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Old 21st November 2009, 11:39 PM   #1
A. G. Maisey
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Default Ethics and Policies

I wish to raise a matter that I would like the moderators and members of this Forum to consider.

I have noted a recent increase in threads that are started in this Forum by people known to be dealers or sellers of keris.

These threads are presented as "for your appreciation", "for comments", "to share" etc, etc, type threads, but in fact are thinly disguised advertisements that seek a free appraisal.

Once the thread is up for comment those of us who are able to comment have, I believe, the obligation to comment, as if we do not, inaccurate comment by others could mislead prospective buyers, either positively, or negatively.

However, there is a distinct danger here also, as it is often very, very difficult to accurately appraise any keris from photos. If the appraisal given, either by a single person with knowledge, or by group concensus, is a positive one, it will be used in promotion of the item to be offered for sale. If it is a negative appraisal, the item in question will be reworked and then offered for sale without the appraisal.

In effect, to a large degree I believe that this Forum has become a master class for dealers , as well as an educational facility for students and collectors of the keris.

I personally do not believe that this usage of the Forum by dealers is to the long term benefit of collectors and students of the keris.

Why?

Because a dealer must sell his stock.
If an item of stock is identified as unacceptable the dealer will rework that piece to make it acceptable, or will direct it into an area where he knows his deception will not be recognised.
The unknowledgeable collector will be taken advantage of by the unethical dealer.
Ultimately all of us will suffer.

Some years ago I recall discussion in the main Forum, before the Warung was hived off. This discussion was to the effect that it was dangerous to make too much information publicly available as this then provided a work plan or road map for those who wished to deceive.

We already have a ban on providing valuations.

We have a ban on discussion of items up for auction.

I have some difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that we are prepared to provide appraisals of items that are being offered for sale, or will be offered for sale.

Some of you will know that as a hobby, I deal in keris and I regularly offer a catalogue of keris that I have for sale.

Would it be acceptable for me to publish photos " for comment" of the items that I will include in an upcoming catalogue?

I would suggest that such an action would be totally unacceptable, unethical, and in fact a misuse of this Forum.

At the moment I cannot suggest a remedy for what I see as misuse of this Forum by sellers, to obtain free advertising and appraisals, but I do think that our moderators should consider this question, and that any members with opinions should make those opinions known.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 12:47 AM   #2
Amuk Murugul
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Default HEAR! HEAR! ...:)

Hullo everybody!

Alan, I agree with you wholeheartedly!
On more than one occasion I have had words in an ad ring bells in my head... giving me a sense of deja vu. On checking my posts, I find my words had been 'lifted' verbatim. In some instances, my words were attributed to some other (loftier) entity.
Now you can understand my somewhat reluctance in being too forthcoming or elaborate.
(BTW... wrt another thread, I feel like I'm already part of IA... necessity has made me remember 'who's who' in the marketplace, be it eekPlay or others of its ilk... and the list keeps growing!:O)

Best,

Last edited by Amuk Murugul : 22nd November 2009 at 01:00 AM.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 12:58 AM   #3
fearn
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Hi Alan,

What can I say? Value has a strong social component. For better or worse, it's also part of the story of a piece.

I would also suggest that it's inevitable that all of the keris that you now own will pass out of your hands, either because you sold them, gave them away as gifts, or ultimately, became part of your inheritance. Assuming none of them are destroyed, it is almost inevitable that anything you display on this site will eventually be sold, and their appearance on this site will be part of their provenance. It's unclear to me why it's totally unethical to display items that you hope to sell in the near future, but it's totally ethical to show them if you're not planning on selling them yet.

I'm also puzzled by why reworking is unethical too. If someone puts in some work to improve the quality of a keris (perhaps by dressing and staining it properly, fixing the fittings, and so forth), doesn't that increase its value? Obviously, fraud is possible in reworking, but that, too, can be uncovered on this site. For example, if someone sold me a piece with the pamor silk-screened on, I'd be happy to post a high resolution image of it, as an example of what to be careful of. Then again, I can be a little blunt.

Another way to look at it is to flip it: assume that there's a total ban on selling anything that's displayed on this site. Fewer items will be shown, and certainly some of the most avid collectors who regularly recycle their collections won't bother. Moreover, the items that do appear for sale will have little or no commentary. Is that a good thing? Not to me: I'd rather hear what everyone thinks. While it's not a perfect antidote to fraud, I suspect that multiple opinions do help people better evaluate what they're looking at.

Finally, I'd also gently suggest that one reason we may be seeing more sales is that there's a recession going on, and people's financial situations are changing quickly. Let's allow them to sell their collections if they must.

Best,

F
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Old 22nd November 2009, 01:08 AM   #4
Rick
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Alan,
This is currently under discussion by the Moderators; new rules are being written .

In the meantime .......

I sincerely hope that most of us are able to recognise a covert offer for what it really is when they see one .

Until the new rules are in place we must trust in common sense and do our homework .

If a keris is brought up 'for comment' feel free to express doubts backed up by solid argument .

It goes against, and insults the whole concept of the Warung when someone appears here solely to peddle their wares .

Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the forum; you've saved me a bit of trouble and also provided me with a couple of new ideas .

Rick
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Old 22nd November 2009, 01:54 AM   #5
David
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Well Alan, i know that you know that we know this is going on. Frankly we moderators have been considering this question for years. This is not a new problem. Obviously there is only so much to be done about it. It is very difficult to prove the intentions of the forum member when a keris is presented for comment. And certainly not every keris presented for comment is with the intention of sale. But for anyone paying close attention it should become obvious after a time which keris are and who the dealers are on this forum and i would caution every member to think twice about buying any keris that is presented in this covert and deceptive manner. Why? Well simply because if the dealer finds the need to sell his "product" in this deceptive manner then he is obviously already trying to hide something. And we all know how easy it is to deceive with keris, especially when our only means of assessment is a few photographs on the internet. New blades are aged to look old, composite pieces are assembled designed to appeal to specific markets, fresh carved ivory is aged and patina is added. Even the experts can be fooled at times. What hope does the beginner have or even those with a moderate knowledge of the subject? But over the years many of us have found straight forward dealers who we know we can trust. Ones that don't play games like this. So my best suggestion is buy from people you know and trust.
I would seriously suggest that members here do not make any purchases of keris that are presented to them in this deceitful manner. If you receive offers of sale in PMs i would ask that you reject them and contact the moderators immediately. The chances that you will miss out on a great deal in doing so is practically next to nil. Also please don't be drawn to the bait. Sure it's looks pretty on the computer screen and you think you have to have it. Don't contact people who are presenting keris in this manner to enquire about sale. That is their game and exactly what they want you to do. Be advised not to fall for it.
How we answer the call for comment on these keris is just as difficult. Many of our membership are honestly seeking opinions of their own keris that they have no intention of offering for sale. But i do believe that the dealers are indeed becoming very obvious here. Perhaps we can just politely respond "nice keris" to these offerings and move on. If they are obviously composites with aged pieces this can perhaps be subtly suggested by the more knowledgeable among us without giving any suggestions about how to make the deception less noticeable. Of course ultimately the old adage applies; Let the buyer beware.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 02:37 AM   #6
David
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Fearn i think that perhaps you are missing the point here. Certainly many collectors at some point in time sell off parts of their collections, either because they are trading up, need a little disposable cash or have just become bored with a particular item. I see nothing wrong with that and if such is the case we have the swap forum in which to facilitate those transactions. But this is first and foremost a forum for collectors to discuss and learn from one another through the sharing of information and, if we choose, images of our various collections. It is not a marketplace.
The problem we are discussing here is not collectors who sell parts off their collections. It is dealers who become members here for the sole purpose of selling keris. You may not be fully aware of them since keris is not you main interest of collection, but it is very clear to those of us who spend most of our time on this side of the forum boards and who mainly collect keris.
As for reworking keris, the question at hand is indeed a matter of fraud. When a dealer presents a composite keris in the forum with the hopes of attracting a buyer and makes no effort whatsoever to inform members what parts are new, used, aged or whatever the object is indeed to deceive through the act of omission. Sometimes when pressed for info the dealer will even go so far as to suggest something like "well, i don't know, but people have told me the blade is 17th century" when it is clear to knowledgeable members that it is more likely a contemporary aged piece. Properly staining a keris is not what we are talking about here or even fixing fittings. That is restoration. But putting a newly carved (but aged to look old) ivory hilt on and old blade and trying to pass it off as an original old hilt is a deception. Adding new fittings on to an old sheath and trying to pass that sheath off as original is a deception. Calling someone out on such a deception, especially based solely of photos, is not always all that easy.
Bottom line, if you are a collector who needs some extra cash take it to the swap. Don't post it first on the main forum trying to lure buyers. If you posted it last year and are now trying to sell it that is another issue. It is not the kind of sales that we are discussing here at the moment.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 02:43 AM   #7
A. G. Maisey
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Yes David, you have identified the problem exactly:-

what can be done?

none of us have a crystal ball so that we can identify with certainty the keris presented "for comment" that are destined to offered in the immediate future for sale.

yes, our members here can, to a degree, protect themselves by using a little bit of caution, but there are many keris collectors in the world who do not belong to, and who very seldom look at our discussions. A lot of these people are being regularly taken advantage of by unethical dealers. I know this with certainty because not one week would pass without contact from somebody seeking an opinion on something he has just purchased, or is considering purchase of from a dealer somewhere on the other side of the world. Sometimes the sales blurb that goes with the keris offered for sale includes comments taken from Forum discussions.

Fearn, I can understand your point of view. There can be no argument that the commercial aspects of collection, including keris collection, are important. With the keris we are dealing with something that is to many of us an investment vehicle, so maybe it is perfectly legitimate to discuss value and the things that determine that value.

Maybe.

But as I understand it, this was not one of the prime objectives of our Keris Warung Kopi when it was set up. I believe that we were trying to create a place for open discussion and encouragement of study of the keris. Once the mighty $$$$ gets a foothold, it tends to pollute everything else.

I will admit, my views of this whole matter are a little slanted.

I started to buy keris 50 odd years ago, and for 40 odd years I have been buying from Indonesian dealers.

The volume that I buy effectively makes me a part of the Indonesian keris trade.

I have an intimate knowledge of the way in which this trade works.

I also have an interest in goldfish.

I makes me feel very uncomfortable when I see goldfish swimming in the same pond with sharks.

Particularly when the goldfish cannot see the sharks.

However, I do think that this matter is one that we should all express an opinion on, if we have one.

Any more opinions out there?
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Old 22nd November 2009, 02:51 AM   #8
Battara
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I hope this does not affect those of us collectors who ask for comments, and then at a later date decide to change our minds and sell the piece.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 03:17 AM   #9
A. G. Maisey
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I think David just clarified that issue, Battara.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 03:59 AM   #10
Gavin Nugent
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Default Some very valid points.

Some very valid points and well written by all.

Some idle rambling from me in no particular order to share some insight to my own personal intents for all to better understand. This insight may reflect true for other people out there too, some though are just focused on the cold hard commercial aspect of it all and have no emotional connection to what goes through their hands.

I by default fall in to the category of "dealer" though I use the term loosely and dislike the word as that is what I do as a hobby not a full time business. I have a great day job that keeps me very busy and a young family that also keep me very busy too.

I established the commercial side of things to share much of what I found when looking Chinese arms and to support my collecting interests in Chinese weaponry, also to keep it all separate from the family monetary commitments.
This interest has grown a little in to other fields such as select Indian, Borneo, Burmese and other SEA items including the Painted keris I recently posted.
I posted the nice keris as I like to share and like many others here I like to share some of the more unusual pieces people might not often get a chance to see like a Sosun Patta, The Sadap I have, the painted Bali Keris, the recent Kampalin etc. In time my tastes may spread further rather than the sole focus on Chinese arms that once was.

Besides my fields of interest I have helped many here enhance their collections too and always with gratitude between each other. On a face to face interpersonal relationship I have also given away pieces to special people in my life even though I might only see them once every five to ten years...these are just a few aspects of what I do and why I do it.

Spread it around is one belief I have, besides gifts I have also offered trade and or monies for others more learned in some subjects to better describe items for some vendors who come to me. Some are happy to help, others never reply, some lovely individuals help because we help each other and like to share too.
One cannot just take take take; it has to be shared around. Some do well know I have some pieces that I would never part with for love or money either, some I will never publish on the net as they are the focus of study that may with a little guidance turn in to an article.

As I expressed to a good friend in Europe the other day who is also a member here and also to Lee some time back, I only offer pieces from my own collections for discussion, no linking to a page with items for sale, no water mark advertising on images etc. I did once ask about then sell a piece on the forum as it came in a group lot and curiosity got the better of me but I knew the bad taste it left in some people’s mouths and being a member of the community I will never do that again.
Sure one can never guarantee taste will never change and things won’t be sold on, that needs to be considered a given in today’s economic climate and trading up as mentioned above is another reason but for me it would only be a last resort to cater for a family disaster or similar.

I will enjoy reading further about this subject.

Best

Gav

Last edited by freebooter : 22nd November 2009 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 22nd November 2009, 05:59 AM   #11
fearn
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Thanks for the clarification, David and Alan.

To a large degree I agree with your points, particularly that this is a discussion forum, and it (rightfully) annoys people to be used as part of what can be properly called a "social marketing" campaign to increase the value of a keris offered elsewhere.

Likewise, I agree that fraudulent reworking is reprehensible, as I implied in my last post.

We do, however, want to make sure that the solutions to these problems aren't worse than the problems. Banning all trade in discussed keris, for example, will move the trade elsewhere, where we cannot moderate it, and likewise it will make it difficult for someone who wants to offer a keris to a group of people who will provide it a good home.

One thing that would be useful, perhaps, is a sticky of what we mean by "nice keris." That would help with any non-expert who thinks that nice is a technical designation.

Best,

F
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