Dec 16, 2013

    The other side of the coin

    THE article titled "Rare M'sian coins being sold illegally on eBay" (MyPaper, Dec 13) may give the impression that there is an underground "network" buying and selling artefacts and gold coins illegally.

    I would like to make a few clarifications on this issue.

    The regions of the Malaya Peninsula and Indonesia's Sumatra and Java islands are rich in history, where many kingdoms - prominent or small - existed. Many forms of currencies, like the animal-shaped currency mentioned in the article, were used by the people of those historical kingdoms.

    In numismatic terms, I would refer to them as a form of ancient payment or ancient currency, rather than coins. It is even doubtful whether those animal-shaped artefacts could be considered as a form of currency. This doubt was echoed by some numismatic scholars from the Chinese Numismatic Society participating in the Singapore Numismatic Forum in 2007.

    Secondly, despite being deemed illegal in Malaysia, transactions of such animal-shaped artefacts and hexagonal gold coins of the Johor Empire are legal in Singapore and many other countries. Many antique shops, even some flea markets in Singapore, openly sell the artefacts and gold coins. Such transactions in Malaysia are also common.

    Thirdly, the ancient kingdoms, including the Johor Empire, have been divided into three modern countries - West Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Most animal-shaped artefacts were found in modern Indonesian territory, not in the Malaya Peninsula. How can the Malaysian authorities confiscate these artefacts and gold coins that were excavated in Indonesia?

    It makes no sense to call the selling and buying of these items on eBay illegal. It would be impossible for the Malaysian government to bar the transaction in such items on eBay or on other countries' soil. Nor should such transactions be called "illegal" as long as they are not exported through Malaysian Customs.

    Secretary of Numismatic Society (Asia)