Thursday, December 12, 2013

Could Egypt use $350,000 per year for site protection?

The indispensable David Gill offers an updated chart of antiquities sales at Sotheby's with a breakdown for Egyptian artifacts. Gill's focus is on the downward trend suggesting Sotheby's is being more careful about provenance. But just as important is what this chart tells us about the revenue stream generated by antiquities sales -- a revenue stream that I would suggest could and should be tapped to provide a sustainable source of financing for anti-looting efforts.

Imagine a 5% tax on the roughly $7 million of revenues from Egyptian antiquities sold at Sotheby's annually, yielding $350K. Take out 20% or so for overhead, roughing out the net at $300K. Now imagine that $300K being injected back into Egypt to support vetted site protection improvement proposals, and/or used to tighten the policing of the international antiquities trade, or poured into research to develop new technologies designed to greatly improve the capacities of police, customs officers, and others trying to control the illicit trade.

Of course, one would not want to tax only the Egyptian sales but all antiquities sold, and not just at Sotheby's. Sotheby's $20 million per annum sales alone would raise $1 million. 

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