Thursday, November 6, 2008

Collectors - Few and Anachronous? - A Possible Cultural Divide?

One last critique of what Paul Barford said in his latest posting about collecting antiquities (including ancient coins):

(Quoting me--->) “Humans are acquisitive by nature, many people collect something”.
”Many” maybe, but in fact the majority do not. In addition, the majority of people who take an interest in the past read books or indulge their interest in other ways, they do not buy looted artefacts. Portable antiquity collectors are an anachronous and erosive minority, taking for their own personal entertainment and profit that which modern archaeology says should form the basis of knowledge available to all. It is as simple as that, it is a matter of conservation of a finite resource and not any “property laws” .

The majority do not collect? How does that square with 'many'? Doesn't 'many' imply more than a few? There is also this problem of 'looted artefacts'. It is as if to say all artefacts are looted. This is the archaeological 'Party Line' of course but it is not the truth.

I went on eBay and did an open search under 'Collectibles' and came up with 2,123,906 hits - just for U.S. listings. Then I did it again for 'Coins and Paper Money' and came up with 286,069 items - once again this is only for the U.S. eBay website. Next I did 'Stamps' and came up with 206,562 hits. I did 'Antiquarian & Collectible Books' and came up with 103,342 hits - once again for U.S. listings only.

Another reality check, both the U.S. and U.K. have highly rated T.V. shows with large followings on antique (or antiquity by UNIDROIT legal norms) collecting such as the Antiques Road Show in the U.S. and Cash In The Attic which is broadcast in both the U.K. and the U.S.

Mr. Barford can assert what he wants to about collectors but it does not make it true, it certainly does not mesh well with the hard evidence.

I mean, I know you want to try to marginalize us (collectors) with every verbal weapon you can Paul, but frankly when you try to pull off this kind of nonsense you look and sound pretty damn foolish. OR - maybe we are both half-right - maybe since you have been living in a former communist country for some time you don't see collections and collectors regularly like I do here in the U.S. and don't realize the volume of people who actually collect and the volume of those collections. Maybe you and I have a culturally created gap in our human experience.

I know there is a wide gulf between some Europeans and America in regards to intellectual property. Years ago when Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software was new, a friend of mine and some colleagues of his were going to take the full German edition of Luther's Works and scan it and then translate it and publish both the English and German together electronically. Here in America after a certain amount of time, any book, film or song goes into the 'public domain'. My friend and his colleagues were prevented from doing their work because of German copyright law even though the books themselves were well over 100 years old and the publisher was out of business.

If this gulf is insurmountable then the problem will remain where it is right now ad infinitum like a car with it's tires stuck in the mud - wheels spinning vigorously but going nowhere.


Jim McGarigle
Polymath Numismatics

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