Saturday, August 23, 2008

Open Reply To Paul Barford on Terminology

Recently Paul Barford said,

There is a pattern here, most of the speakers are US coin collectors or dealers. Secondly, they all refer to a law they call “treasure Trove”, though ascribe it variously to Britain, the United Kingdom or England (forgetting Wales), interestingly none of them mention Scotland (see below). Thirdly they all seem agreed that for some reason this “Treasure Trove” law is very “fair” and it should be adopted as a pattern by all other countries in forming new antiquity protection laws, when collectors and dealers would be willing to respect them.

More here in his original post

Here is my expanded reply (Paul often chooses not to publish or to edit my replies)


I don't know why you spilt so much ink over this. It is simply 'mental shorthand' on the part of collectors that you seem to be taking issue with and let me explain.

Some people on my side of the pond (both Americans and Canadians too) often refer to England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Man & Lundy (and I know there are more) simply as 'England'. At other times we might collectively call those areas 'Great Britain' and at other times we might call them the 'United Kingdom'.

It's mental shorthand. You may be right on the technical aspects of your argument but I think you misunderstand the thought processes of those you are attacking.

I also get the feeling that you operate on the highly ideological assumption that we are in favor of looting and that the aspects of the PAS and Treasure Act and the preceding Treasure Trove laws that were in any way restrictive we were automatically opposed to.

On the contrary, I have felt and have the distinct impression others have felt/do feel the same as I in that the regulations contained in the PAS, Treasure Act and preceding Treasure Trove law were/are fair regulations that make sense.

If you want to split hairs over the muddy use of PAS, Treasure Trove and the Treasure Act, fine, go ahead - but only people who have read Wittgenstein and Frege will care about your sense and nominatum hairsplitting.


Jim McGarigle
Polymath Numismatics

My Ebay Store

My Myspace Page

My eBay 'ME' Page

My Coin Blog (New)


Ed Snible said...

The Wikipedia entry for Treasure Trove is pretty good. When collectors speak of 'treasure trove' they don't mean the treasure itself or the law itself but the legal concept that land owners and finders have property rights to the 'stuff' and deserve market-value compensation if the state seizes it.

A letter from the Royal Numismatic Society to the Lords Commissioners from 1871 argues that paying the finder less than the market value causes destruction: “... the practice of the Treasury in giving to the finder the intrinsic value of the objects found, virtually concedes the principle of their being his property, but, at the same time, does not prevent the constant concealment and destruction of coins and other antiquities; for the mere fact of a claim to them being advanced, accompanied though this may be by the promise of payment for them of an unknown sum at a period always indefinite and often remote, suffices in many cases to deter finders from openly producing the results of their discoveries, and drives; them to dispose of such relics clandestinely.”

This letter worked and finders started getting market value for coins. It's a shame this basic economic lesson does not reach the ears of other parliaments.

Jim said...

I agree, it is a shame more governments don't take that approach.

Treasure Trove specifically is a concept that really respects private property rights. Private Property works because it is consistent with Human Nature. These statist systems which ignore Private Property rights are not consistent with Human Nature and that is why they do not work and end up creating looting.

A college friend of mine who lived under the Soviets told me how Sovietism made everyone a criminal and created a criminal society because you had to break the law to have enough food, toilet paper, shoes, etc. Defying the government became the social norm because bad laws are never really respected and end up not being very well enforced.

Egypt recently took a step in the right direction by rewarding recent finders of Egyptian antiquities. Time will tell if Egypt and other countries take the next step and move toward the U.K. model.