Proof! The conclusion reported by Cain World in its October 9th edition is that Dr. Stanley Hegler finally has the proof required to satisfy skeptics who spurned the Black Sea Hoard's authenticity. Dr. Flegler went to Bulgaria himself and surfaced "die-links" and stylistic matches in Bulgarian museums. For the amount of effort Dr. Flegler has expended in trying to prove his contention that the Apollonia and Mesembria diobols are genuine - we should all stand in awe. The sheer tenacity of this scientist from Michigan has to evoke a certain admiration. Dr. Flegler's much publicized "proofs" and the predictable rebuttals from certain members of the numismatic community have become old hat. Why don't we just accept the ''fact'' that Dr. Flegler is right, and the coins are genuine? In a full-page ad (contiguous with the Coin World article) offering the diobols for sale, Heritage Rare Coin (the primary holder of Black Sea Hoard coins) calls the controversy over authenticity" one of the biggest controversies the field of ancient numismatics has seen in years". The ad goes on to proclaim Dr. Flegler's new proof as "the triumph of science over speculation" and "proof that arrogance breeds ignorance". The ad refers to the diobols as "the little coins that stumped the big shots".
Yours truly is alluded to in the ad as one of the "certain experts" [thank you] who "stubbornly refused to acknowledge the results of exhaustive scientific testing" and "could not bear to suffer such a loss of face at the h ands of modern technology".
This criticism is barely worth response, but I will simply state that I have no personal interest or stake in this matter. My ego is not at stake, nor is my reputation. I have offered my opinion it is only that. I am not a scientist, nor am I a professional classicist. I hold a master's degree in Art History, with a specialization in ancient numismatics, but that is hardly a professional reputation to defend. I have absolutely nothing to gain by condemning the Black Sea Hoard coins. Why am I vocal about the issue? Because I would like to see all doubt removed before these or any other questionable finds are disseminated.
What of all this new proof? I am sure to be roundly condemned by some, and re-branded as arrogant, ignorant, etc., but l still have deep reservations and the proofs I see offered continue to fall short of removing the lingering doubt. Scientific proof demands a scientific approach, and that means that all possibilities have to be accounted for.
The Coin World article reports that the Black Sea Hoard is composed of two distinct styles, the "regular style" and the "wild style", implying that a hoard [of genuine coins] might have been salted with modem counterfeits. If this is so, what of the 40 specimens examined by Dr. Hegler in his laboratory? Some of them were "wild style", but all were proclaimed genuine.
Actually, the facts (as well as reports from the field) support the "salted hoard" theory. Readers may remember some time back when John Cummings related to Celator readers his own experience in Germany where he found what he felt were genuine and fake coins of this type co-mingled. Other reports indicate that genuine coins have been "cherry-picked" from bulk lots of this material. Salting is a very common practice among certain suppliers of hoard material and the practice is well known to western numismatists who have learned to be wary of it. If this is the case, the real question of course is which coins are real? Unfortunately, the very coins that intuition tells us we should suspect as fake are the same coins that Dr. Hegler has declared authentic. As for the "die-links" that are supposed to exist in Bulgarian museums, the photos have been examined by very reputable and knowledgeable western numismatists and found not to be die-links at all. In fact, one prominent museum curator characterized the hoard coin as "imitative" of its non-hoard (Bulgarian museum) "link".
Although we are all sick of the Black Sea Hoard, this issue is too important to ignore. We simply have to get at the truth - and We eventually will. The issue is far from dead and not even a mighty publication like Coin World can bury it in a gilded coffin. Meanwhile, the coins are being advertised and sold. With all the notoriety, they will undoubtedly become collectibles, whether genuine or not.
Our mailbox was really loaded with letters this month. We are especially happy to see letters which relate to the articles published in past issues. This interaction is the essence of what we have been trying to achieve. It is very gratifying for us to be able to bring enthusiasts together in this way. Of course, they are your articles, and it is your response that makes it all happen.
We have not been very active at national shows recently, partly due to an overload here at home, but the situation is much improved, and we should be on the road again soon. It'll be good to see some of our friends that time and circumstances have kept apart from us. In the meantime, we look forward to hearing your point of view.