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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Ancient Coin Forum (Moderator: goldenancients)  |  Topic: 2 coins of Cabinet W seized in New York by District Attorney 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: 2 coins of Cabinet W seized in New York by District Attorney  (Read 24557 times)
byzcoll
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« Reply #25 on: January 15, 2012, 01:51:37 pm »

Apparently things are messy. We as collectors need to be sure that the coins we buy from renowned sources like large auction houses are legally sold.

For example it is this coin: http://www.acsearch.info/record.html?id=369765

which apparently has been confiscated by Swiss authorities upon a complaint of Greece as published here:

http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2012/01/12/greece_wins_swiss_court_ruling_over_ancient_coin/

I hope the collector will be compensated by the auction house. I wonder how Greece will prove that the coin has recently been found on their territory.

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Tony A
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« Reply #26 on: January 19, 2012, 10:01:11 am »

That seems to be the problem. If it was dug up in Italy and smuggled through Italian and U.S. Customs there's a serious problem. But if it was dug up in Italy and exported to virtually anywhere else before being shipped to the U.S. it is another matter entirely. And if it was found in an area outside of Italy, it is a matter of typical Italian government over-reach in claiming "cultural ownership" of everything originating in Italy at any time (presumably back to any Roman mint or workshop within the current Italian border).
We can't condone smuggling, but I'm not sure how the courts will treat legal imports from countries with no agreement with Italy, especially if there is no direct proof of looting. I also wonder when the original "export" was made since it could have been done before any formal agreements were made.
 The Italian government seems to have taken a rather extreme stance that everything produced at any time falls under the "cultural property" mantle. I don't think any of the EU countries have taken them seriously, since I don't know of any country outside the U.S. that has made any similar protocol with Italy. I'm not sure why the Bush and Obama administrations are interested in placating any government so famous for instability and incompetence. (Think of the potential fiscal advantages for Italy if a UK-type system were implemented and a controlled - and taxed - antiquities market were developed!)
I'm no lawyer, but the whole situation raises a lot of questions.
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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #27 on: January 21, 2012, 12:53:05 am »

I just now read in the New York Slimes, which I sheepishly admit that I subscribe to, because I like the Friday cultural section,  that charges were dropped against Robert Hecht because the statute of limitations had run out.  Does that have anything to do with this case?  Was he one of the people referred to, or is it just coincidence?

I know nothing about that case, but good for him.  Whenever someone sticks it to the State, all is good.

I'm typing on a laptop here.  I don't see how people do it.  I hate the keyboard.  Give me a good desktop any day. 
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« Reply #28 on: January 21, 2012, 02:24:42 am »

I just now read in the New York Slimes, which I sheepishly admit that I subscribe to, because I like the Friday cultural section,  that charges were dropped against Robert Hecht because the statute of limitations had run out.  Does that have anything to do with this case?  Was he one of the people referred to, or is it just coincidence?

I know nothing about that case, but good for him.  Whenever someone sticks it to the State, all is good.

I'm typing on a laptop here.  I don't see how people do it.  I hate the keyboard.  Give me a good desktop any day.  

Hecht was the guy who sold the Euphronios Krater to the Met in 1972 for $1m. It was supposedly from an old Lebanese collection but everyone - Hecht and the directors at the Met - knew that it had been dug up two years previously in an Etruscan tomb. In 1995 a raid at a Geneva entrepôt found a vast store of ancient goods along with poloroid photos (dateable by batch no.) that showed countless other items in various stages from broken-with-dirt to mid-restoration to on-display-at-the-Getty or the Met, with Hecht standing in front of several such photos. Including the Euphronios krater. This was the smoking gun raid as it proved beyond doubt that much of what was bought by the Met and Getty had very recently been in bits and covered in dirt. Marion True, the curator of antiquities at the Getty, along with Hecht, as the seller of many of the items, were put on trial in Italy, and the Getty (mainly) and the Met returned countless items to Italy. In both the cases of True and Hecht, time ran out after a decade or so in the Italian court system and they are now free. However it can't have been a pleasant decade and their lives and reputations are ruined. Others did go to prison including an English antiquities dealer, part of the same chain selling to the Getty, and several Italians. (The English guy's imprisonment was an accidental by-product - he was in dispute with his deceased partner's family about his estate and the revelations proved that he lied to court).

I show below a picture of Hecht in front of the Eurphronois Krater in the Met, and the same vase back in Italy in 2008. A splendid photo I think.

Whilst this case has nothing directly to do with these coins, it has everything to do with why all this is happening. Criminal behaviour by a number of large museums and prominent individuals in the antiquities world is what has led to the current wave of MOUs and actions by the Italian state. It also explains why it is focussed on the US. Every collector who wants to voice an opinion on collecting (which I strongly support) and private ownership of antiquities (ditto), their cross border trade and government interference in both, should at least have a basic knowledge of this unpleasant story so as to appreciate where others are coming from and be able to argue sensibly about the value of responsible private collecting and ownership.

If you find a laptop tough, don't bother trying a tablet. It'll feel as if you have 10 thumbs. I love the New York Times. I salivate over the restaurant listings even though I don't live and can't eat there.
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Jay GT4
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« Reply #29 on: January 21, 2012, 11:10:34 am »



I know nothing about that case, but good for him.  Whenever someone sticks it to the State, all is good.
 

That's the problem isn't it?  Everyone trying to "stick it to the state".  These people and institutions stole property.  They are criminals.  They ruined it for honest collectors.  Like Andrew said: " ...be able to argue sensibly about the value of responsible private collecting and ownership. "  What the Met or Getty or Hecht did was not responsible...it was criminal.
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« Reply #30 on: January 21, 2012, 11:24:42 am »

I stand corrected, Benito. I was working from memory (poor at best, and worse after a stroke). But while the EU supports Italy's "cultural heritage" claims, it is not without hesitation or a number of modifications (i.e., UK and Germany).
My main problem with "cultural heritage" claims is that they are monumentally unworkable and constitute the negation of individual property rights, while encouraging what they are intended to prohibit. An old professor of mine called it the "Principle of the Paradox": A government policy taken to it's logical extreme produces its intended opposite."
Here's a local example: I have several friends who own rural property with a number of Native American Burial Mounds who have refused to alert authorities on the locations of the mounds since it would, in effect, mean relinquishing their ownership of the property (i.e., restricted building, farming, tree cutting, basic land improvements, disruption of normal activities, etc.) While they have left the mounds intact, they have (quietly) sold a number of artifacts found on the property in order to pay for taxes and land improvements. Since NA artifact sales are common around here there isn't much government interference or oversight, but things get much more complicated if the mounds were reported or the sale of artifacts were to international dealers. The point is, there is no incentive under the current system for them to report the mounds or catalog the artifacts.
It would be in the interest of Italy, the U.S. - and all countries - to establish an improved system such as the UK (with a lot of modifications).
 
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« Reply #31 on: January 21, 2012, 11:43:29 am »

The individual collectors will probably be hurt as a result of this case, no matter the outcome.  It puts a bad light on collectors, a majority of whom abide by the laws.  If it were not for collectors of ancient coins, many of these little pieces of the past would not be here with us today.  Additionally, collectors have contributed to the study and understanding of coins and the role(s) they played in history.  I hope that we, and I count myself, can still collect freely and ultimately contribute to our understading of the past through the preservation and study of ancient coins.

I personally have been very careful to save reciept, catalogs and have been searching/buying old catalogs to document the provinance of my coins.  Not an easy task since I cannot afford coinarchives.

Paul

Coins record the past, not just from the context of their find location but the coin itself as a small time capsule of the past.
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Tony A
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« Reply #32 on: January 21, 2012, 12:31:29 pm »

Extremely well written, Paul.
And I, also, find it disturbing that my little collection could potentially be confiscated someday due to the arrogance of the narrow minded and nostalgic! I support archeology and conservation and the rule of law, but also see the need for the development of a constructive and responsible system that operates in the interest of everyone, not one that serves the self-satisfied few or serves as a mindless political tool. I share my meager collection with underpriviledged students, very few - if any - who will ever get to Italy or a museum or anywhere near an actual archeological sight. This is their only chance to see and touch a small piece of history, and, hopefully, learn and remember from it. Sad that a few misguided individuals would lock these things away in moldy boxes in unseen storerooms in the name of their narrow focus on "context" and "exclusive ownership"!
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Sharum
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« Reply #33 on: January 21, 2012, 01:22:27 pm »

[Whilst this case has nothing directly to do with these coins, it has everything to do with why all this is happening. Criminal behaviour by a number of large museums and prominent individuals in the antiquities world is what has led to the current wave of MOUs and actions by the Italian state. It also explains why it is focussed on the US. Every collector who wants to voice an opinion on collecting (which I strongly support) and private ownership of antiquities (ditto), their cross border trade and government interference in both, should at least have a basic knowledge of this unpleasant story so as to appreciate where others are coming from and be able to argue sensibly about the value of responsible private collecting and ownership.


Finally! How could  anyone disagree on that?
If someone is interested in knowing more about some of the masterpieces illegally traded from Italy to US, and now returned to home (nostoi in greek):
    http://www.quirinale.it/qrnw/statico/artecultura/mostre/2007_Nostoi/Nostoigalleria.htm

See also:
-   Morgantina Venus  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Arte_greca,_forse_dalla_sicilia,_venere,_425-400_ac..JPG
-   Victorious youth - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fano_Athlete

We are speaking of unique masterpieces, not of coins struck in thousands of pieces, which nobody wants back and which can be legally exported.
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« Reply #34 on: January 21, 2012, 01:25:08 pm »

By the way, coming back to the deka and the tetra, here is an update:
http://www.coinworld.com/articles/collector-faces-charge-of-one-count-of-crimin/
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« Reply #35 on: January 21, 2012, 01:44:18 pm »

By the way, coming back to the deka and the tetra, here is an update:
http://www.coinworld.com/articles/collector-faces-charge-of-one-count-of-crimin/

Sounds as if he gets to keep the Deka, its 1960s provenance not being disputed. If unlucky he may end up as a very rich felon as the money was in the Dekadrachm.
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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #36 on: January 21, 2012, 02:19:28 pm »

I agree with you 99% of the time, Jay.  You make a good point.  If he got it out of a tomb, he's probably in the wrong.  It would bring up the philosophical discussion of a villain stealing from a villain.  If it's a tomb on public property, then yes, I concede he was in the wrong and I can't defend him.  If it was on someone's private property with their consent, then the State would be in the wrong.

Can someone clue me on on the Koch Brothers' hoard case?  Why would someone so wealthy possibly give it back? At least smash it and contemptuously "return" the fragments.  Surely someone so rich could afford some top-grade mercenaries to guard the treasure?


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« Reply #37 on: January 21, 2012, 02:28:04 pm »

If it's a tomb on public property, then yes, I concede he was in the wrong and I can't defend him.  If it was on someone's private property with their consent, then the State would be in the wrong.

This isn't oil leases in Texas. It makes no difference in Europe whether a protected monument (or indeed an oilfield) is on public or private property. It's the States (as is all oil under the ground in Europe). Land ownership in Europe gives you right to use the land but not the ownership of what lies under it.

The UK treasure trove scheme which gives land owner's rights of reward (but not of ownership) is a pragmatic deviation. The rights of ownership of the excavated goods still lie with the State if they want to keep them. They've just legislated about the reward bit for practical reasons. The State still owns what's under ground level and this applies just about everywhere.
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« Reply #38 on: January 21, 2012, 04:55:03 pm »

Yes, thank you, Andrew, you are factually correct as usual.  I was merely explaining my stance to Jay.  I realized the "legal" stance.  Also, thanks for supplying the background on the New York Slimes' case I was wondering about.

One never seems to hear of a Tony Montana-type being bothered.  Now that would be awesome!  It's probably a moot point, as bullies only bother people whom they think they can step on.

As I've mentioned before, to understand my attitude on all things MOU, one must understand that I'm related to a very long line of rebels against the British and Federal governments (and authority in general) respectively in the 18th and 19th centuries.  One side was always very proud of allegedly being related to the James' gang.  Off the top of my head, Jesse had no children.  Perhaps Frank?  The Lee provenance is unquestioned (hence Light Horse Harry and Robert E.). I'm not super-proud of being related to a vicious train robber.  The majority of my ancestors were Union, the famous ones were all Confederate.  I'm not implying that I shared the Confederates' stance on eugenics, just their views of individual freedom and very limited state.  Hence, unless the accused has a Snidely Whiplash mustache, wearing an "I Love Jack the Ripper" shirt and is cackling evilly, I'll almost always side with the individual.  Therefore, it's second nature that any MOU case will make me apoplectic.  It's like Jeremy Clarkson being brash (some would say a jerk, I would say cool) or James May being a renaissance man.  It's just second nature.

I find the MOU fans very strange indeed, although there don't seem to be many left on this board.  Of course, some people must have genuinely liked Laval, Admiral Horthy, or Antonescu in their respective day. It takes all kinds to make a world.

The Lees of that period were cultured individuals.  I wonder if any of them were interested in numismatics?  The love of classical numismatics and most things old must have come from somewhere.

In a perfect world, the individual could be free to collect any coin that wasn't stolen from an individual or public land.  I'd love to voluntarily help archaeologists with hoard analyses and such.  Unfortunately, many make themselves such obvious villains that I'll pretty much support the individual every time, no matter what.  It's really sad; one of the great tragedies of our day.  Like a very amusing man said, "Resist (the MOU) we much (sic)."  I added the MOU part.  What a great quote!
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« Reply #39 on: January 21, 2012, 05:22:41 pm »

I find the MOU fans very strange indeed, although there don't seem to be many left on this board.  Of course, some people must have genuinely liked [xxx] in their respective day. It takes all kinds to make a world.

Given the facts I outlined about the Getty and Met cases, I don't find the MOU fans at all strange, in fact I really understand their perspective. "Collectors" such as the Met and Getty did very bad things to the credibility of collecting at large. I find your references to the various dictators you listed as distasteful and not at all sympathetic to the genuine drivers that have motivated other actors in this case.

I'm greatly in favour of collecting and private ownership but in order to make the case for collecting requires a sympathetic understanding of the facts of the various bad things that led to the MOUs. If you are unable to understand, sympathise with and debate the history of the Met and Getty acquisitions, then there is no hope of being able to change peoples perspectives.

It's our duty as collectors to be well informed in order to engage in proper debate.
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« Reply #40 on: January 21, 2012, 05:39:12 pm »

By the way, coming back to the deka and the tetra, here is an update:
http://www.coinworld.com/articles/collector-faces-charge-of-one-count-of-crimin/

Sounds as if he gets to keep the Deka, its 1960s provenance not being disputed. If unlucky he may end up as a very rich felon as the money was in the Dekadrachm.

Note however that there are no verifiable historical references to this coin in the Triton blurb:

http://tinyurl.com/7g9xw9b

which just says "From a collection in the United States, once in a Swiss collection and, earlier, in an English collection in London in the 1960s."

Ross G.
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« Reply #41 on: January 21, 2012, 06:02:46 pm »

Note however that there are no verifiable historical references to this coin in the Triton blurb:

http://tinyurl.com/7g9xw9b

which just says "From a collection in the United States, once in a Swiss collection and, earlier, in an English collection in London in the 1960s."

Not a great basis on which to put $2,500,000 plus plus on the table for the privilege of a questionable title to ownership, which might be challenged at any time with risk of state sanctioned appropriation. Somehow, I feel the value of this sort of collectible has reached its apogee. Valid, verifiable provenance is now worth far more than its weight in gold.  All else is subject to whim. It appears that the market makers have now been hoist with their own petard.


Sounds as if he gets to keep the Deka, its 1960s provenance not being disputed. If unlucky he may end up as a very rich felon as the money was in the Dekadrachm.
Was is the operative word! The odium and uncertainty now associated with it is appreciable. Perception counts for much at this end of the market. Ouch! Even without further prosecution the vendor has suffered an appreciable financial penalty - the cynic in me wonders whether this was the NY DA's intention all along in so far as the seizure of the Deka was concerned.
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« Reply #42 on: January 21, 2012, 07:07:50 pm »

Note however that there are no verifiable historical references to this coin in the Triton blurb:

http://tinyurl.com/7g9xw9b

which just says "From a collection in the United States, once in a Swiss collection and, earlier, in an English collection in London in the 1960s."

Not a great basis on which to put $2,500,000 plus plus on the table for the privilege of a questionable title to ownership, which might be challenged at any time with risk of state sanctioned appropriation. Somehow, I feel the value of this sort of collectible has reached its apogee. Valid, verifiable provenance is now worth far more than its weight in gold.  All else is subject to whim. It appears that the market makers have now been hoist with their own petard.



You might also wonder about the legal liabilities of the auction houses when they make statements like this about provenance. Can they simply repeat (without qualification) what the vendor tells them, as if it's fact, or should they take real steps to verify his story. To date these questions don't seemed to have worried the trade at all.

Ross G.
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« Reply #43 on: January 21, 2012, 08:45:33 pm »

You might also wonder about the legal liabilities of the auction houses when they make statements like this about provenance. Can they simply repeat (without qualification) what the vendor tells them, as if it's fact, or should they take real steps to verify his story. To date these questions don't seemed to have worried the trade at all.

Agree that this appears to be the case, at least in the context of this example. Such questions become paramount at this end of the market, if not at all levels of the market. The Triton auction raid certainly was something more than a shot across the bows of the trade.  More likely it will prove to be a shell into the engine room in my opinion. Blind eye and denial are not sustainable business strategies for the trade as various states seek to enforce their view of ownership and resort to courts to sort out the facts at a later date.
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« Reply #44 on: January 21, 2012, 09:03:42 pm »

Out of respect you Andrew, so unless there's a big news flash I shall comment no more on this thread about my feelings about the MOU proponents.  No one will change their respective minds, and I want no acrimony with you. I'll have to agree to gently disagree on this topic.  I do understand where you're coming from, but be warned, what if they come for your coins?  It's a rather slippery slope, I'm afraid.  I don't have the quote from the German cardinal at hand, but a man as erudite as you will know what I mean, "and finally there was no one to stand up." or words to that effect.

It's very rare that I apologize, but for your sake, I'll apologize to you for that little editorial comment.  

Laval, Horthy, Antonescu.  That reference would have sailed over the heads of 99% of people.  You were intelligent enough to pick up my intimation and my inference of their philosophy applied to the MOU.  They were all third-tier client rulers who were deposed in 1944 and 45 respectively, for those who don't know who they were.  

An amusing bit of  minutia; Horthy was the admiral of a non-existent Hungarian navy.  Poor Austria-Hungary.  I always had a very soft spot for the Dual Monarchy; a relic of a much more civilized time.  Austria is one of the few modern European countries I'd like to visit - perhaps also Switzerland, Bohemia, and San Marino.  You can guess the shop I'd beeline it for in Vienna.  Hint it both begins and ends with H.  If I could travel back to 1885, I'd want to visit most of them.

Combined with other things, the MOU gives one who is an opponent of such things a very Jean Shepherd-esque view of society.  For benefit of Europeans, he was a brilliant but very bitter humorist, most famous for the movie "A Christmas Story," but he also had a very famous radio show on WOR, New York (1956-77). He was a funnier version of Henry Morgan, or even Fred Allen, both of whom were very angry at the end.  Shep was the best, but like Morgan (whom he was influenced by) and Allen he had a very low opinion of humanity. Shep's was the world of the "slobs vs. non-slobs."  Assuming archive.org is still around, check out Shep.  You should check out a pre-1970 episode. Shep took away his tapes when he became unhappy with radio in the 1970s, but happily fans in New York recorded hundreds of episodes.  Even the cartoonist penning "Zippy the Pinhead" did a touching tribute when Shep died.  I didn't get to experience the 1960s, but people were so much more intelligent and interested in culture even then.  I am saddened about how much we have sunk.  Even little pieces of metal are under attack. It is like my father once said, we are becoming the world of the Morlocks.  It's so sad.  The only thing we have is technology.  The happy by-product is that intelligent people come to discuss their ideas on Forum

Anyway, enough of the depressing stuff, I'm going to choose a coin to buy, while I still can, before I have to go to a Sheldon Leonard-esque shadowy figure, "Psst, hey bud, I have a Gallienus Antoninianus."
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« Reply #45 on: January 21, 2012, 09:14:08 pm »


Anyway, enough of the depressing stuff, I'm going to choose a coin to buy, while I still can, before I have to go to a Sheldon Leonard-esque shadowy figure, "Psst, hey bud, I have a Gallienus Antoninianus."
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« Reply #46 on: January 21, 2012, 09:21:46 pm »

You might also wonder about the legal liabilities of the auction houses when they make statements like this about provenance. Can they simply repeat (without qualification) what the vendor tells them, as if it's fact, or should they take real steps to verify his story. To date these questions don't seemed to have worried the trade at all.


In answer to your question, it is a case of all care and no responsibility for the auction house.  Suppose you plonk down $2,500,000 plus plus for the Deka, then at a later date it proves to to be stolen.  Then you are in receipt of stolen goods, which can and will be legally seized and returned to the rightful owner without compensation to you, and you have zero come back on those who sold it to you, even if you escape jail.

It is no different to buying a car (at least in my country).  If it is later proven to be stolen then it is confiscated and returned to the owner, even if you bought it with the best intentions and upon the best representations and thus escape jail in the process. No one buys a car in Australia without confirming who has legal title and the right to sell it. I doubt it is much different anywhere else in the world where there is an established body of property law.  

The coin trade effectively operates on the same basis - all liability resides with the purchaser in the event the item later proves to be stolen. This may explain what motivates the approach of the trade that we seem to be seeing in the this instance - all care and no responsibility for the stated provenance?
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« Reply #47 on: January 21, 2012, 11:49:39 pm »

You might also wonder about the legal liabilities of the auction houses when they make statements like this about provenance. Can they simply repeat (without qualification) what the vendor tells them, as if it's fact, or should they take real steps to verify his story. To date these questions don't seemed to have worried the trade at all.


In answer to your question, it is a case of all care and no responsibility for the auction house.  Suppose you plonk down $2,500,000 plus plus for the Deka, then at a later date it proves to to be stolen.  Then you are in receipt of stolen goods, which can and will be legally seized and returned to the rightful owner without compensation to you, and you have zero come back on those who sold it to you, even if you escape jail.

At present of course nobody is alleging that the deka is stolen. However, on the facts as we know them it may be open to a customs claim, which is not a criminal action, under the Italian MOU.
As we all know (and as the ACCG recently found out), the onus is then on the importer to show that a designated coin has been legally imported, and not on the Customs Service or the Italian state to show that it wasn't.
Incidentally, those interested in the ACCG case and MOU matters in general should see Rick St Hilaire's recent blog:

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com/search/label/Ancient%20Coin%20Collectors%20Guild%20%28ACCG%29

Ross G.

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« Reply #48 on: January 22, 2012, 12:38:44 am »

My response was simply a hypothetical situation to highlight that essentially no liability resides with the auction house. Rather it resides with the purchaser...and this point was made in answer to your question.. You might also wonder about the legal liabilities of the auction houses when they make statements like this about provenance. None of the potential liability arising from an inaccurate or deceptive provenance statement comes back to the auction house. It resides with the vendor if seizure occurs before sale or with the purchaser after sale. The middle man is under no potential liability risk and this explains a lot about why the trade may be prepared to push a less than verifiable provenance.
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« Reply #49 on: January 22, 2012, 02:13:37 am »

Out of respect you Andrew, so unless there's a big news flash I shall comment no more on this thread about my feelings about the MOU proponents.  No one will change their respective minds, and I want no acrimony with you. I'll have to agree to gently disagree on this topic.  I do understand where you're coming from, but be warned, what if they come for your coins?  It's a rather slippery slope, I'm afraid.  I don't have the quote from the German cardinal at hand, but a man as erudite as you will know what I mean, "and finally there was no one to stand up." or words to that effect.

OK. Peace. I'm in favour of whatever lines of arguments work. We have different views about how best to debate with MOU supporters. That's ok. I do urge all supporters of collecting to be at least familiar with the facts and lines of arguments "the other side" will advance, not all of which are baseless. Everyone at least should be familiar with the story of Euphronios, the Getty and the Met.
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