[ExI] Antiques as a store of value

PJ Manney pjmanney at gmail.com
Wed Feb 13 06:00:43 UTC 2008

On Feb 12, 2008 8:58 PM, Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 13/02/2008, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:
> > My point is that (still to be invented nanotech) molecular copying
> > will produce another absolutely identical specimen. Not a copy, not a
> > print, not a similar object, but an object that is atom by atom
> > identical.
> > Put two in the same room and nobody will be able to tell the difference.
> > They will both have the same spots of the artist's blood where he cut
> > his finger, etc. Every test you can do, x-rays, carbon dating,
> > chemical paint testing, will all come up with the same results.
> >
> > If you cannot know which is the original, where is the added value?
> And there's the rub. You can know which is the original, but you have
> to keep your eye on it. It becomes a shell game.
> I'd expect these markets to respond to the kinds of copying you
> propose with an increasingly intense system of tracking the originals
> at all times. As long as you can keep some hopefully trustworthy,
> hopefully infallible technological eye on the prize at all times, it
> stays a prize.
> It might break down eventually due to fraud, of course.

Sorry, I misunderstood Bill.  I understand now.  You're talking about
authentication in a nanotech world.  And you have a good theoretical

But the problem already exists.  As the science of forgery detection
improves, so does the science of forgery itself.  But there have
always been forgeries.  Art forgery has a long and ignoble history.
Even Michaelangelo made forged pieces.  Some experts think up to 40%
of the art market are fakes!  Having seen some of the stuff out there,
I wouldn't be surprised.  ;-)

There is, however, a precedent to Emlyn's notion of tracking.  It's
called provenance.  Let's say there are two pieces of equal artistic
value by the same artist.  The piece that is owned by Sting or Jackie
Kennedy or Catherine the Great has greater value than the identical
piece owned by Joe Smith of Middletown, just by association with a
famous person.  So provenance would add value.  It can also add proof
of authenticity, which in turn adds value.  Because of this,
provenance has always been important, but will only become more so in
the future.

Of course, provenance can be forged, too.

You're also saying a switcheroo could take place.  That's true.  Rumor
has it that switcheroos have happened already, where fakes replace
originals, but I can't remember the specific cases.

Also, theft of valuable art objects is a big business.  Some think
stolen and forged art and collectibles is the third largest business
on Earth, because of the huge amount that passes out of and through
Asia, Africa, etc.  Imagine if you could make perfect copies...

According to the article about the Swiss theft, only 20% of stolen art
objects are recovered, although it's damned hard to fence a world
famous piece of art.  Sometimes it's stolen for ransom, sometimes on
contract.  I have been told by those who should know that some of the
famous pieces not recovered will be eventually discovered in the
collections of certain Middle Eastern sultanates and Russian
oligarchs.  So keep your eyes out for that stolen Monet next time you
visit your friendly neighborhood Gazprom tycoon!  (Not that it would
matter -- Europe has lax laws regarding stolen merchandise that
protects the supposed "innocent buyer" by conferring ownership after 5
years.  Since some major artworks are stolen on contract and anyone
can call themselves 'innocent' while bellowing, "Get me that Van
Gogh!" -- it's a joke of a law.)

There are already companies who do nothing but track stolen art.  Now
take the world I just outlined and add your nano-scenario.  Entire
protective and tracking industries will grow from this!  Buy stock
now! <kidding>

Bottomline: Where money flows, crime follows.


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