Thursday, September 01, 2005


Check out the full article at but here's just a taste of what's going on with folks taking advantage of the antiquities market:

EBay Bidders Find Way to Fix Highest Bid
UPDATE 8-15: Casino Falls Victim to EBay Sniper Trap

A picture which I couldn't get to come up shows (LEFT) - Priceless gypsum statue of Nani from the temple of Ishtar at Mari. Fara/Ur I Period, c. 2900-2460 B.C. Height 46.4 cm. Damascus Museum. Photo from Fuenftausend Jahre Mesopotamien, Hirmer Verlag (1962).

Then on the RIGHT - A Worthless fake, listed on eBay as an authentic "Sumerian Stone Statue of a Seated Male," circa 2900-2450 B.C. (Item number: 7339274848). It sold for $3,726.00 on Monday, August 1, 2005. Collectors around the world noticed the item up for sale and noted that it showed no signs of age, but did show signs of artificial aging. Also, the proportions of the figure were "wrong." The shoulders of true Sumerian figures are wider. Said one observer, "The one on eBay looks more like the Travelocity Roaming Gnome."

More realistic prices for authentic Sumerian statues are posted below, all realized at auction.

EBAY "SNIPER TRAP" - In the final minute of bidding an unidentified bidder placed a bid of $14,800, only to retract the bid 15 seconds later. The effect of this tactic would be to instantly fire off automatic bids for all the other bidders, up to their maximums. By flushing out the maximum set by a bidder on July 31, 2005, a trap was set for the closing 28 seconds of the electronic auction. The con worked. Six seconds before the end of sale, a "sniper" (or last-second aggressively high) bid was placed and the winner was trapped at $3,726.00. Since the seller had arranged for this particular auction to be a "Private Listing," all of the bidders' identities are kept secret -- including those of 2 bid retractors.

SIGNS OF COLLUSION ON EBAY - There are signs that 2 computers were jointly involved in the second retraction which set the "sniper trap." There is no mechanism on eBay to allow a bidder to instantly retract a bid. The bidder must go to another section of eBay and complete a form. The form requires a proper explanation from the bidder for the retraction, to be selected from a short list of explanations; the phrase "no payment" -- as indicated in the item's bidding history -- is not on this list. Only the seller can submit a form to cancel a bid and provide an unlisted explanation. In this case, the phrase "no payment" would be premature since the auction had not yet ended. In spite of all these issues, the retraction was successfully executed just 15 seconds after the bid was placed.

Angela Schuster will be speaking to the Archaeological Associates November 17 at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich -- If you aren't near by, check her book "The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia" edited by Milbry Polk and Angela Schuster; Abrams, $35.


Iraq Museum International recommends notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of any crime or suspicious activity involving Iraqi cultural property.

Any member of the public may call 1-866-347-2423 to speak directly to an agent, file a report, and set up a password account for future reports.


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7:22 PM  

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