cadre supporters are no doubt proud to be led by such a man.

Warmest regards

John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

Kyri- Thanks for your note, but reading about the coins elsewhere it does appear they were just in the trade. Moreover, don't you think Dr. Weiss would have been charged as to them too if there was a problem with them? DA Bagdanos is not one to let such things slide.

And as for Greece, Greek citizens are justly proud of their cultural heritage, but the nation state itself would be bankrupt except for EU (read German) cash.

There are plenty of articles that have written about the poor shape of its cultural establishment, beset as it is with gross under-funding and corruption. I'm sure you could find a few by searching on this website.

kyri said...

hi peter d a bagdanos is human like the rest of us,not a machine.they plea bargaind in the case so we dont really know the status of the coins but i believe the plea bargaining was the reason no further charges were brought.i dont believe the coins were "just in the trade"we still dont know where weiss got the coins,at least i dont remember reading that anywhere.if people say the coins were in the trade you mean just other dealers trying to help a friend.im sure dr weiss is a very good man and wouldnt dream of stealing anything but thats the crux of the problem most collectors/dealers many of whom are good friends of mine dont consider culture crime,a crime at all.there are laws in place and we have to abide by them.a $2 million coin has to have a cast iron collecting history in my opinion.your right that greece has problems funding their archaeological sites ect but even the richest country in the world would be stretched looking after so many sites,probably more per square mile than any other country. i visit greece about twice every year and i have not visted more than %10 of their ancient sites.they are allways repairing,restoring something,the work never stops.as for EU[german money]dont get me started on that,the germans could give greece trillions and never repay for the rape and damage inflicted by the nazis on the country from 1940-44 including taking all of greeces gold reserves.
lastly, the personal attacks on bagdanos and maria kouroupas ,not by you personally peter but by other people in the numismatic world are really uncalled for.questioning their loyalty to the usa because they have greek parents and suggesting they are somehow acting in the best interests of a foreign power ie greece really leaves a bad taste in the mouth.greeks in the us and uk know their roots and are proud of their cultural heritage but love their birth/adopted countrys with all their hearts.in uk the highest naval officer,the first lord of the fleet is a greek,no one questions his loyalty over hear.

Duncan Finch said...

Just one comment on one of the coins: the Dikaia. I am sure that the Greeks will be pleased to have it since it has not been in Greece for at least 150 years! This piece previously appeared as lot 828 of the first part of the sale of the collection of Clarence Bement of Philadelphia, sold on 28 January 1924 by Naville & Co. in Lucerne, Switzerland. Previous to that, it came from the collection of Sir Hermann Weber, where it appeared as catalogue number 2354. Weber seemingly got it in the late 19th century. How would Mr KYRI respond to that? Or is that not "...a decent collecting history"?

kyri said...

hi duncan,that is excellent provenance and if the coin had such a good pedigree than it could have only been forfeited by dr.weiss as some kind of bargaining chip so that he wouldnt have to go to jail.i have over 150 ancient coins with over 50 greek tetradrachms and sadly none of them come near to having a collecting history so esteemed,sadly neither do the other %99 of ancient coins on the market and this is partly the fault of dealers not passing on the history of the coin to the buyer or to other dealers in some misguided notion that they want to protect their source.there are also many hundreds of recent finds coming on to the market illicitly,i dont need an archaeologist to tell me that i know they are. certainly if i were buying a coin for $10k i would expect a good collecting history,i have never spent more than £600[$900] on a coin but even than it would be nice to have a name of a previous collection or auction house lot number.i know this cant be done for every $5 coin but a coin worth $500 had to have come from somewhere.i still say the antiquities market is light years ahead of the numismatic market when it comes to records,collecting history,provenance most of the antiquities dealers have wised up.

Duncan Finch said...

Thanks for your comment Kyri. You have brought up one of the huge problems of the market for ancient coins. A remarkable number of coins now on the market or in collections come from old collections BUT there is no way of proving that, since the original collectors' records (whether tickets or papers, etc.) have been discarded. Massive numbers of coins were sold in major sales that only illustrated a small fraction of the coins they contained. Dr. W's coins included others with pedigrees just as long as the Dikaia (by the way, Weber bought it in 1890 from Paul Lambros, the great Greek scholar/dealer - whose collection was sold by Hirsch in 1910). And those coins were forfeited because getting them back would have taken years of legal wrangling that would have cost 5-10x their value. The simple fact is that Bogdanos used his state power to effectively steal the coins - if there had been a long case, and if, in the end Dr. W had won, as he surely would have, the state does not have to pay any expenses or damages as the losing party. So it is not that simple.