Summary of discussion on southasia-coins eGroup.
From: William F. Spengler
Date: 2000 Aug 31, 2000 11:32am
I have just seen the extensive offer of coins from India, many of them
over 100 years old. Note that the offer makes no mention of the
condition of the offered material and over-uses the term "rare" where
inappropriate. Moreover, the vendor does not explain how he proposes
to export the material from a country with rules and regulations
governing the export of antiquities.
FYI: As a test case, I have had a group of common ancient and medieval
Indian coins tied up in Mumbai for years trying to secure official
permission from the GOI for their export, without result. Indian law
does have provisions permitting the export of old coins other than
gold with approval of the requisite authorities, but it simply doesn't
Let's hear some discussion of this question.
From: Robert Tye
Date: 2000 Aug 31, 2:54pm
I have heard for years anecdotes about such problems with getting
export regulations to work, so am delighted to hear that you have made
the effort get to the bottom of some of the facts on this. However, my
greater fear these days are not about the failure of old regulations
that are fundamentally benign to collecting, (even if they do not
work). It is a whole raft of new UN legislation that threatens to
destroy private coin collecting altogether if fully
implemented. Today, in the US I see a whole new enthusiastic
generation of private coin collectors keen to expand numismatic
scholarship. Yet Italy now seems to be joining the ranks of Greece and
Turkey, life long collectors are selling up and getting out of the
hobby, in fear of the new regulations.
Coin collectors want to see coin find spots and coin hoard contents
recorded just as much as professional archaeologists. Coin collectors,
who include lots of practical people from all walks of life, need to
get their voice heard by politicians, to correct the well meant but
naive contentions being pushed by the ivory tower academics.
There is a fundamental difference between organised plundering of
known ancient sites for prestige antiquities in stone etc, a practice
which cannot be defended, and the finding of coins either by accident
or by optimistic 'treasure hunters'. It is undeniable that digging up
statues etc is being driven by wealthy collectors, but this is not
true for coins. Digging up coin has always gone on, just for the
metal, and if it were not for collectors, the finds themselves would
mostly be melted and lost.
Thus I was very pleased to see in the debate between Alan and Scott
(VanArsdale 22-8-00) the observation that "Field prices in India are
about 25% over bullion value for fanams as found, unpicked for rare
coins. Field buyers then bring the coins into large central
distributors" This goes towards confirming that the collector value of
coins to the finder is still of very little significance, and so
cannot be what motivates digging.
Other evidence has come my way independently. Maybe I will post this
later if others are interested - this message has got long enough for
From: Stephen Album
Date: 2000 Aug 31, 8:48pm
Robert Tye's comments are very much to the point. As it turns out, I
was present at the 1972 Tehran UNESCO conference at which the
"Convention on Antiquities and Cultural Artifacts" (approximate title)
was presented and agreed. In a private conversation several days
afterwards, the then Iranian minister of culture, who as part of his
job had given a glowing talk at the conference about how great this
was, told me what a disaster this would be. In particular, he feared
that coins of silver and especially gold would simply be melted, in
order at least to salvage their bullion value.
In my opinion, the one country that has really dealt sensibly and
thoughtfully with the matter of antique coins is Britain, whose laws
encourage finders to come forth with their discoveries, without fear
of their finds being confiscated. I've spend much of the past four
years working at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where we received an
average of five or six coin finds every week, for identification and
recording. If the Museum decided it wants the coin, it has the right
to place a hold on it for a limited period of time, in which to
purchase the coin at current market value. Of course, the Museum
might ask the finder to donate the piece, perhaps in exchange for a
nice report about this wonderful person who was so kind to give the
coin to the Museum. But the Brits have it right, and it is both
academics and collectors (therefore also dealers) who benefit.
One remarkable result has been that because finders are encouraged to
report their finds and findspots, it has been possible to create maps
of circulation regions of such largely anepigraphic series as the
Celtic coinage. The result is that numismatists can today report that
such and such a type must have been issued by this or that Celtic
people/tribe, because the finds are concentrated in such-and-such an
area. Government, museums and local historically societies cooperate
closely with local detectorists (that's what they are called in the
UK), with results that are beneficial for all. This is how it should
I wonder to what extent the draconian regulations in some countries
are due not to a desire to protect sites and antiquities, but to
maintain private cosy relationships between some officials and those
"finders" and "handlers" from whom they receive bribes. An
interesting point, but I won't pursue it here.
From: Dilip Rajgpr
Date: 2000 Sep 1, 9:10am
There are strict regulations governing the export of coins and
antiguities from India. There is an Antiquities and Art Treasures Act
which regulates such activities. A prospective exporter need to have
a) From the Archaeological Survey of India. He should get an NOC from
the Survey people with respect to each and every coin to be
b) From the Reserve Bank of India for the Export of Goods.
What is offered is no doubt under the sphere of the Act. Hence it is
recommended that we should not encourage such activities. And he
himself should clarify all the legal points.
Personally I do not want that this space faceing some allegations.
From: Satya Bhupatiraju
Date: 2000 Sep 6, 00:10am
Repost of an saved an article that might be relevant to the important
issue regarding regulations proposed by the UN raised by Mr. Robert Tye.
Sent: Dr. Koenraad Verboven
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History of Europe,
Blandijnberg 2 9000 Ghent (Belgium)
Do collectors of coins/antiquities interfere with our understanding
of ancient history as told by archeologists/historians ?
Archaeology is not about artefacts, it's about finding things out,
i.e. it's about information. Artefacts both contain information in
themselves and (more importantly) contribute to the information
contained in the various pockmarks 'Man' has left on the Earth's
face. Taking an artefact out of its archaeological context inevitably
means destroying information, it's a bit like cutting miniatures out
of Medieval manuscript and then throwing the rest away. Of course,
often enough a particular site or find-spot is archaeologically of
only marginal importance, but not always. Cutting miniatures
out a prayer book generally won't make much difference to our
knowledge of Medieval or Ancient History, but what if that manuscript
just happened to be the sole surviving copy of e.g. Aristotle's
treatise on laughter?
Suppose I know something about you, of which you are not aware but
that is of great interest to you. For instance, let's say you're an
orphan. Your parents died when you where a toddler and I'm the only
one alive who knew them well. Would I have the moral right to refuse
to answer your questions, would you have a moral right to know your
parents, who they were, what they were liked, what they loved, what
they believed in (did they love each other, did they love you, would
they have approved of you?) We're all a bit like that orphan, and Time
is that old friend concealing from us what our forefather's (and
-mothers) were like, what they loved and what they believed in. It's
the job of archaeologists and historians to get that information, it's
up to the People to decide at what cost.
It's not an easy debate. Many artefacts are also things of beauty' and
a joy for ever'. Archaeology is not concerned with beauty. Have
archaeologists the right to deprive others of joy? Not by to my book -
I don't think archaeologists as archaeologists should even have
anything to say in this. The bottom line is that it's a matter of
political priorities: private joy of private collections versus public
joy of public collection versus knowledge of our common history. The
decision should be up to the People, not to people - whether they be
archaeologists or collectors.
I make an appeal to all professional dealers in coins. YOUR
CATALOGUES ARE OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO US. PLEASE BE METICULOUS IN
MENTIONING ALL PARTICULAR DETAILS (weight, die-axis, control-marks,
countermarks, etc.) AND INCLUDE A GOOD PHOTOGRAPH OF ALL YOUR
COINS. These details are important and can help e.g. in establishing
chronologies or distinguishing dies.
From: Rusty Morse
Date: 2000 Sep 6, 8:06am
As a semi-professional historian I'll log on with more than a passing
understanding of how "collecting" operates- There are at least two
classes of collectors- institutional and individual The Institutional
collector is often a saleried, historically trained individual who has
no personal proprietory interest in the objects he works with. He (or
she) may indeed love the study of them, but the presence or absence of
a particular item in the collection they oversee is tempered with the
nature of his terms of employment. Because of his general ties to the
funding agency that pays his salery, often a Governmental agency, he
(or She) has leverage to pursuade lawmakers to assist his acquisition
of items for the collection he oversees.
Little mention is made in this process about "de-acquisition." Museums
often "swap" or trade duplicates or similar items with either other
public or private "collectors" with the idea to expand their own range
of holdings. Because there are always individuals of less than
sterling character, or a lack of adequate security of items out of the
pubic eye in collections in institutions, some items indeed
"disappear." Often there is a minimal record that the particular item
was in the institutions collections, so such an event is only
marginally noted, if at all. There is certainly little incentive to
make an issue of one's own failure to protect the institutions'
interest in these matters. Further the access to such institutional
collections is often restricted to all but a few due either location,
or regulations. There are of course exceptions where the particular
institution has a priority of serving coin collectors.
The individual collector, due to his personal proprietory investment,
or at least involvement in the acquisition of the particular item,
generally has a stronger motivation to both secure, but research even
the smaller and less noted items in his (or her) collections. We all
have seen private collectors take great pains to work on areas of
collecting that result in real contributions to both scholarship, and
information about some obscure area. This, on occasion, has given the
general field an entirely new prospective on the area studied. This
labor of love often results with its being shared and thereafter the
hours of privately invested research becomes available for the general
Many unknown ancient collectors enjoyed their collections and for that
careful effort we now can rediscover these hoards. There is a decided
advantage to historical research by the practice of spreading around
the individual items to private collectors. Thereby, the population of
"interested parties" and thus potential researchers.
From: Stan Goron Croydon, UK
Date: 2000 Sep 6, 5:05pm
There has to be a balance between the aspirations of museums in terms
of collection development, of archaeologists in terms of registering
and studying finds, and the desires of collectors. Museums simply
cannot collect everything: they do not have the space; they do not
have the resources to deal with masses of material and they often do
not have the resources to publish what they have in their
collections. This does not stop some people working in museums from
wanting to accumulate every bit of hoard material they can lay their
hands on, irrespective of whether such accumulating serves any
Museums of course vary; as do their staff and the conditions and
regulatory framework within they have to operate. Steve Album recently
commented favourably on the situation in the UK with regard treasure
trove material. This situation allows museums to obtain the material
they require at market prices while allowing the surplus to return to
the finder and thence usually to the coin collecting market.
Collections in UK museums are usually readily accessible to students
and there is a good relationship between museum curators in the coin
field and private collectors. Research is undertaken both by museum
staff and by private collectors and the results are frequently published.
The question regarding archaeological sites and their visitation by
metal-detectorists (or whatever the word is) is another matter. There
are many such sites in the UK both known and probably unknown. It is
impossible to undertake serious and well-managed excavations at all of
them. There are those who say that it is better to just leave them
until such time as resources will allow excavations to take place even
if that may be in the next century or later; others are less patient
and so the present state of affairs is a compromise position which
works to most people's benefit.
Elsewhere, the situation can be very different. If it were left to
museums in India and their curators to publish research on Indian
coins, for example, hardly anything would ever be published. It is all
very well having strict rules about antiquities but if the material is
just stored in bags in museum vaults inaccessible to anyone , never
worked upon or else, if it never reaches museums and is melted down
for jewellery or other uses, then the whole system falls and has
fallen into disrepute and is totally counterproductive.
Overall I suspect that more numismatic research has been undertaken
around the world by private collectors than by museum curators. There
are probably more private collectors than curators; they are not
confined to the hours of 9 to 5 (or whatever) to do their work; they
are keen, not circumscribed by bureaucracies or concerned about career
advancement in their numismatic work. I have written a lot of
generalities. I have also worked in a museum. The ability for private
individuals to collect coins is for me of paramount importance if this
resource is to continue to be well utilised and not languish. One can
go on to consider the way in which coins are studied and the
conclusions drawn from those studies, but that is another matter and
one which could engender plenty of discussion on its own.
From: Karl J. Schmidt, Missouri Southern State College
Date: 2000 Dec 23, 1:03pm
Subj: Query about South Asian Coin Dealers
I am planning a research sabbatical to South Asia, to include visits
to Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
I plan to spend the majority of my time in India and Pakistan.
Can anyone suggest the names of reputable coin dealers in those
countries who deal in ancient South Asian coins (off-list, if more
appropriate, at psa@m...)? And can you also advise me on the legal
issues (if any) of leaving those countries with pre-AD 1200 coins?
From: Kavan Ratnatunga
Date: 2000 Dec 23, 5:40pm
The Antiquites Law makes it is not legal to export any coin
older than 100 years from Sri Lanka. I understand India has
similer laws. I have put some notes and links on the subject
at the bootom of http://coins.lakdiva.org/notes.html
Hope you find it useful.
From: Govind Prabhu
Date: 2000 Dec 25, 9:18pm
I am not sure whether this URL can be of help to you.
It contains few dealer's name and phone number. Phone
number begins with 0XX-XXXXX. The first digit '0' in the
phone number is a STD decode number. You may skip it
if you are making a international call, but then you need
a ISD number +91 before it. I happened to find
this URL while browsing the web. The web contains
some images of Indo-XXX coins - looks interesting.