Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kushano-Sasanian coins are kind of interesting

Last week I posted on import restrictions on Roman coins. That post got 13 replies -- a much higher volume than my usual posts. Looking over my earlier posts, I see 16 posts that received zero comments and then one on import restrictions on Egyptian coins that somehow got 12 replies. It seems my readership is mostly interested in Customs issues.

When I started this blog I had hoped to write about computers and ancient coins, but those posts seem to attract little interest. In the past I have asked readers what they want to see here, but have gotten merely generic encouragement.

Wayne Sayles recently blogged about collecting coins that others ignore. I think Wayne is on to something so I will write about that. Lately I have been interested in pre-Islamic coins and have applied to join the Oriental Numismatic Society.

My latest coin is a Kushano-Sasanian bronze of Peroz I from Balkh circa 245-270 AD. The obverse is said to read ΠIPΩZO OOZOPKO KOÞANO ÞOYO (Peroz the great, Kushan king) and depicts king Peroz standing facing, head left, sacrificing over altar and holding a trident in his left hand.

The reverse is said to read OOPZAOANΔO IAZAΔO (Exhalted God) but I don't know how they get that — I can't make out a single letter on any of the examples I've seen! It depicts the Exhalted God (Siva?) standing facing, holding diadem and trident, before the bull Nandi. The bull has very odd feet on this coin and several other specimens that I have seen.

For those interested in provenance and import issues this coin comes from the collection of Robert N. Cook, Jr. of Graham, North Carolina. The collection was largely assembled 50 years ago in Indian and Afghanistan. Unfortunately I have no documentation for this particular coin before a February 2015 auction.

Wayne's post advises you to collect what others are not interested in. This particular coin sold, unattributed, in a lot of 24 Kushan coins that went for $2 each at auction. They buyer flipped it on eBay for 10x that, misattributed as the Kushan ruler Vasudeva. It is likely that these coins will be more appreciated in a few years after dealers start using the new reference, Kushan, Kushano-Sasanian, and Kidarite Coins: A Catalogue of Coins from the American Numismatic Society, by David Jongeward and Joe Cribb with Peter Donovan. I have not seen that work yet but eagerly anticipate publication.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Indian and Chinese also come to mind. Chinese coins in particular were made in such great quantities that they are very common even today. There are 3 problems though: (1) import restrictions on Tang and earlier coins; (2) the difficulty in reading the legends; and (3) the large number of fakes out there-- which are hard to detect because the original production method-- casting-- is easy to replicate.

Ed Snible said...

I am very impressed with Calgary Coin's Chinese Identification Guide.

Paul Barford said...

The issue however is not just when Mr Cook bought the coins, but when and how they left the source countries (both of which have legislation on the matter). Did you ask the seller if you could see documentation of licit (or even legal) export?

Ed Snible said...

I bought two ex-Robert Cook lots from the current seller. The other lot was another Kushan coin, this one with an old envelope that include a description and "Purchased Taxila Aug '63". The lot I blogged about here has no documentation.

The old envelope has the weight recorded in different, more modern ink, so it is only an assumption the envelope has been with the coin for fifty years. So basically nothing.

Taxila is an ancient city and World Heritage Site in northern Pakistan. I was unable to get export or import documentation for either coin.

If it is interesting to readers I can look into the particulars of exporting coins from Pakistan, India, and Afganistan in the 1960s.

Paul, send me an email so I may contact you privately about your postal address.

Cultural Property Observer said...

It's my understanding there was a vibrant and quite open market for coins and anfiquities in Kabul in the 1960's and early 70's. This came to an end when first the Communists and then the Taliban came in. The dealers apparently decamped to Pakistan. I'm not sure what the laws are there exactly, but there was news awhile back about Pakistani generals collecting ancient artifacts from Afghanistan. As for Afghanistan again, they did issue export permits for artifacts, but I suspect they thought coins too common too common for them to bother. I see Mr. Barford is taking you to task for buying these coins without verifiying legal export (how are you supposed to do that)? I'm personally still waiting for him to explan how he knows how the Japanese prints he collects were exported legally from that country. I asked awhile back and never got a satisfactory response. He apparently bought them in Poland, but under his own standards (not mine) that should not matter to his due dilligence efforts.

David Knell said...

As someone deeply concerned about the conservation of archaeological sites, I welcome your sincere effort to avoid encouraging their looting by insisting on only acquiring coins with a provenance (collecting history). The provenance in this case is indeed a little speculative but I think it would be unrealistic to hold a private collector acquiring a 'minor' antiquity to precisely the same standard as a public institution acquiring a major item. As we all know, it is extremely rare for minor objects to retain the same level of documentation as major objects and, as has been pointed out, such artefacts were freely exported from many 'source' countries within living memory. Although the evidence that your coin was exported legally is only circumstantial, you do at least have evidence that makes sense and I think in some cases we have to give an object the benefit of the doubt.

While the conservation movement seeks an ideal, I believe a degree of pragmatism is also called for sometimes. Your conscientious attitude is a very far cry from that of many 'couldn't care less' collectors - and, in my opinion, that is to be warmly encouraged and applauded.

I totally agree that exploring less known avenues is more exciting than rehashing old ground (I did much the same in furniture research some years ago). You have an interesting coin.

Paul Barford said...

As I said, the issue is not when Mr Cook or Mr Pinder-Wilson acquired the coins, it is a matter of when and how they were taken out of the country. I do not see how Mr Tompa can say that "coins were not important" when on his own blog he published information about a man who reportedly received a death sentence for sending coins out of Afghanistan illegally.

Peter Tompa, the lawyer, asks how you are supposed to verify legal export. How about going to a dealer that can demonstrate to its clients that the only goods they have in their stockrooms have been legally exported from the source country? Is the well-known Holyland Numismatics which you patronised one of those firms?

It seems a bit late now to try and find out the details about the legislation of the source countries after the coin has been bought. The time for that is before you decide to buy. It's what we call due diligence.

CPO is "not sure what the laws are there exactly", just the same as he is totally ignorant (the words of a specialist dealer I consulted on his insistence) on the legislation concerning Japanese antiques and prints. I suggest Mr Tompa obtain some INFORMED specialist advice in these fields if he wants to avoid making false accusations.

While Cultural Property Observer is unclear what the Afghan and Indian laws are, you can find them on my blog (Friday, 3 April 2015)

Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford is being hypocritical once again. He apparently only "investigated" whether his Japanese prints were legally exported AFTER being called on it. And, it's not all that clear whether any export was legal. Judge for yourself.

Insults are no substitute for analysis. Perhaps he can identify his expert and report exactly what he said about Japanese prints. I've been waiting since 2010 for a real answer.

Paul Barford said...

No, no hypocrisy, no export licence is needed for the prints being discussed, but if a "cultural property lawyer" calls that into question, then of course I double checked. Mr Tompa was and is wrong.

I find this rather odd, because as he'd know if he really looked into it, Japan operates just the sort of system of designation of "cultural property of national importance" that Tompa says (elsewhere and in another context) is the only "right way". Obviously for the lobbyist something is good only if it applies to what his paymasters want, bad if it benefits Mr Barford.

No "insults" are "substituting for analysis", when it comes to his knowledge of Japanese cultural property legislation, Mr Tompa's silly accusations about my nineteenth century prints were (and are) way off mark, and it was simply a waste of time (mine and everyone else's) listening to him on such matters.

It is a shame that since 2010, since he made his baseless accusations, Mr Tompa has not been able to determine for himself what the 'real answer' is.

All of which however is a distraction from what we are talking about here, which is the removal of ancient coins from source countries in central Asia to a US dealer's stockroom.

Peter Tompa, the lawyer, asks how you are supposed to verify legal export, but it seems he wants to talk about Koryusai and not Morris Khouli as an importer.

Cultural Property Observer said...

If Mr. Barford actually read my blog post I linked, he would note that a real Japanese legal export is quoted as saying items of national importance for Japan are not given export licenses, but other items are given them. Let's assume that Mr. Barford's prints are not of national importance (a good assumption), but that does not mean they didn't require export permits. Mr. Barford continues to demand proof of such things from ancient coin collectors even though ancient coins as a class are far more common than the Japanese prints he collects. He should thus be held to at least the standard he requires of others if not a higher one given his moralistic tone. So, we are still waiting for a citation to an official Japanese Government law, regulation or guidance that proves that antique Japanese prints can be exported from Japan without a license.

Paul Barford said...

For goodness' sake ! We have actually been over all this, five years ago. There is a one very significant fact about exports of antiques from Japan not mentioned in his two-minute presentation at the Japanese society by Washizuka Hiromitsu which seems to be Tompa's main, if not only, source of information here. And that is why the US dealers in Japanese prints I talked to five years ago spoke most unflatteringly of his apparent expertise. Once again, the prints I bought did not and do not need export licences to leave Japan totally legally.

That is not however what one can say about a Kushan coin leaving India or Afghanistan after 1958. I really think we need to get back to the subject of this post, rather than allowing Mr Tompa to sidetrack us onto nineteenth century woodblock prints.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Love it. Mr. Barford is relying on unnamed US dealers of Japanese prints for assurances no export permit is needed for such items from Japan rather than someone recognized by the Japan Society for his expertise. Sitll waiting for a citation to a Japanese law, regulation or guidance that proves that Mr. Barford's prints are "licit" under his own stringent standards. Obviously, if Barford had that information, he would have provided it five years ago. At a minimum, this shows its not always that clear what the law may be and its asking a lot of collector or small business to be expert in such matters. And for goodness sake, we are talking about common coins not artifacs of cultural significance.

Paul Barford said...

I "provided that information five years ago" and then went to the dealers specifically to get some quotable quotes about you and Bailey and Ehrenburg's "expertise" in citing (you did not) a single citation of Japanese law instead of a website report of a chat about art dealing. They were not flattering.

In contradistinction to printed works and other antiques which in most countries (like Japan and the UK) only come under control above a certain value, there are certain types of collectables and goods which do require certain documentation to be licitly exported, for most countries that includes all archaeological artefacts - regardless of financial value.

Mr Snible, I see you note with satisfaction that you only get comments when discussing "Customs issues". If getting comments is your aim, you have now achieved it with a post on Kushan coins. Thirteen comments, most of them off-topic bickering about nineteenth and twentieth century printed items and Mr Tompa's misguided 'two-wrongs-make-a-right' type sniping at me. Bravo.