Author Topic: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty  (Read 1735 times)

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akona20

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An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« on: July 20, 2011, 12:10:03 PM »
For anyone in ancient coins or antiquities there coames from time time problems surrounding the sourcing of objects being sold. Some governments want to claim everything as their own, reward the finders with nothing other than threats and then lock what is found in the vaults of museums and restrict access to the items. In fact it is not unknown for items to go missing from many museums especially in the Middle East and further east than that. It is not unknown for items to go missing from major museums everywhere and if you have war thrown into the mix who knows.

Very recently in America a major coin dealer, Salem Alshdaifat of Holyland Numismatics, was arrested on charges relating to 'stealing' or incorrectly obtaining antiquities. There has been much hoopla about these arrests. Firstly, as often happens in America, the law enforcement agencies have announced that they have smashed this illegal ring of 'smugglers' or words to that ilk. It seems the court process is superfluous to requirements. Salem has been condemned by a number of folks in numismatic circles as being guilty without trial. These are many of the same people who do nothing about fighting fakers and forgers. So let the judicial process take its course and some of us will wonder how, in New York, one of the great sellers of fakes and forgeries of antiquities still plies his trade with seeming immunity.

Note: I have never been a client of the group charged but I have often found Salem's advice on certain numismatic matters to be first class. His store was also a V Coins seller which pretty much means he sold quality merchandise. So for those in the trade and others who have vented against Salem your energies would be much better expended at stopping the fakers and forgers as would the energies of the investigators in this case. Salem I wish you well.

Offline Ukrainii Pyat

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2011, 01:05:00 PM »
Apparently he has been found "guilty" by Vcoins also - no longer there. 
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akona20

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2011, 01:27:05 PM »
Yes I see that as well. Interesting

Offline Figleaf

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2011, 06:23:16 PM »
I went through one case where someone I thought I knew well was accused of and convicted of a crime, in his case child pornography. It is quite difficult to deal with such cases, as you know quite a few details on one end of the story and practically nothing on the other end. Indeed, the trick is not to rush to judgement (I was appalled, not only by what was found on his computer, but also by the sheer stupidity of how he advertised his behaviour with the children and how no one, including myself, had noticed), but even so, what do you do during due process? Do you support him, because he's a friend or drop him, because he's a criminal or drop him until he's out of prison and paid for what he did? Not easy.

Without pre-judging the present case, there are some easy points to make. Of course, there are plenty of dealers who buy treasure coins with a shady background. It is correct that the law is an ass in many countries. It is far too easy to say such dealers are morally wrong, just as it is too easy to say that they can do whatever pleases them. I would argue that there are two variables, I'll call them due diligence and heritage.

Due diligence is not being an obvious law-breaker. If someone comes into a shop with over 100 4th century small Roman coppers and claims they're his uncle's collection, it should not be necessary for a dealer to check import and export documents and alert the police in two countries if they (or the uncle) can't be produced. If the same person comes in with the same coins and says they come from an illegal dig, the dealer should refuse to buy. That leaves a whole grey area where a dealer can suspect, but doesn't know if something is fishy. Maybe the dealer, rather than the state should decide what to do in such cases.

Heritage refers to the importance of some coins for national history. That has nothing to do with its value. A Roman coin found in the Baltics is important, as few Romans are found there, so they have a story to tell on trade in ancient times. That same coin found in Crete is yawningly common. A dealer who is confronted with a coin he recognises as stolen from a national collection or otherwise of special value for a country has the duty not only to refuse the deal, but to help the police trap the robber.

Putting the two together, you come up with the question, "what does the buyer know about the coin?" Even so, nothing is ever simple. If I would buy a duit from a dealer in Amsterdam today, chances are that it was found recently by a construction worker employed for the construction of the new metro line. The coin is extremely common, has no "heritage" value and if the find were treated according to the law, a team of archeologists would have stopped the work, causing further cost overruns and achieving nothing. I can't even tell if the coin came from the metro works or from a collection. But what if it is a gold coin struck in Batavia? A very unusual find and coin, but probably not from the construction works. What if the dealer tells me it was found in Amsterdam recently? At what point should I start asking questions?

Maybe the case against Salem Alshdaifat will provide some clues?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Ukrainii Pyat

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2011, 06:53:22 PM »
Indeed there are a lot of ethical questions that arise in such situations.  Of course we are all too aware of a rush to judgement that can be far more condemning than a judgement by peers in a courtroom.

Collecting and dealing in ancient coins has become very challenging because of laws put forth by countries such as Cyprus and Greece, that are essentially claiming all numismatic items that could have possibly ever circulated there as their own.  I can at times look at VCoins and see numerous coins that are coming from a couple of parts of the world and pretty fairly certain that somehow the trail of their ownership will start clouding up quickly the closer you get to their place of origin.  And believe me, there are numerous other dealers selling there and on MA-Shops that could be unwittingly buying and reselling coins from illegal digs in E. Europe, and the Near East.

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Offline malj1

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2011, 11:48:16 PM »
This topic brings to mind a huge case in Australia many years ago, I have kept newspaper cuttings from the time but unfortunately I have not added a date. Here is part of one such article...


The case resulted in a book being written about the case "Heads I Win" subtitled 'The true story of David Gee Australia's most Audacious Coin Forger', and Written by Jeffrey Watson, Don Thomas and Jack Bennett.
Here is the blurb from the dust-jacket... David Gee, a world authority on stamps and Australian colonial coins, and an expert forger with over seventy aliases, eluded the security systems of Australia's most prestigious museums and libraries.
Detective Chief Inspector Don Thomas battled bureaucratic red tape, frustrating false leads and the forger's cunning before bringing Gee to trial, after tracking his activities through leading auction houses in Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, London, Belfast and Zurich.
Heads I Win captures the excitement of the chase while exploring the fascinating world of the numismatist and forger. [OCR scan]
Malcolm
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Offline Arminius

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 10:58:37 AM »
There will be no better fuel for the prices of the antiquities market than criminalization of the coin-oholics and other dedicated collectors.

Who will profit: Additional work and positions for lawyers, courts, police, media. More risk but higher potentials for sales.

But who will pay the price?

akona20

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Re: An Undue Haste in Being Found Guilty
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2011, 11:43:23 PM »
It is now noted that various collectors etc are now sending letters of support to Salem after being asked to by various 'numismatic' people.

It, of course, would have been nice if Salem had at least acknowledged an email or two of support that was sent to him a couple of months before the popular campaign was started. Lack of common courtesy on this matter has cost a good dealer some custom. Not from any taint associated with the alledged crimes but simply through a lack of courtesy.