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All Posts Tagged With: "Ancients"

Ancient Coins: How old is “Ancient”?

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

The classification of cultures generally tracks along two interrelated lines: chronological and geographical. For centuries, coin collectors struggled with the lack of a coherent system for cataloguing the vast array of issues from antiquity through the modern era. Joseph Eckhel (1737-1798), a secularized Jesuit abbot who served as numismatist to the imperial court of the Holy Roman Empire, devised a system for arranging coins geographically that is still in use today.

This system basically records coins in a progression beginning at the northeast quadrant of the Mediterranean basin and continuing from west to east, then south through the Levant and from east to west through northern Africa. Though far from perfect, nobody has yet devised a better approach for non-Roman coins. The classification of coins and cultures into chronological divisions is far more complex than the Echkel scheme.

Chronologically, the primary divisions of coinage are almost universally accepted as being Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Within the United States, collectors tend to separate U.S. coins from the modern coins of other nations by referring to the latter as “World Coins.” Coins in the West were first struck in Western Anatolia during the 7th century BC. The transition point between ancient and medieval is more difficult to date.

Some would argue that the end of the ancient period is coincident with the fall of Rome in AD 476. Others choose the accession of Anastasius I in AD 491 as the transition point. But, almost everyone who collects “Byzantine” coins thinks of them as being “ancient” even though they start with the accession of Anastasius and end in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople.

Likewise, coins struck in India and Central Asia are typically thought of as ancient up to the Islamic conquests, which did not happen at a single point in time.

Further complicating the chronological classification, coins of the post-Roman era in western Europe (e.g. Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany) from as early as the sixth century AD are thought of by many as ‘Medieval”.

In fact, by the time of Constantinople’s fall, some coinage in western Europe is already being thought of by collectors and scholars as falling into the “Modern” or “World” classification. The incongruity is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to a new collector.

Illustration Note: [Above] Imago Mundi – Babylonian map, the oldest known world map, 6th century BCE .

From a purely practical point of view, the distinction may not be all that important. After all, a rose is a rose…. But, to a cataloguer it is frequently a conundrum. Perhaps the next Joseph Eckhel is reading these lines right now and conjuring up a system that will allow for the vastly differing cultural environments and reshape our definitions in a way that seems sensible.

A Time to Speak Out – Will Ancient Coins from Italy be Restricted?

The U.S. State Department has announced a date of May 6-7 for Cultural Property Advisory Committee hearings on the request for renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy. Hopefully your eyes are not already glazed over by this first sentence.

In practical terms, the U.S. government is about to decide whether antiquities and other forms of cultural property that Italy claims as its heritage ought to be restricted from entry into the U.S. unless accompanied by Italian export permits. There is already such an agreement in place, but ancient coins have been exempted twice before in these renewal requests that cover a 5-year window.

We have very good reason to believe that Italy and members of the archaeological community will this time seek to add coins to the list of restricted items.

There is a period open for public comment on the issue and the best way to comment is by fax. Don’t despair, this is VERY easily done. Simply go to the ACCG web site at http://accg.us and click on the Fax Wizard link (picture of U.S. Capitol Building) on the left side of the page. It says “Fax Your Legislator” but will indeed send your message to the State Department. You will be guided through a brief and easy to follow process that sends a free fax to the State Department registering your views.

Why oppose these import restrictions? Because Roman coins are at the very core of the cultural experience that we all treasure. They have circulated all over the known world in antiquity and since through trade and collector markets. It is impossible to distinguish a Roman coin found in Britain, for example, from exactly the same type, mint, etc found in Italy.

Requiring an export permit from Italy on a coin found and legally exported from Britain would not only be impractical, it would not have any legal foundation. Still, any court challenge by an individual is unlikely since the legal costs usually far exceed the value of seized objects.

We simply MUST oppose any expansion of the MOU with Italy to include coins. We must do so with an absolutely resounding voice.

Import restrictions are simply not a viable solution to protecting archaeological sites. They are an idealist panacea that cause far more harm to society than any possible good. Excluding the U.S. collector and trade from the legitimate world market for Roman coins, or unilaterally forcing draconian documentation requirements on Americans, would be grossly prejudicial and would certainly be against the interests of American citizens and their traditional freedoms. (more…)

A.H Baldwin January Ancient and World Coin New York Auction Results

Held as part of the 38th annual New York International Numismatic Convention, A.H. Baldwins & Sons New York Sale proved to be a welcome move away from the subdued bidding of 2009. The majority of the interesting lots offered during the course of the week were from the Baldwin’s/Dmitry Markov/M&M auction and the high prices achieved reflected the recent trend for buyers paying well above estimate for quality and rarity.

Peter_1_1707_Half_Tymf_baldwin2010In marked contrast to last year’s event the bidders appeared to be out in force. Seth Freeman of Baldwin’s commented that there was a real buzz around this years event, both the convention and the auction and buyers ‘seemed to be focused on one thing, spending money to secure key items’.

The results from the sale this year reflected the more optimistic view of the financial markets for 2010. Across the board bidders seemed less cautious than last year and prices realised on particular items were substantially higher.

Highlights from the first day of the sale included the catalogue cover piece (pictured above), lot 128, a Roman Empire Drusus Sestertius which sold for $17,250 USD against a pre-sale estimate of $8,500 USD; and lot 251, a Constantinus II Solidus, Treveri, which achieved $34,500 USD.

As ever the Indian section was strong and attracted a lot of attention, the most interesting lot being 304, a very rare Gupta Dinar, Tiger-slayer type depicting the goddess Ganga standing on an elephant-headed fish, sold for $21,850 USD.

Bidding interest and excitement centered on the Medieval, Portuguese and Russian sections and this is demonstrated by the incredibly strong prices achieved. Highlights of the section incorporate lots 470 and 628, a Carolingian Denarius of Toulouse, and a Portuguese Sancho I Morabitino which sold for $13,800 USD and $25,000 USD respectively.

Lot 1027, a 1707 Shestak Half Tymf, was one of the most unique and interesting pieces in the sale. This coin was first recorded in 1897 where it was the only image available of this very rare coin and soon became the plate coin in all standard references. The groups research produced no other specimen of this particular coin offered at public auction and this was reflected in the realised price of $97,500 USD. (more…)

Ancient Coin Collectors Challenge U.S. State Dept. Bureaucrats After Baltimore Seizure

A small packet of inexpensive Chinese and Cypriot coins imported from England by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) have been seized by Customs in Baltimore, Maryland.

coin_import_banThe coins were imported to test the legitimacy of State Department (DOS) imposed import restrictions via two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). ACCG maintains that actions of DOS relating to implementation of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) have been secretive, arbitrary and capricious and will contest the seizure in the U.S. Federal District Court in Baltimore.

Information from another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit suggests that the DOS failed to follow the recommendations of its own experts on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in extending restrictions to Cypriot coins, and then misled Congress about this decision. Other information implicates DOS bureaucrats adding coins to the Chinese MOU even though Chinese officials never asked for their inclusion.

The Obama Administration has promised transparency and accountability in government. ACCG hopes its challenge to the ban on ancient Chinese and Cypriot coins will lead the Court also to address these and other concerns about the process for imposing import restrictions on cultural goods.

During a 2008 International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) discussion, former CPAC Chairperson Jay Kislak (2003-2008) said, “I am not necessarily against any actions that were taken on any of the MOU’s which were recommended by the Committee and put into action. I am, however, opposed to the way it is done because I think it is absolutely, completely, un-American, and I don’t mind saying that. Not anywhere in our government do we do things this way, except with this group.”

Kislak also addressed government transparency by saying, “In every other branch of government, there is disclosure, and information is made public. We have a democracy, and it is government of the people, for the people, by the people, not by the bureaucrats over them.”
(more…)