Thursday, May 7, 2015

Anti-Collector Advocacy Poses as Academics Once More

Dr. Nathan Elkins has continued his anti-collector crusade by posting an abstract of an article from the Journal of Field Archaeology that is critical of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and its test case on Elkins' latest article itself is not posted on, though invites readers to ask Elkins to make it available on the website.

This rather obscure journal (in the world beyond field archaeology at least)  is apparently Elkins' publisher of choice.  Indeed, its like-minded academics also published his 2010 diatribe directed against Ancient Coins for Education,  a not-for-profit that uses ancient coins as a teaching tool on Ancient Rome for kids.  That article is already posted in its entirety on 

Elkins evidently has already made advance copies of this latest article about ACCG and its test case available to Messrs. Gill and Barford, whom he regards as colleagues.  CPO and Wayne Sayles, ACCG's Executive Director, have already asked Elkins for an advance copy of the article too as a matter of fairness, but he has denied that request point blank.

The article has now also been posted on-line on the publisher's website, but the cost is high--$39 for the rights to review the article on-line for a 24 hour period.  So, its no surprise that CPO has also asked and hopes Elkins will get whatever permissions he needs to make his article available free on-line on so that interested members of the public can judge the quality of his work for themselves short of subsidizing anti-collector academics by purchasing his article from JFA on-line or searching high and low for some library which might actually carry it. Despite Elkins' protests, it's unclear why he can't ask JFA to be allowed to post his article on  Certainly, Elkins has already posted his last JFA article attacking Ancient Coins for Education in its entirety on that platform.

Leaving this lack of "open access" aside, it's questionable that Elkins' claims that the State Department acted properly are justified.  His apparent thesis-- that coins on the designated lists "primarily circulated" where they were made may or may not be true, but there is also a real question whether more is required under the plain meaning of the governing statute's "first discovery" requirement embedded in 19 USC Sections 2601, 2604 and 2610.

And even assuming Elkins is onto something, a cursory review of the designated lists for Cyprus and China should raise serious questions as to whether the Government did anything other than pick an arbitrary date and simply restrict all artifacts made in those countries beforehand.

Elkins may be entitled to his own opinions, but in the end the issue is one of law, an area in which he most certainly lacks expertise.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Government has been ordered to respond to the ACCG's written discovery requests on these points on or before June 20, 2015.  We will hopefully know more then whether the Government made a good faith effort to comply with the CPIA's "first discovery" requirement or not.

(Text updated 5/12/15)


Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this:

"Peter, I really don't think Nathan Elkins and your undistinguished friend Barford should be mentioned in the same paragraph. Elkins is a trained numismatist who has done good scholarly work and will do more, although it's not explainable how he came to be so bent out of shape about who owns coins and how they were acquired -- you will recall that he had his hands all over unprovenanced collected material at Yale, and still does. In comparison, however, Barford is a bloviating buffoon. That's pronounced buf-FOON.

Warm regards,


Cultural Property Observer said...

Unfortunately, Elkins has joined himself at the hip with Barford, having shared his work with him i advance of publication as a "colleague." Yes, Elkins did have promise, but he's damaged his own credibility with whoppers such as the claim that Ptolemaic coins only circulated within the confines of Egypt-- knowing full well that such a claim is debatable- and further that Ptolemaic "Egypt" was an Empire that extended far beyond the confines of the modern Egyptian nation state.

Dave Welsh said...

The claim that Ptolemaic coins circulated only within Egypt is absolutely ridiculous, and betrays surprising ignorance on the part of Elkins.

BTW I have never regarded him as being an expert numismatist, in the sense of having an encyclopaedic (or even very extensive) hands-on knowledge of the source material.

The Ptolemaic Kingdom adopted a unique reduced weight standard for purposes of controlling the currency and profitably managing the economy. This did not in any way prevent circulation of these coins outside the Ptolemaic Kingdom. They were widely traded via local money-changers in the same manner as other underweight coins, not conforming to the prevalent Greek weight standards.

Further reading:

Money in Ptolemaic Egypt: From the Macedonian Conquest to the End of the Third Century BC by Sitta von Reden
Cambridge University Press 2007, 354 pp

Reconsidering the Impact of the Ptolemaic Closed Monetary Zone outside of Egypt by Paul Keen

The School of Alexandria? Rethinking the Closed Currency System Outside Egypt by Noah Kaye

Review of Ptolemaic Numismatics, 1996 to 2007 by Catharine Lorber and Andrew Meadows
ISAW Papers 2 (2012)

Dave Welsh

John H said...

Arthur Houghton succinctly wrote:- "...however, Barford is a bloviating buffoon." Was it ever thus?

I am of the opinion that some academics (so-called) find Barford an attractive proposition simply because he can be relied upon to play the lap-dog, run and fetch, and like the faithful pet poodle, delights in the approbations of of his superiors and masters.

When the inevitable going gets rougher and tougher, and it will, Barford will find the fame he craves though not in the way he imagines: he's the sacrificial lamb to be offered up by his superiors.

I relish the prospect!

Best regards

John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

Looks like Dr. Elkins is now saying he never claimed that Egyptian coins only circulated there. However, he did say and continues to say that Egyptian coins circulated within a closed system, so this appears to me to be a bit more of clever word play. As I've mentioned in a subsequent blog, Elkins can clear this all up by posting his CPAC comments on-line, but for some reason he thinks they should be treated as cofidential. CPO finds this quite odd. What does he have to hide?

Paul Barford said...

>>"Arthur Houghton asked me to post this: "Peter, I really don't think Nathan Elkins and your undistinguished friend Barford should be mentioned in the same paragraph".<<
Is there any real reason why the distinguished Arthur Houghton II cannot press the "send" button himself? Does it enhance his status perhaps to always have somebody do everything for him? Just curious.

I really am at a loss to understand the phrase "Was it ever thus?" used here. Maybe somebody who understands the kind of English used here could explain. Likewise I am not sure what is meant in the post by "Anti-Collector Advocacy Poses as Academics Once More". Are you saying that Professor Elkins is not an academic, or that when he writes about coin finds it is not as an academic? Your reasoning is unclear, the text in question was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. What is the problem?