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Etiquette of a Gentleman Collector

Pg3, Vol.XXXIV, No.4, 2000, “Prehistoric American”

For 31 years, most of my editorializ­ing has been the subject of Frauds, etc. This is the forty eighth publication I have produced for the GIRS, and I have chosen a subject that I believe is impor­tant as our society grows in the 21 cen­tury.

Allow me to digress for a moment. The year is 1968. My best friend and hunting partner James Allen Wood offers me an invitation to attend a GIRS meet­ing in Columbus, Indiana. It is hosted by fine gentlemen collectors: Marion “Horsefly ” Bush, brother Billy Bush and Dr.Marvin Hawes. Guests were per­mitted to attend only when accompanied by a dues paying member. I had never known an opportunity of attending such an affair. Gray LaDassor of St.Louis was the society president and he ruled with an iron hand. I noticed him advising sev­eral dealers with questionable relics to remove them or leave the show!

In the late 60’s the GIRS had two clas­sifications of membership: one a sub­scribing member who received journals and could attend society meetings, the other classification was termed “active membership.” This required recommen­dation by two active members and approval by all active members. I was elated to be accepted. Within the year, I was nominated for the office of Secretary by Dr.Stanley Copeland and elected. Over the next thirty two years I was appointed Editor in Chief of the society publication on three occasions and also served three terms as President. Enough digression.

The subject of this editorial should be stated as “What is the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior as a collector ?”

A Gentlemen (or Lady) collector would never cheat a fellow collector in a transaction of his or her own making or one orchestrated by a cohort. They never pass on questionable artifacts to another person. Some avoid the “taint” of bad artifact transgressions by engaging a “straw” man to do their dirty work. Does this relieve responsibility? I don’t think so!

Another requisite is to never barge in on another person’s transaction. This behavior is wrong. And there’s the greedy persons who knock the competi­tion then say “come buy from me!” You don’t need to degrade another’s artifacts in order to sell your own!

One problem that deserves serious attention from the directors and officers of any society. That is possibly allowing known dishonest persons to enjoy table space at sanctioned shows. If such activ­ity is obvious, the offenders should be escorted to the door, and if repetitious, barred from future attendance.

At a recent show, several friends noticed a known artifact thief shaking hands with reputable collectors and deal­ers. No one is so financially destitute that they need to allow persons known for cheating their fellow members. What do you think?

I  am concerned about young and novice collector/members. When they observe behavior that is less than lady­like or gentlemanly, what do you sup­pose they think? The young always emu­late the action of elders. Do we want to pass on that type of legacy to generations who succeed us? I think not!

I am committed to the purposes of our societies as much today as I was 31 years ago. Are you willing to stand up for our societies? Thank you.

“Used by Permission of the Author” and originally published in American Indian Artifacts; Genuine or

Reproduction by Col. John F. Berner. Copyright © 2000 by American Antiquities, Inc.