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“But even archaeologists know that putting import restrictions on tiny utilitarian objects is not going to stop site looting for a host of obvious reasons.”
What a claim! Think about it. He’s saying if you reduce the demand you aren’t going to reduce the supply. Who could possibly really believe that? Nobody! So who is he that is saying such a thing and why?
It’s Wayne Sayles, American ancient coin importer, dealer and campaigner against restrictions on what he does. One might think he was doing what our colleague Gordon Kingston said about the Meath councillors – “any decision based on ‘baser’ instinct can subsequently be post-rationalised, to yourself or to others” but we rather doubt what Mr Sayles does can be post-rationalised to anyone’s satisfaction except maybe his equally self-interested associates and customers. To the rest of the world he fails spectacularly. To deny your demand encourages supply is to porkify. Ask Adam Smith and Lord Keynes.
So what is the relevance of this man and the large number of American dealers he represents to Britain? Well, a lot of the coins illegally looted in Britain end up in America of course (along with looted coins from every country on earth – the illicit antiquities trade is comparable in size to the illicit drugs trade), but far worse, thousands of “legal” British detectorists sell hundreds of thousands of antiquities and vast numbers of those also end up in America, mostly shorn of their context.
Now a dead dog in a cellar knows that’s purely because there’s a demand for them from collectors and their dealers like Wayne Sayles, and the same closeted canine knows the loss of historical information is a tragic and unjust loss for Britain. PAS has spent more than a decade trying to get that simple truth across to British metal detectorists with obvious difficulty. So the very last thing that Britain and PAS needs is the likes of Mr Sayles offering a massive and very ready no-questions-asked purchase service (he can’t even be bothered to ask for and quote a PAS record number, and we all know why that is!) and his outrageous claim that his demand isn’t stimulating the process.
Yet that is not the only disservice Mr Sayles has done to our country. Imagine those ethically-challenged-and-deaf-to-PAS detectorist EBayers reading this, another of his recent self-serving calumnies: “The contribution of numismatics [the study of coins] to history, art history, economics, philosophy, religion, astronomy, biology and a host of other disciplines far surpasses the meagre information provided by the context in which a coin is found.”
Far surpasses the meagre information provided by the context in which a coin is found! In other words he is directly addressing the self evidently least intelligent metal detectorists (those who sell their finds on EBay and don’t report them to PAS) and telling them – that’s OK, forget context and archaeologists and PAS, the information obtainable from context is meagre. Sell your finds to me and they can become subject to numismatic study in America devoid of their context and what will be learned will be vast so your conscience can be clear!
If that isn’t a case of a selfish foreigner deliberately inciting ill-informed Britons to damage our country’s interest for his own benefit we don’t know what is. We wonder how Americans would like it if anyone in Britain encouraged some dentally challenged Alabamans to dig up some Native American flint tools and flog them to us on the grounds we’d learn far more about them than if they were given, along with full details of the precise place they were taken from, to American archaeologists specifically authorised for the purpose by the American gub’nmint?