The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 45, November 10, 2002, Article 5


  David Fanning writes: "My last word (promise) on the
  question of curators and collectors: Larry Lee wrote in
  his response to my comments in the previous E-Sylum that
  "In regard to Mr. Fanning's statement that 'the odds are
  good that the coins will end up unlabeled, unattributed
  and stuck in storage somewhere,' I would opine that most
  objects in museums, including coins, are in fact very well
  organized, even if they may not be numismatically

  This, I think, cuts to the heart of the matter: if these coins
  are not numismatically attributed, how then are they well
  organized?  According to what diagnostics or properties
  are they organized?  There are many knowledgeable
  curators out there: I'm simply stating that most museums
  do not have the resources to retain experts on staff and
  that many collectors are at least as knowledgeable about
  their field of specialty as are curators."

  George Kolbe writes: "I, too, see merit in both Larry Lee
  and David Fanning's arguments but it seems clear that in
  practice, whether applicable or not, "archeological context"
  often becomes an excuse for government confiscation.
  And isn't the person who puts out his hard-earned cash
  to buy a coin - or most anything else for that matter - likely
  to be the better conservator?  Or would you be likely to
  pay the same for a car from Hertz or for one from the
  proverbial old lady from Pasadena (I grew up in Pasadena
  and I know MY preference)."

  [When it comes to my own books, I hate to admit that I'm
  not as good a conservator as I'd like to be.  Several items
  could use deacidification, some of the books sorely need
  repairs or rebinding, and much of my ephemera collection
  is a fun but unorganized mess.  "Someday" I'll get around
  to all of these things, but I hope "someday" rolls around
  before I die.

  Few of these items were purchased from collectors or
  dealers; most were discovered in out of the way
  locations, and in one case, I retrieved the items from
  a home, working just steps ahead of a cleaning crew that
  was instructed to toss all of the late owner's remaining
  possessions into a dumpster.  [a couple complete years
  of B. Max Mehl's Numismatic Monthly were salvaged
  from a tool box under a workbench in the basement.]
  So in this case, the scavenging collector saved some rare
  and unique items from certain destruction.  Of course,
  in this case, there was no accompanying archaeological
  evidence to be saved.

  The tug-of-war between curators and collectors has
  gone on for many years.  The following is taken from the
  Vol 1, No. 1 (March 1905) issue of The Collector, a
  Pittsburgh-based periodical on philately, numismatics
  and archaeology:

  "It occurs to me that so far as it could be accomplished
  without infringing upon the rights of individuals, Museum
  Curators should combine against dealers in archaeological
  specimens.  There seem to be two classes of these men
  and the one should not be confused with the other.  Of
  recent years the the dealers of archaeological specimens
  have increased to an alarming extent.  If these men
  confined their wares to surface-found objects or to
  things procured from Tom, Dick and Harry, scientists
  could have no just grounds for complaint."

  The rant goes on for two pages and was to be continued
  in the next issue.  Alas, this is the only example of the
  periodical I have.  Has anyone ever seen this periodical?
  The issue also has an article on large cents under the byline
  "A. Cent"  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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