Wow... An interactive investigation into the disappearance of a rare hoard of ancient coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orange Julius, Jan 24, 2020.

  1. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    I ran across this interactive story on a found hoard of Alexander decadrachms. It's very interesting... trust me, watch this. It raises some questions about provenance and the responsibilities of auction houses. ...lots of names here we recognize.

    I'd love to hear some conversation on not only the story but the interactive media style of this story. Check it out.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    I love it! It's the kind of stuff we build at work.
  4. Nvb

    Nvb Well-Known Member

    Interesting indeed.
    There's a more conventional format of the same doc on youtube.
  5. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Nvb, Thanks for sharing this informative video :D. So are all these auction houses now considered fences for contraband o_O? As far as I'm concerned they are doing the ancient coin community a great service :smuggrin:! If this hoard hadn't been dispersed it would probably be sitting in an Israeli government warehouse. It is unfortunate that the Gaza fishermen got so little for these treasures, however, I'm sure they would have gotten less from the Israeli government.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
  6. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing it. I shall now be on the lookout for eBay decadrachms ;)
  7. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    I'm stuck between both camps. You will learn more by the hoard and its context. But lets be real they are often found by poor people in tough circumstances so very few hoards are likely to be handed in-where they stand a chance of being plundered by the museum staff also. It's quite obvious that most of my collection is from fairly recent coin hoard finds smuggled to Germany thus most probably from Turkey or the Balkans. The stories a coin dealer could tell. If you read "The Gazientap Hoard" by Andrew Meadows and Oliver Houghton (look on under Andrew Meadows) they reconstruct four parts of the hoard that separately were recorded by dealers so all is not lost. Where have all those Athens old style tetradrachms that are all over the place come from...rumours have it that 1000's were discovered and are still being hawked around. Does anyone know a dealer who will spill the beans? The story of the Athenian Dekadrachms returned to Turkey is another that needs telling. The thing the documentary missed was what other coins were found with the Dekadrachms.....?
    Broucheion likes this.
  8. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I am actually quite surprised at how everyone in Gaza seems so to be so relaxed about what had just transpired. The fishermen do not seem to be concerned about any reprisals as they talk openly about finding and selling the coins. The archaeologist identifying them in Gaza seems okay about handing them back to the finders. The woman at the ministry while examining what appear to be other Alexander tetradrachms as well as one really large "tourist fake" ?? doesn't seem to be interested in trying to stop what appears to be an on going criminal action. I guess the only people I feel sorry for are the guys who actually found the coins and basically got melt. Of course if the authorities were more stringent about everything most likely any coins found would have been melted down for their silver content.
    I guess we can see this as another beautiful example where bad law results in a worse outcome for everyone concerned. The British system would have at least allowed for proper cataloging of what was found as well as allowing the finders to reap the benefits of their find. In all a very sorry situation.
  9. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    An ideal system would be, as @Terence Cheesman has suggested, something close to what exists in the UK. Finds are recorded so that context and knowledge is not lost, but generally remain private property. If a find is truly significant, it can be purchased by museums or the government at what is supposed to be the determined fair market value (I don't know how that part actually works, but that's the ideal). Certainly they don't all need to go to museums, even hoards, but the summary of their contents can be very insightful.
  10. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    I agree with Al, better these coins end up on auction sites, so that the little people like us can have a chance to bid on them, and maybe add them to our collections. The alternative is big govt. confiscating them and they end up in a museum.:( Remember that hoard of MS Koson AV Staters found in Romania/ a perfect example now sits in my collection, and many other collections. The old saying is best, "finders, keepers" unless you are on private property.
    In the recent UK affair, the Viking hoard was found on a landowners back forty, so they should have shared the booty.
    Archilochus and Ryro like this.
  11. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I got out my earphones and did the interactive investigation for 25 minutes like they said it would take. It was worth it.

    I agree with the others above who said it is unfortunate when places do not have laws somewhat like the Treasure Trove law in England. If scholars want provenance (and they claim they do), then they should fight for laws that make it likely that they can get it. With laws as they currently are in that region of the world, provenance is highly likely to disappear. As it is now, the incentives are all wrong. So, why don't archaeologists pressure those regions for rational laws like England's?
  12. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    There are vast swathes of people in those countries where anything before the 7th century is a forbidden territory. And studies around the 7th century that bring about an unfavourable result can be punishable by termination.
    Assuming " from a private UK collector" is correct where had my "2 Palms" New Style been hiding? For what purpose? No examples in Coin Archives..... only one known in NSSCA. Where do all those "Top coins" sold at auction go to? Not people who inhabit the coin forums that's for sure. And do they care about the coins? In my case I highlighted the case of a New Style that had 4 previous ownerships and not one seemed to have noticed that it was a completely new obverse-what is the point of such ignorant ownership. It's just owning the thing that is their bag. Read my The British Museum, UNESCO 1970, Coin Collectors and me in under my name John Arnold Nisbet for a good rant!
    panzerman likes this.
  13. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    In response to NewStyleKing. I will start of with a story. Back in 1983 I became interested in the coins of Carrhae in Mesopotamia. I bought a few and started studying them. Fairly soon I became aware of the limitations of the relevant volume in the BMC Greek. In 1989 I went to the B.M. to study their collection. Surprisingly it had not changed much since the BM Volume was published in the Mid 1930's. So I pointed out that 1.Over half their coins attributed to Cararaclla were in fact Elagabalus. 2. All the "Latin" legend coins of Caracalla were in fact from the mint of Edessa. As I was Nobody from Nowheresville Western Canada, I rather doubt they took me all that seriously. My point is that probably at the time there were maybe 2 or three people interested in the coins of that region and we were all amateurs. The essential truth is that while the subject matter of ancient numismatics is vast and very complex the number of people studying it as a profession is extremely small. Thus it is possible that no academic even looked at those coins in over 50 years.
    As for your variety. It is indeed possible that one or more of the previous owners did notice that it was a variant but were unable to successfully communicate that information to the outside world. One I guess should be thankful that a number of people decided that the coin was worth preserving and kept it in their collections for a while.
  14. Nvb

    Nvb Well-Known Member

    You and me both =)
  15. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

  16. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member


    However, as no auction coins where matched to any of the photographed ones from Gaza, no foul play was ever proven...

    Also, there is an unfair undertone that collectors and auction houses alike would only do the absolute minimum required to establish a coin's provenance. This is not the case in my opinion, the dealers I spoke to in London are very wary of these things. 2 of them have mentioned to me that for example they are very suspicious and careful about buying Athens owls recently, for the reasons we all know.

    I have never bought from an auction yet, but I imagine that they have the same rules and procedures that brick and mortar shops do. I know that the Roma Numismatics owner(?) is a member here, so I wonder if he will spot this thread.

    Having said all that, I am sure that coins as the ones described in the documentary do sometimes find their way to the international market one way or another, but I imagine the legal responsibilty lies with the finders and the local goverments..
  17. Cachecoins

    Cachecoins Historia Moneta

    I personally want my coins to have as much provenance as possible and I understand the need to put finds like this in context and the problem with looting important historical sites. It's a shame that both sides are so intractable. I think there is room for both sides to cooexist.
    Sulla80 likes this.
  18. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    Read my short paper," The British Museum,UNESCO 1970,coin collectors and me" on my page under my name John Arnold Nisbet.
    Ed Snible and Broucheion like this.
  19. Dougmeister

    Dougmeister Well-Known Member

    I'm only 2 minutes in and I'm already hooked!

    (No fishing pun intended)
  20. J.T. Parker

    J.T. Parker Well-Known Member

    Just a huge THANKS to Julius for posting this thread.
    Both enjoyable & educational.
  21. Xavier DDL

    Xavier DDL New Member

    I do not think this undertone is so unfair. Alexander dekadrachms used to be extremely rare before 2017: only 14 examples were known in the world, 10 of them from two hoards found in or near Babylon, Iraq. In July 2017 the Israeli police seized 4 examples somebody attempted to smuggle out of Gaza: not just one rare and precious coin, but 4 of them! Then, 1 month after this, Roma Numismatics includes 2 more specimens in its sale 14, 2 more in its e-sales 42 and 43, 2 more in its sale 15, another one in its sale 16, etc., etc. From september 2017 to march 2019, this sole auctioneer sold not less than... 11 previously unaccounted Alexander dekadrachms. In the same time, from november 2017 to september 2019 another dealer sold 9 other ones through several auctioneers. In only 2 years, 24 "new" Alexander dekadrachms have surfaced, 4 at the Gaza border, 20 in public auctions. Remember, before 2017 only 14 specimens were known, all of them found in Iraq when their provenance was known . It should really have rang a bell for any honest auctioneer : all these coins suddenly appearing together on the market must come from a newly discovered hoard. From where? Iraq, like all other known hoards that contained similar dekadrachms? Gaza, where 4 specimens have been seized? None of these "new" coins has a pedigree. We all know that several organizations it's useless to name try to sell precious antiquities looted from archaeological sites in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria (why not Gaza?)... Don't you think the suspicion is very legitimate?
    robinjojo likes this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page