Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly!

A coin collecting colleague of mine recently wrote this:

You would think that ECA would support activities like the
ANA and NYINC as way to promote people to people contacts
between Americans and foreigners AT NO COST TO THE US
TAXPAYER. Yet, import restrictions like those ECA recently
imposed on "coins of Cypriot type" threaten to make foreign
participation in such coin fairs as a thing of the past.

My thoughts exactly!

His column reminds me of an old Rodney Dangerfield quote that I will intentionally paraphrase, "I went to a coin show the other day, and a friendship broke out".

I have often preached that the international exchange of coins by PRIVATE CITIZENS of differing countries has a 'Peace Dividend' in that as people buy and sell or trade (coin and bank note trading is BIG over the internet!) coins as a hobby, it builds good will between those countries one person at a time. I have had both a French collector and an Arab collector say the precise same thing to me, "I hate George Bush but I love Americans!" As I am a Republican who worked to elect and re-elect Bush I was not happy to hear they did not like my President but I got what they were saying. They did not care for our current President but they harbored no ill will for Americans. In fact both told me of numerous friends and customers they had who were American.

Washington, are you reading this?

Some years back when I was a student at Mankato State University, I took a class in political philosophy from a terrific professor, Doran Hunter. He had us read Steven Macedo's Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism. A big part of what we talked about was 'cross cutting interests and institutions'. Here in America, one reason we don't have Protestants and Catholics who live side by side slitting each others throats is because we don't monolithically identify with just our own religion. We may belong to a political party, we may belong to a social club like the Rotary Club, we may play chess and belong to a chess club or we might COLLECT COINS and belong to a COIN COLLECTING CLUB. Under the old Soviet system and under many of the past Fascist regimes, social clubs were either eliminated or co-opted into the party structure. Why? Because clubs often have leaders and clubs are often built upon coalitions!

Are you listening State Department?

Much of today's import restriction requests are born out of a philosophy called Cultural Property Nationalism (hypernationalism) which is a product (in many cases) of bad feelings over colonialism, hypernationalism also is related to Fascism. But the truth be told, colonial powers did frequently behave badly and either stole or bought (at very low prices) what some might now consider national treasures. Cultural Property Nationalism may be bad and counterproductive to friendly international relations but it is conceived in feelings that have some justification. The problem we are faced with now is a 'baby-with-the-bathwater' problem. Coins are rarely national treasures, coins were mass produced for public circulation as a means of exchange for the buying and selling of commercial goods. You just cannot equate a bronze coin of Constantine the Great that has a retail value of say, $5 to $25 with something like King Tutankhamen's treasure. It is like comparing an antique beer can to a print made by Albrecht Dürer.

Sure, both are collectible, but one belongs in a basement bar display and the other belongs in a museum. Many archaeologists wish to stop all trading in unprovenanced antiquities. In order to do this they feel that even if ancient coins may very well be common, it is all or nothing. All antiquities, no matter how insignificant, must be regulated and preferably, professional archaeologists should be the sole arbiters of their possession and study.

Back to the original topic, collecting has a 'peace dividend' that transcends politics, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. If certain archaeologists and government busybodies (both with far too much time on their hands) want to send person-to-person international relations back 100 years, they should just keep doing what they have been doing. On the other hand, if a man in the U.S. wants to collect Judaean bronzes or Spanish milled silver, so what? And if a woman in India wants to collect U.S. or Canadian silver dollars, so what? Let them. This will promote cross-cultural exchange and global understanding when far too many balkanizing trends are at work.

Yeah, don't let people buy, sell and trade ancient and older world coins internationally - a friendship or business partnership might break out!


Jim McGarigle
Polymath Numismatics

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1 comment:

Bill Donovan said...

Here, Here! Nice post.