On Wayne Sayles's ancient coin collecting blog, architect Duncan Finch comments on the growing conviction in some circles that terrorist groups are being funded by money supplied by coin collectors:
There are numerous 'well-meaning' people who keep claiming that groups like ISIS support themselves by smuggling works of art, including, of course, coins. When people active in numismatics ask where these supposed floods of rare coins (which finance so much) actually are, since there seems to no even vaguely abnormally flood of such things on the market, they are told, "oh, bad dealers are hiding them for 10/20 years until they are less hot." This implies that there are dealers or buyers who are happy to pay large amounts of money for things they cannot sell for up to 20 years, thus losing huge amounts of money in lost interest. How does this work do they think? Normal dealers now, if they buy a large group of coins, try to sell them off as fast as possible in order to make back their investment. This is because wholesale prices are usually very high. This can be compared to the old days, when Jacob Hirsch could buy the balance of the Rhousopoulos collection in 1905 at a price so low that he still had large numbers at his death in 1955, So if the supposed buyers from ISIS are buying coins now, they have to buy them at fantastically low prices, otherwise they will lose their shirts (or thobes as the case may be). Does this supply ISIS with vast sums of money (low, low wholesale)?. I bet that if these characters do find silver or gold coins they have them melted down to infinitely more convenient and readily salable bars of bullion.Mr Sayles confirms that the latter is the case:
Duncan; Thank you for sharing this rational view. I served in the U.S. Air Force for 20+ years and four of those years were in source countries where ancient coins were technically illegal to sell or purchase. In visiting the public market places, which was a popular off-duty pastime for many, it was not a bit unusual to find buyers and sellers of scrap metal. One could find objects of virtually every sort of metal just heaped in piles mainly by the composition of the item. I have on numerous occasions seen metal washtubs full of copper and bronze coins — from every era including the ancient past — being sold by the kilogram. What one does not see in those shops, are coins struck in precious metals. Not even coins completely devoid of images nor damaged beyond usefulness as collectables. I suspected, even then, that the coins with intrinsic value were being melted down and reworked into jewelry or other salable objects.This is confirmed by other distinguished observers with experience in the matter:
When I met Bill Spengler, after I had retired from the military, he confirmed that he had witnessed that same activity in the bazaars of Afghanistan and Pakistan where he served with the U.S. State Department as Consular General. He actually observed ancient and medieval coins being melted down for that purpose — sometimes an entire hoard of coins being lost, along with the knowledge that could have been extracted and preserved by a reasonable antiquities policy and legitimate market. The problem, of course, is that ideological, political and diplomatic interests always have outweighed reason and probably always will.