Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Wrong with Commercial Interests?

In a variety of posts, bloggers associated with Saving Antiquities for Everyone ("SAFE") have called into question the motivations of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild ("ACCG"), claiming that the ACCG is nothing more than a "dealer lobby" motivated solely by "commercial interests." This oft repeated refrain has recently reached a crescendo on the Barford and Elkins blogs, presumably because they have little constructive to say about the ACCG's good faith efforts to have courts address concerns about State Department transparency as well as the legality of the process for imposing import restrictions on cultural artifacts.

Wayne Sayles has already commented on the fact that these bloggers descriptions of the ACCG are inaccurate. See: "A Rose is a Rose" https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=21793457&postID=5616403677023727104 Nevertheless, that said, even if the ACCG were in fact a "dealer lobby" as is claimed and was solely motivated by "commercial interests," so what?

In America, at least, commercial interests are viewed to be just as legitimate as other interests. Indeed, for both political parties supporting the "commercial interests" of "small business" is “as American as apple pie."

And, let's face it. The numismatic trade is about as "small business" as you can get. Most numismatic dealers are "mom and pop" operations. Even the bigger firms rarely have more than fifteen employees. These “low net worth” small businesses have enough problems remaining economically viable in a recession. Add to that the prospect of government fiats demanding that these American small businesses require foreign small businesses provide certifications about a coin’s whereabouts (which is typically unavailable), before they can legally import the thousands and thousands of low value coins that they depend on to stay in business, and one might see why they might think their legitimate “commercial interests” are threatened.

But I digress. If you think about it, the archaeological community may be based in academia, but overall, it certainly cannot be all that critical of "commercial interests," particularly because such "commercial interests" write the checks that make their work possible. Indeed, I have to assume that the archaeologists that work at major archaeological digs, like that at Troy, are not really "anti-business." If they were, they really could not in good conscious accept funding from "big businesses" like Daimler Benz. See: http://www.iit.edu/~agunsal/truva/exc.htm

Hollywood is about as "commercial' as one can get. Yet, the AIA must have seen some "synergy' in naming Harrison Ford aka "Indiana Jones" as a Trustee, just in time for the opening of his "Crystal Skulls" movie. See: http://www.archaeological.org/webinfo.php?page=10477

And, what of the primary advocate for import restrictions on Cypriot coins? As previously stated in this blog, the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute ("CAARI") has accepted at least in-kind support from the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation-- an entity set up by a large privately owned bank. See: http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2008/05/cash-and-caari-cyprus-american.html Under the circumstances, CAARI can't possibly really be "anti-business" either.

Finally, what about SAFE itself? Its website is nowhere as near as transparent as that of the ACCG as to its funding sources, but it is at least clear that SAFE has some ongoing relationship with the "Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America" (see http://www.savingantiquities.org/j-safe-events.php) and has also received support from the New York (repatriation and Holocaust art ) law firm of Herrick Feinstein. See http://www.savingantiquities.org/event.php?eventID=83 and http://www.herrick.com/ Presumably, SAFE also is not against "commercial interests," particularly when it is accepting their help for its own work.

In sum, claiming that the ACCG is a "dealer lobby" motivated by "commercial interests" is not only wrong, but it misses the point that there is absolutely nothing wrong with "commercial interests" pressing their own case.

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