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The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 45, November 2, 2014, Article 28

HOWARD DANIEL: A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR MUSEUM DONORS

Howard Daniel submitted these thoughts on the sometime perils of museum donations. Thanks. -Editor

I am now in my Saigon home and working on my Democratic Republic of Viet Nam Coins & Currency 2nd edition. My printer has already come to see me and ask when it will be ready. I tell him sometime in December for all of my books and it will not change. He is getting pressure from many collectors and dealers for it because they know he is my printer and he is also a collector and an IBNS member.

The item on the case against repatriating museum artifacts reminds me of a past incident;

Many years ago I was went to a particular Southeast Asia national museum to see their numismatic exhibit. When I saw it, I got very excited because I saw a very rare coin in it. That evening at a collector's house, who happens to be very rich, I mentioned seeing the rare coin in the museum. He smiled and told me he had donated it to them so they could show every coin from a short dynasty of kings. I thanked him for doing that so dealers, collectors and the public could actually see the real thing.

A couple of years later, I was back at the same museum and went to their exhibit. The very rare coin had been replaced with a replica! What happened? It was an excellent replica but not authentic and definitely not the coin I saw during my last visit.

That evening in the donor's house, I told him what I saw. He was shocked and it ruined his evening. I apologized for bringing him the bad news. The next evening I received an email from him. He had gone to the museum; saw that his coin was replaced with a replica; and talked to the curator. The curator would not tell him what happened to his donated coin. The donor yelled at him and he finally said that the museum director had found a buyer for it; sold it; and pocketed the money!

My friend will never donate another piece to the museum and will sell the rest of his collection in a future Hong Kong auction, rather than keeping it in his home country. So even when many of these countries have pieces repatriated to them, that does not mean it will not end up back on the international marketplace. There are a few unethical people in a few museums and the rare pieces are slowly going out the back door!

When I read about a particular country pushing for repatriation, all I see flashing before my eyes are those few museum people enriching themselves at a later date by selling it.....sometimes a second or third time! It is not in every Southeast Asian museum but one can ruin the reputation of the others.

To read the complete article, see:
THE CASE AGAINST REPATRIATING MUSEUM ARTIFACTS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v17n44a29.html)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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