ANCIENT COIN COLLECTORS GUILD

What is all the fuss about?

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.

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