The British Museum has complained that antiquities are still being sold on eBay, despite a warning given to sellers that they could be acting illegally.
A month after we blogged the original story, a BM spokesperson said “The number of potential treasure finds for sale on eBay has not noticeably decreased since we began the monitoring process.” Many sellers, whether truthfully or not, have claimed that they are selling items they have bought in good faith themselves. The law as it stands requires the discoverer of potential Treasure objects to report them, but doesn’t confer a similar obligation on subsequent purchasers.
Though eBay has made the selling of antiquities very much more obvious than it has been in the past, they are neither the cause of nor the sole channel for this trade. eBay cannot be expected in these cases to act above or outside the law, by regulating sellers who are not acting illegally. If we as a country wish important artefacts to be saved for national collections and for study, rather than being sold off to private collectors and part of our heritage being lost, there is a clear and urgent need for new legislation.