ANCIENT COIN COLLECTORS GUILD

  • August 26, 2020 8:10 AM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)

    There are large numbers of coin collectors and numismatic firms in the US. Very few collectors do so to “invest.” Most collect out of love of history, as an expression of their own cultural identity, or out of interest in other cultures. All firms that specialize in ancient coins in the US are small businesses. Private collectors and dealers support much academic research into coins. For example, an American collector collaborated with academics to produce an extensive study of Seleucid coins. A further clamp down on collecting will inevitably lead to less scholarship.

    While what became the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) was being negotiated, one of the State Department’s top lawyers assured Congress that “it would be hard to imagine a case” where coins would be restricted. In 2007, however, the State Department imposed import restrictions on Cypriot coins, against CPAC’s recommendations, and then misled the public and Congress about it in official government reports. What also should be troubling is that the decision maker, Assistant Secretary Dina Powell, did so AFTER she had accepted a job with Goldman Sachs where she was recruited by and worked for the spouse of the founder of an archaeological advocacy group that has lobbied extensively for import restrictions. Since that time, additional import restrictions have been imposed on coins from a number of European, Middle Eastern and African countries.

    The cumulative impact of import restrictions has been very problematical for collectors since outside of some valuable Greek coins, most coins simply lack the document trail necessary for legal import under the “safe harbor” provisions of 19 U.S.C. § 2606. The CPIA only authorizes the government to impose import restrictions on coins and other artifacts first discovered within and subject to the export control of Italy. (19 U.S.C. § 2601). Furthermore, seizure is only appropriate for items on the designated list exported from the State Party after the effective date of regulations. (19 U.S.C. § 2606). Unfortunately, the State Department and Customs view this authority far more broadly. In particular, designated lists have been prepared based on where coins are made and sometimes found, not where they are actually found and hence are subject to export control. Furthermore, restrictions are not applied prospectively solely to illegal exports made after the effective date of regulations, but rather are enforced against any import into the U.S. made after the effective date of regulations, i.e., an embargo, not targeted, prospective import restrictions. While it is true enforcement has been spotty, the ACCG knows of situations where coins have been detained, seized and repatriated where the importer cannot produce information to prove his or her coins were outside of a country for which import restrictions were granted before the date of restrictions.

  • July 31, 2020 9:30 AM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)


    Ancient coins are among the most common ancient artifacts. In days before modern banks, people used to bury their savings in pots. If the owner did not return, the coins remained in their protective container until they were rediscovered. Such hoards can contain hundreds if not thousands of coins, often in remarkably good condition. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of such coins extant today.

  • July 30, 2020 11:06 PM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)


    While a few dedicated archaeologist-numismatists do care about coins and have used them to make important contributions to the study of numismatics, many, if not most, archaeologists view coins as just one means to date archaeological sites. Most well preserved specimens that numismatists prize do not even originate from archaeological sites. That is because most large hoards rarely come to light at archaeological sites; the ancients typically sought to hide their savings away from the prying eyes of neighbors. Instead of large hoards of well preserved coins, archaeologists typically find large numbers of ancient "small change" that was lost over time. Such coins are often so corroded by direct exposure to the soil as to be deemed uncollectible. Archaeologists tend not to treat such coins as important historical objects in themselves. Instead, after they serve a limited purpose as but one means to date archaeological sites, coins are all too often dumped into plastic bags and left to deteriorate in storage that usually lacks proper environmental controls.

  • July 29, 2020 11:09 PM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)


    Looting of archaeological sites is the worst in countries that have unfair laws that treat all ancient objects as the sole property of the state. Such laws only discourage otherwise law abiding citizens from reporting their finds and encourage public corruption—often at the highest levels. In such countries, there is little incentive for finders of ancient artifacts to report their finds to the authorities; they will not receive fair compensation, and in fact they may instead receive unwelcome attention from abusive government authorities. Rather than face such ill treatment, impoverished villagers with deep distrust in their own governments will instead sell what they find secretly to middlemen, who often are working under the protection of corrupt government officials. In contrast, in countries with fair laws and transparent government procedures, like Great Britain, finders must report most ancient finds, but can expect to receive fair compensation for whatever important items government associated museums decide to retain. The results are predictable. While official British Government reports herald important discoveries made by common people, corrupt and despotic governments in source countries with harsh laws and their allies in the archaeological establishment complain about the loss of important historical information to looting. To encourage protection of archaeological sites, we must encourage the peoples' respect for a nation's past. This can only occur if people are treated fairly and are educated about the importance of preservation efforts.

  • July 28, 2020 11:10 PM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)


    Collectors can help protect archaeological sites by refusing to purchase any coin known to be removed from a scheduled archaeological site or stolen from a private or public collection and by complying with all cultural property laws in their own country. Collectors can also encourage protection of archaeological sites by sharing their knowledge of ancient civilizations with members of the public and by lobbying government officials to encourage foreign governments to treat their citizens fairly and educate them about the importance of preservation efforts. Finally, collectors can help encourage protection of archaeological sites by visiting foreign countries as tourists and specifically visiting these sites for educational purposes. The prospect of tourism encourages foreign governments to value these sites and to spend the funds necessary to preserve and protect them.

  • July 27, 2020 11:11 PM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)


    Import restrictions are often pitched as a tool to smooth our foreign relations. While they may curry favor with bureaucrats within a foreign nation's archaeological establishment, support for broad declarations of state ownership over anything "old" does little to endear the United States with ordinary people within source nations who view their rulers and their unfair laws with distrust (see "Perspective from Turkey"). Rather than supporting confiscatory laws, the United States should encourage foreign governments to treat their citizens fairly by enacting fair and effective laws akin to the United Kingdom's Treasure Act.

  • July 26, 2020 11:40 PM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)


    We support government efforts to recover coins illegally taken from scheduled archaeological sites or stolen from private or public collections when clear proof of such is evident. We oppose government efforts to place the burden of proof on collectors, dealers and museums to show that a particular coin did not come from a country with restrictive cultural property laws. This is an impossible burden to meet because there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of historical coins in the trade or in public and private collections with no known “provenance.” Ancient coins are so common that even archaeologists often fail to properly record the circumstances of their discovery. It is unfair to assume that collectors, dealers and museums can show the provenance of their coins when coins have been widely traded since the Renaissance without any requirement to show their chain of ownership.

ANCIENT COIN COLLECTORS GUILD

P. O. Box 316, Iola, WI 54945-0316

1+ (202) 277-1611

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