ANCIENT COIN COLLECTORS GUILD

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  • June 21, 2021 2:51 PM | Randolph Myers (Administrator)

    The ACCG has filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Department of State, that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee fails to include three art trade members as required by law and its Charter.   Our complaint seeks the Inspector General’s investigation, that they confirm that the Committee lacks the legally-required “fair representation,” and that adequate correction steps occur.  ACCG complaint to the IG on lack of fair representation on the CPAC (RMyers 6.21.2021).pdf

  • June 18, 2021 12:25 PM | Peter Tompa (Administrator)

    The June 16, 2021  Federal Register (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/06/16/2021-12646/import-restrictions-imposed-on-categories-of-archaeological-and-ethnological-material-of-turkey) announced regulations implementing the Trump Administration’s January 19, 2021, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Republic of Turkey.   This MOU is the latest in a series of recent agreements with authoritarian Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Governments engineered with behind the scenes help from archaeological advocacy groups.  (https://culturalpropertynews.org/mou-backstory-how-cultural-property-agreements-with-authoritarian-middle-eastern-governments-are-made/)

    Following a pattern established in these other recent MENA MOUs, the restrictions being imposed are of exceptional breadth, including virtually all Turkish archaeological and ethnological material dating from 1.2 million B.C. to the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1924.

    The new restrictions encompass a wide variety of ancient coins which “circulated primarily in Turkey.”  Additionally, In a blow to advocacy groups representing displaced religious and ethnic Greek, Jewish, Armenian, and Kurdish minorities, the regulations explicitly list religious artifacts associated with these groups that were either forcibly deported/and or encouraged to leave Turkey during the troubled 20th century. 

    The restrictions on coins are as follows:

    9. Coins

    a. Greek coins – Archaic coins, dated to 640 – 480 B.C., in electrum, silver and billon, that circulated primarily in Turkey; Classical coins, dated to 479 – 332 B.C., in electrum, silver, gold, and bronze, that circulated primarily in Turkey; and Hellenistic coins, dated to 332 – 31 B.C., in gold, silver, bronze and other base metals, that circulated primarily in Turkey. Greek coins were minted by many authorities for trading and payment and often circulated all over the ancient world, including in Turkey. All categories are based on find information provided in Thompson, M., Mørkholm, O., Kraay, C., Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards, 1973 (available online at http://coinhoards.org/) and the updates in Coin Hoards I-X as well as other hoard and single find publications. Mints located in Turkey and surrounding areas are found in Head, B. V., Historia Numorum, A Manual of Greek Numismatics, 1911 (available online at

    http://snible.org/coins/hn/).

    b. Roman provincial coins – Roman provincial coins, dated from the end of 2nd century B.C. to the early 6th century A.D., in gold, silver, and bronze and copper that circulated primarily in Turkey.

    c. Byzantine period coins – Byzantine period coins, in gold, silver, bronze, copper coins, and sometimes electrum, dating from the early 6th century to the 15th century A.D., that circulated primarily in Turkey, (e.g., coins produced at mints in Nicaea and Magnesia under the Empire of Nicaea).

    d. Medieval and Islamic coins – Medieval and Islamic coins, in gold, silver, bronze, and copper coins from approximately A.D. 1077 – 1770, that circulated primarily in Turkey.

    The regulations will have a significant impact on millions of coin collectors and thousands of small businesses here and abroad that trade in historical coins.   The restrictions on coins are as follows:  While the regulations continue a current exemption for widely collected Roman Imperial coins, everything else down to 1770 is included, subject to the qualification that the coin type “circulated primarily in Turkey.”   This qualification apparently stems from the acknowledgement found in the regulations themselves that ancient coins as a general rule circulated far from where they were minted.  Before the controversial decision to first impose import restrictions on Cypriot coins in 2007, the wide circulation of such coins, as well as the fact that individual types have often come down to us in hundreds or thousands of examples, was enough to keep ancient and early modern coins from being placed on the designated lists. Since that time, coins have usually been included, often misleadingly simply based on the fact that they were minted within the confines of what is today a modern nation state.  

    If the phraseology here is meant to better comply with the Cultural Property Implementation Act’s (CPIA’s) language, it still only pays “lip service” to the statutory provisions.   Indeed, the “plain meaning” of the CPIA requires far more.  Import restrictions only apply to “designated archaeological material” under 19 U.S.C. §   2606.  This “designated archaeological material” is that “covered by an agreement” and “listed” under Section 2604.  19 U.S.C. § 2601 (7).  Section 2604 states that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and/or the Treasury Department “may list this such material by type or other appropriate classification, but each listing made under this section shall be sufficiently specific and precise to insure that (1) the import restrictions under Section 2606 are applied only to the archaeological . . . material covered by the agreement . . . ; and (2) fair notice is given to importers . . . as to what material is subject to such restrictions.”  19 U.S.C. § 2604 (emphasis added).  The word “only” emphasizes the requirement that “designated archaeological material” must be only that covered by the agreement, i.e., “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by, the State Party.”   19 U.S.C. § 2601 (2).   The word “shall” emphasizes the mandatory nature of this Congressional direction; there is simply no discretion allowed.     See, e.g., Black's Law Dictionary 1407 (8th ed. 2004) (defining "shall" as "has a duty to; more broadly, is required to").  Therefore, under the CPIA, the proper standard is not whether a coin type “primarily” circulated within the confines of a given, modern nation state, but whether it can only be found there.  Moreover, even assuming the “circulated primarily” phraseology were correct, the regulation’s failure to identify which coins “circulated primarily in Turkey” raises the question whether the regulation may be constitutionally void for vagueness. 

    In any event, the real problem with such a broad MOU with Turkey is that in seeking to “protect” all “Turkish Cultural Patrimony” from looting, the U.S. Government will further harm minority communities living abroad as well as the legitimate trade in “Turkish” artifacts with our major trading partners in the European Union and the United Kingdom.  The cumulative impact of import restrictions on behalf of authoritarian MENA governments has been very problematical because most minor artifacts (like coins) and family keepsakes simply lack the document trail necessary for legal import under the “safe harbor” provisions of CPIA, 19 U.S.C. § 26061. The CPIA only authorizes the government to impose import restrictions on artifacts first discovered within and subject to the export control of a particular country. (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 Department of State and CBP view this authority far more broadly. CBP has promulgated designated lists based on where items are made and sometimes found, not where they are actually found and hence are subject to export control. Additionally, 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.

    The ACCG has updated its guidance on import restrictions to reflect the new regulations on Turkish coins.  This update can be found in the "Background" section of our website under "Legislation."

    A longer version of this post can be found on the "Cultural Property Observer" blog here:  https://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2021/06/biden-administration-implements-last.html

  • May 12, 2021 1:17 PM | Randolph Myers (Administrator)

    On May 12, 2021 the ACCG submitted its second request to Secretary of State Blinken, that there be “fair representation” on Cultural Property Advisory Committee, by adding art trade members as required by law.  Since we had received no response to our first letter dated April 1, 2021, this letter also advises of our intention to file a complaint with the Inspector General in thirty days, unless fair representation occurs.  ACCG second letter to Secretary Blinken seeking fair representation on the CPAC (RMyers 5.12.2021).pdf


  • May 04, 2021 12:54 PM | Randolph Myers (Administrator)

    The ACCG has filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal regarding the Smithsonian’s withholding of all 37 pages of responsive materials to our earlier FOIA request, where we sought information on their virtual workshop training US law enforcement "to combat trafficking in ancient coins." We believe that the public has a keen interest for this information, since we question whether anti-collecting archaeological advocacy groups were invited to participate when trade associations and collectors groups like the ACCG were not.  We are also concerned that the workshop was an indoctrination session that suggests that any unprovenanced ancient coin is illegal, when that is simply not the case. 


  • April 07, 2021 5:32 PM | Peter Tompa (Administrator)

    The ACCG has updated its "Background" page under "Legislation" to include detailed information about U.S. import restrictions on ancient coins and the paperwork necessary for legal import into the United States.  The information, current as of April 7, 2021, can be found here:  https://accguild.org/Legislation

  • March 23, 2021 9:51 AM | Peter Tompa (Administrator)

    On March 17, 2021, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (“CPAC”) met to consider a proposed MOU with Albania and a proposed renewal of the MOU with Egypt. The following members were present: (1) Stefan Passantino (Chairman- Public); (2) Steven Bledsoe (Public); (3) Karol Wight (Museums); (4) J.D. Demming (Public); (5) Ricardo St. Hilaire (Archaeology); (6) Joan Connelly (Archaeology) and (7) Anthony Wisniewski (Collector-Sale of International Cultural Property).  Allison Davis, CPAC’s State Department Executive Director, and Andrew Cohen, State Department Lead Foreign Affairs Analyst, were also present.

    Chairman Passantino welcomed the speakers.  He indicated that the Committee had read all the comments, and as indicated in an email to the speakers, they would be allotted 3 minutes to focus on points most important to them.  Chairman Passantino called on speakers who had put in papers on Albania first, then speakers who had written about coins, and finally speakers who wrote on Egypt.  There was some overlap because some speakers put in papers on more than one topic.  He deferred questions to the end to be assured everyone who registered to speak would be heard.

    The following individuals provided oral comments:  (1) John K. Papadopoulos  (UCLA); (2) Michael Galaty (U. Michigan), (3) James Gould (RPM Nautical Foundation); (4) Randolph Myers (Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG)); (5) Peter Tompa (Peter Tompa Law-International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) and Professional Numismatics Guild (PNG)); (6) Steve Benner (Ancient Numismatic Society of Washington, D.C. (ANSWDC)); (7) Kate FitzGibbon (FitzGibbon Law-Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP) and Global Heritage Alliance (GHA)); (8) Brian Daniels (Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)); (9) Mireille Lee (Vanderbilt); (10) Marcel Marée and Suzanne Veigh (British Museum); (11) Rocco Debitetto (Hahn Loeser- Association of Art Museum Directors); and (12) Katie Paul (ATHAR Project). 

    John Papadopoulos has visited in Albania periodically since the late 1990’s.  He undertook field work there from 2004-2008.  Looting was at its height in the late 1990’s.  It is not as severe today, but it is still problematic.  Looting destroys context which tells us much about how people lived in the area from the Neolithic through the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods.  Coins are amongst the most common, easily located, and smuggled ancient objects. Albania is very welcoming to academic exchange and has made strides in cultural heritage management. 

    His written testimony may be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0056

    Michael Galaty has excavated in Apollonia and North Albania.  Galatay has documented systematic metal-detecting in the Shkoder province, targeting both settlements and burial mounds. He says he has been approached by children selling coins at archaeological sites.  He also has seen people metal detecting who had learned about it in England where it is legal.  Some are hobbyists but others are in it for profit.  He also indicates European coin dealers buy coins in Albania. Over the years, he has seen the government of Albania take great strides in trying to limit looting, including expansive cultural heritage laws, a professionalized regional archaeological/heritage service, upgrades to site security, and public education about the problem.  His testimony may be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0010

    James Gould speaks for the RPM Nautical Foundation.  During the Hoxha regime, anyone diving in Albanian waters would be shot on sight.  Since the fall of Communism, underwater looting with the use of scuba gear and fast boats for a getaway have become a problem.  Amphorae are typical targets for looters.  The Albanians have been excellent collaborators and a MOU would help address looting.

    The Nautical Foundation’s written comments can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0046

    Randolph Myers indicates the current membership of CPAC does not reflect Congressional intent because the interests of dealers and the small businesses of the numismatic trade are underrepresented. Given their wide circulation, it is impossible to assume that coins struck in Albania are necessarily found there.  Numismatic research proves far more hoards of coins struck at Apollonia and Dyrrachium are found outside Albanian than within it.

    The ACCG’s written comments may be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0014

    Peter Tompa acknowledges the passing of James Fitzpatrick, Esq., one of the drafters of the CPIA who appeared before CPAC multiple times to emphasize the need for the Committee to follow Congressional intent.  He indicates that only coins that exclusively circulated within a given country can be restricted under the CPIA’s limitations of import restrictions to archaeological objects “first discovered within” and “subject to export control” by a UNESCO State party.  He believes that the 2016 Egyptian designated list violated this requirement because it included widely circulating large denomination Greek and Roman Provincial coins.  He also indicates there is no basis to expand current import restrictions further to widely circulating Roman Imperial coins struck in Egypt.  Nor is there any basis for restrictions on silver ancient Illyrian coinage struck in what is now Albania because far more hoards of these coins are found in Romania than Albania.  He also asks CPAC to recommend that Customs no longer apply import restrictions on coins as embargoes, but rather limit detentions and seizures to situations where there is probable cause that coins were illicitly exported after the effective date of governing regulations. 

    Peter Tompa’s oral comments may be found here:  https://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2021/03/cpac-must-focus-on-congressional-intent.html

    IAPN’s and PNG’s written submissions may be found here:

    Albania: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0015

    Egypt: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0016

    Peter Tompa’s personal written submission may be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0055

    Steve Benner indicates that collectors like himself and other members of the Ancient Numismatic Society of Washington, D.C. are interested in numismatic scholarship, not making money out of coins.  The joy of holding an ancient coin in one’s hand stimulates one’s interest even more, pushing collectors to ascertain facts about a coin’s history and composition. Taking this away would be demoralizing to collectors and detrimental to our hobby. The Roman Republic and Empire included all the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea as well as Western Europe, Britain, the Balkans, etc. Roman coins struck at any of the mints circulated freely throughout the Empire and should not be considered the property of any single country.

    Kate FitzGibbon also invokes Jim Fitzpatrick’s efforts to ensure that the Committee complies with the law, particularly the need for a showing of substantial current looting for an agreement to be justified. She questions whether there is such a problem in Albania or if looted material is coming here in quantity given the dearth of archaeological items being imported into the United States. As for Egypt, Ms. FitzGibbon notes that Egypt fails to acknowledge much material left the country legally before the 1980’s, and even where export certificates were issued, they were so general as to be useless to show provenance. Ms. FitzGibbon suggests that Egypt has only made a token effort at self help measures to care for its own cultural patrimony. Instead of spending money on preservation efforts, it has dumped huge amounts of money on General Sissi’s museum vanity project being built in the desert.  CPAC must consider such self help measures as part of its review of MOUs.  She also notes the China MOU which should be undergoing an interim review should consider China’s intentional destruction of Uighur cultural heritage.

    The CCP’s and GHA’s written submission on the Albanian MOU can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0031

    The CCP’s and GHA’s written submission on the Egyptian MOU can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0044

    Brian Daniels indicates ongoing looting and violence in Egypt justify the renewal of its MOU.  Recently, two site guards were killed by looters.  Egypt has been a good collaborator with U.S. archaeologists.  There was a conference about looting in Albania in 2009. There has been excellent collaboration with Albanian colleagues.  There will be a travelling exhibition of Albanian archaeological material in the U.S. in 2022.  Archaeological preservation efforts help foster tourism.  The AIA conducts tours in both Egypt and Albania.

    The AIA’s written submissions for both Albania and Egypt can be found here: 

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0043

    Mireille Lee has used travelling exhibits as teaching tools.  It is important to question how an object got there. There are also ethical questions related to exhibiting mummies.  Hopefully, after the pandemic students will be able to visit exhibitions in person, but in the meantime, they have taken advantage of the Internet.

    Marcel Marée and Suzanne Veigh work with the British Museum’s CircArt project.  The project, made possible by grants from the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, is generating a digital knowledge base of Egyptian and Sudanese antiquities in the trade.  CircArt examines objects offered for sale on the ‘official’ open market as well as on social media. CircArt and the ATHAR Project work closely together, as there are many synergies between the projects.

     The first results of their research show clearly that the scale of ongoing looting and trafficking is far greater than is generally assumed. Since its inception in 2018, CircArt has recorded some 50,000 circulating artefacts from Egypt on the market, of which at least 15% were demonstrably excavated and exported illegally. A group of dealers in the USA remain heavily involved in the release of such objects onto the open market. They show images of broken off faces from mummy cartonnages where the rest of the coffin was discarded.  They indicate all these faces were offered by one U.S. dealer.  Dealers in Turkey have also been active with trans-shipment points in the Middle and Far East.  Much material also shows up on eBay or Facebook.  The data show with increasing urgency the true scale of illicit trade in cultural artefacts, indicating not only a need to renew the MOU between the US and Egypt, but ideally to reinforce the present import restrictions and to enact more robust regulation of the trade.

    The British Museum’s CircArt project’s submission may be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0061

    Its website may be found here:

     https://www.britishmuseum.org/our-work/departments/egypt-and-sudan/circulating-artefacts

    Rocco Debitetto indicates that CPAC must consider whether Egypt has met all the four determinations before its MOU is renewed.  The renewal should not be used to expand the designated list beyond the 250-year-old threshold for archaeological objects.  Ethnological objects need not be 250 years old, but Egyptian ethnological objects do not fit the criteria under the CPIA.  Egypt was not a tribal society in the 19th century but a major power. If anything, the current designated list should be narrowed.  In addition, the MOU needs to be reformed to require Egypt to make available more objects for loan without attendant high fees.  Since the 2016 MOU, Egypt has only sent two travelling exhibitions to the United States, both of which were only available to museums willing to pay high fees.

    The AAMD’s written submission can be found here:  https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0032

    Katie Paul states that the ATHAR project is devoted to fighting trafficking on Facebook.   Research conducted by ATHAR Project illustrates a trafficking crisis in Egypt that is feeding material to black market groups on Facebook. This material includes items as small as coins and as large as coffins. She has tracked material from “trafficker groups” on Facebook that have ended up in the United States. She indicates this trade is hard to track because the buyers frequently try to cover their tracks.

    The ATHAR Project’s written submission can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2021-0003-0039

    Question and Answer Period

    Anthony Wisniewski asks Marcel Marée to explain the difference between Alexander the Great and Hellenism. He indicates the Hellenistic period is generally thought to have started after Alexander died and his Empire was divided amongst his generals.

    Anthony Wisniewski asks Randy Myers to confirm that Alexander the Great coins as well as Roman and Byzantine coins from Egyptian mints are found in quantity outside of Egypt.  He points to the ACCG’s research online and within the Royal Numismatic Society’s Coin hoard series of books.

    Anthony Wisniewski asks Peter Tompa to confirm there were no Roman Imperial mints in Albania.  He does so.

    Anthony Wisniewski asks Brian Daniels if there is sufficient evidence to establish the 4 required determinations for a MOU with Albania.  He says he believes so because the totality of the evidence shows that there is ongoing looting, and that Albania has also undertaken sufficient self-help measures and efforts at collaboration with American archaeologists to satisfy the statutory criteria.

    Ricardo St. Hilaire notes that we should also acknowledge the passing of Nancy Wilkie, a long-term member of CPAC.  He asks Brian Daniels if archaeologists have had problems dealing with Egypt during the pandemic.  He says there have been issues, but they have been understandable ones given the circumstances. 

    Joan Connelly elicits information from Michael Galaty and John K. Papadopoulos about a 1991-coin hoard containing coins from Aegina (in Greece).  She posits that the hoard shows that Albania was important cross-roads and that it suggests the presence of a city thought to be in the area.  They suggest we only know this information because the hoard was professionally excavated.

    Stefan Passantino then closed the public meeting with thanks to all those who testified.


  • March 13, 2021 8:54 AM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)

    On February 26, 2021, the ACCG submitted comments to the CPAC on a proposed MOU with Albania and proposed extension of the MOU with Egypt. Our comments, which details a number of procedural and substantive objections on any import restrictions of ancient coins, may be found at our webpage’s section for Advocacy to the Executive Branch. We will also be presenting testimony at the CPAC open session Zoom meeting set for March 17, 2021.

  • January 05, 2021 5:18 PM | Peter Tompa (Administrator)

    On Jan. 1, 2021, the Senate joined the House in an override of President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The NDAA contained amendments introduced by Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) directed at a number of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) initiatives.  As a result of that amendment to the House version of the NDAA incorporated into the legislation that passed both Houses after a conference with the Senate, "person[s] engaged in the sale of antiquities" (however "antiquities" might be defined) now find themselves subject to the provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and its regulatory requirements to create and maintain an anti-money laundering program, prepare an annual independent audit, and file where appropriate “suspicious activity reports.”  Such AML programs typically cost thousands of dollars per year to implement  as well as the time and effort required to comply with such regulations.  The costs to small and micro business are substantial.  Furthermore, it is impossible to “fly under the radar screen” of such requirements; such regulations are enforced by the banks which will close accounts which do not comply. 

    The exact scope of these obligations for antiquities dealers will be determined in  yet to be promulgated regulations to be prepared by FINCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), a Treasury entity.  Those proposed regulations will be subject to “notice and comment” rule making.  Notice and comment rule making should require FINCEN  to respond to concerns raised in public comments before the regulations are finalized.  That process, which will probably not happen until later in the year, will be an opportunity to ask FINCEN to define “antiquities” narrowly as possible and to adopt high monetary thresholds before bureaucratic requirements kick in. 

    In that regard, Congress supplied the Treasury Department with the following specific guidelines for the regulations: 

    • having the regulations vary by the size of the business, the size of the transaction being conducted, and whether the transaction takes place in the United States or elsewhere;
    • whether the regulations should focus on the high-value trade in antiquities in a different way than lower-value objects;
    • whether the antiquities dealer must identify the actual purchaser of an antiquity when the seller or buyer is working through an agent or intermediary;
    • the need, if any, to identify trade seller or buyers, such as other dealers, advisors, consultants, or other persons trading in antiquities as a business;
    • whether volume or financial thresholds should apply in determining whether an antiquities dealer or a specific transaction should be regulated; and,
    • whether certain transactions should be exempted from the regulations.

    These guidelines were added to the Maloney Amendment during the Conference with the Senate.  Presumably, they are the result of  Global Heritage Alliance and other advocacy groups for collectors and the businesses of the antiquities and art trade raising these issues with Senate Finance. 

    The law also requires a further study to be conducted by Treasury solely with input from law enforcement agencies as to whether the larger art market should also be regulated.

    Despite some effort to require FINCEN to focus its efforts on more problematic actors and transactions, this law represents a triumph of fear mongering over fact and intensive lobbying, chiefly by archaeological advocacy groups with an axe to grind against private collecting and the trade, along with AML compliance contractors looking for a new line of business.  This effort was led by the Antiquities Coalition, a well-funded and politically connected archaeological advocacy organization, and AML Right Source, an AML compliance contractor.  Their advocacy is also reflected in the New York Times Coverage of the issue:  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/arts/design/antiquities-market-regulation.html  It is indeed unfortunate that neither Congress nor the Times paid much attention to serious questions raised about the claims behind this advocacy:  https://culturalpropertynews.org/rand-corp-report-demolishes-assumptions-on-antiquities-and-terror/

    It will be absolutely essential for collectors and the small businesses of the antiquities trade to comment on these regulations if we are to have any impact on how hard they will be on collecting and the industry.  There also is at least the possibility that  FINCEN will propose very broad regulations by treating “antiquities” the same way as “antiques.”  (There is some precedent for this in other U.S. statutes.)  Obviously, if “antiquities” are treated as “antiques” much of the art and collectibles business will be subject to these regulations.  Certainly, we can expect the archaeological lobby and AML contractors to push to have these regulations to cover as many dealers as is possible.  However, while the Antiquities Coalition and AML Right Source may be well funded and have both political influence and the ability to place favorable coverage in the NY Times, what they lack is the ability to generate large numbers of comments.  Of course, we will see if collectors and the trade turn out in force to protect their hobby and their businesses.  The numbers are certainly there if these groups can be motivated. 

    The above was originally published on Peter Tompa's Cultural Property Observer blog. 

  • October 29, 2020 5:35 PM | Peter Tompa (Administrator)

    On October 27, 2020, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (“CPAC”) met to consider a proposed MOU with Nigeria and proposed renewals with Bolivia and Greece. The following members were present:  (1) Stefan Passantino (Chairman- Public); (2) Steven Bledsoe (Public); (3) Karol Wight (Museums); (4) J.D. Demming (Public); (5) Ricardo St. Hilaire (Archaeology); (6) Joan Connelly (Archaeology) and (7) Anthony Wisniewski (Collector-Sale of International Cultural Property).  Allison Davis, CPAC’s State Department Executive Director, and Catherine Foster, a Cultural Heritage Center staffer, were also present.

    In advance of this meeting, there was a major shake-up on CPAC.  The following Obama appointees were removed or resigned:  (1) Adele Chatfield-Taylor (Public); (2) James Reep (Public); and (3) Lothar Von Falkenhausen (Archaeology).  At the last CPAC public session to discuss a renewal the MOU with Italy, von Falkenhausen told ancient coin collectors (who were represented at the meeting) that he believed that they should take up another hobby.  It is unclear if this comment had anything to do with his departure.  President Trump appointed Messrs. Bledsoe and Demming to replace Ms. Chatfield-Taylor and Mr. Reep.  One archaeological slot remains unfilled.

    Chairman Passantino welcomed the speakers.  He indicated that the Committee had read all the comments, and that given the large number of speakers, each would only be allowed 3 minutes to focus on points most important to them.  Chairman Passantino called on speakers who had put in papers on Nigeria first, then speakers who had written about Bolivia, and finally Greece.  There was some overlap because some speakers put in papers on more than one topic.  He deferred questions to the end to be assured everyone who registered to speak would be heard.

    The following individuals provided public comments:  (1) Tess Davis (Antiquities Coalition); (2) Brian Daniels (Archaeological Institute of America); (3) Kathleen Bickford (Northwestern University); (4) Leslye Amede Obiora (Institute for Research on African Women, Children and Culture); (5) Kate FitzGibbon (Committee for Cultural Policy); (6) Donna Yates (Maastricht University); (7) Maria Bruno (Dickinson College); (8) Kris Lane (Tulane University); (9) Daniel Sedwick (International Association of Professional Numismatists); (10) Peter Tompa (Global Heritage Alliance); (11)  Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Aarhus, Denmark); (12) Kim Shelton (Berkley); (13) Nathan Elkins (Baylor University); (14) Ute Wartenberg-Kagan (Columbia University); (15) Morag Kersel (DePaul University); (16) Dmitry Narkesis (Columbia University); (17) Rocco Dibenedetto (Hahn Loeser- Association of Art Museum Directors); (18) Douglas Mudd (American Numismatic Association); and (19) Randolph Myers (Ancient Coin Collectors Guild).

    Tess Davis (TD) indicates that the Antiquities Coalition works with partners in the art market, the U.S. Government and Foreign Governments.  She believes import restrictions help protect the legitimate market.  She denies that import restrictions act as embargoes because they allow listed material into the country that has been documented as being outside the country for which restrictions were provided before those restrictions went into place.  She also believes that U.S. customs should not accept export certificates from other EU governments where objects have been listed for specific EU countries like Greece.  She notes certain EU countries do require export permits within the EU despite the general free circulation of goods within the EU.

    The Antiquities Coalition’s written comments can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0077 (Bolivia)

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0080 (Greece)

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0076 (Nigeria)

    Brian Daniels (BD) focuses on the Fourth Determination under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”), regarding the international exchange of cultural patrimony.  He notes that Nigeria has sent several exhibits to the United States.  Most recently, the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University (Greater Chicago) hosted the 2019 exhibition, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa, which displayed the scope of Saharan trade and the shared history of West Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe from the eighth to sixteenth centuries. This exhibition involved significant loans from Nigeria. It was slated to travel to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.) in 2020, but its opening has been postponed due to COVID-19.  He indicates that both Bolivia and Greece have been similarly generous in sending exhibitions to the United States.

    The Archaeological Institute of America’s written comments can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0083

    Kathleen Bickford (KB) discusses her role as curator for the Caravans of Gold exhibit for the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.  She states Nigeria's request meets all criteria for determinations in favor of cultural property protections. Important cultural patrimony, ranging from fragments to complete objects, continue to emerge from archaeological sites within the country, while objects of more recent date remain within communities and at royal courts, as well as in homes, shrines, and storehouses. These objects are under severe threat from pillage and theft. Despite efforts to curtail the international market for archaeological and traditional objects from Nigeria, including tighter requirements on provenance among North American museums and accelerating debates about the restitution of African objects from the colonial period, there continues to be a high demand in the international art market for cultural heritage objects from Nigeria.  She also indicates there are many fakes on the market.  Finally, she notes that there is much violence in Nigeria and that cultural heritage is a unifying force.

    KB’s written comments can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0046

     Leslye Amede Obiora (LAO) has been a Professor of Law in the United States since 1992.  She previously served as the Minister of Mines and Steel Development for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  She states cultural heritage issues are human rights issues. LAO indicates there is a cabal of powerful people involved in looting in Nigeria. She believes a MOU will help bolster civil society, and she wonders why it has taken so long for the United States to offer one to Nigeria.

    Kate FitzGibbon (KFG) indicates that the Committee for Cultural Policy and Global Heritage Alliance applaud efforts to help Nigeria address looting, but question whether sufficient evidence has been submitted to support entering into a MOU.  There are many Nigerian materials on the market and in private and museum collections, but the vast majority of these materials left Nigeria decades ago.  Most of this material was removed during the colonial era.  Material produced after 1945 is considered touristic in nature.  There is little in the record about Nigerian self-help measures.  KG is concerned that this request is about closing the barn door after the horses have already left.

    The CCP’s and GHA’s written comments on the Nigerian MOU may be found here: https://culturalpropertynews.org/nigeria-support-cultural-expansion-not-art-blockade/

    The CCP’s written comments about the Greek MOU can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0075

    Donna Yates (DY) indicates that she has tracked illicit Colonial and Republican era Bolivian artifacts. She indicates that while there appears to be less thefts from churches now, it takes years for this material to surface on the market. DY also indicates there is absolutely no social, educational, or scientific benefit to allowing a market for illegally obtained Bolivian cultural objects to exist in the United States. The destruction of the original contexts of these objects in the looting process annihilates our ability to conduct any meaningful archaeological analysis on them. The violent removal of sacred art from churches tears the very fabric that has held small and indigenous communities together for centuries, reducing cultural diversity and survival.

    DY’s written comments can be found here: 

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0010

    Maria Bruno (MB) states that Bolivian patrimony remains in jeopardy from pillage through the illicit excavation of archaeological sites with the purpose of selling desired objects. Bolivian governmental and volunteer organizations work tirelessly to protect archaeological sites from destruction and to educate the public on the value of preserving their ancient past.  Local communities also work together to protect their local patrimony from destruction as the revenue generated from tourism to the site provides jobs and contributes to the local pride.

    MB’s written comments can be found here: 

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0068

    Kris Lane (KL) shares the archaeologists’ concerns about looting, but thinks coins should be treated differently than other objects, like historic records.  While archives should not be removed from their place of origin, items like coins were not state property and were intended to circulate far from where they were made.  This is certainly the case for coins struck in Bolivia.  The Bolivian gold escudo and silver peso were international currencies.  They were even legal tender in the United States before the Civil War. 

    Dan Sedwick (DS) indicates that IAPN supports Bolivian efforts to restore the Potosi mint.  DS provides some history.  Bolivian coins are very common.  DS has always had some in inventory.  Minting in Bolivia begins with hand-struck silver coins in 1573-4 under Spanish dominion and continues through early Republic times starting in 1825 to present day. Throughout these four-and-a-half centuries of minting, most of the coins were the property of rich men back in Spain, not the people of Bolivia, and these coins traveled far from the current boundaries of Bolivia, in fact to all the continents of the earth except Antarctica. DS also notes that IAPN’s submission shows that current Bolivian laws do not explicitly treat coins as cultural heritage.  As for Greece, DS states this renewal should not be an excuse to expand current import restrictions to trade coins that circulated around the ancient world.

    The International Association of Professional Numismatists’ and the Professional Numismatists Guild’s written comments can be found here:

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0067 (Bolivia)

    https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS-2020-0036-0024 (Greece)

    Peter Tompa (PT) discusses both the Greek and Bolivian MOUs.  First, as to the proposed renewal of the Greek MOU, he states that this renewal is no excuse to expand current import restrictions.  Those restrictions purport to only apply to coin types that circulated locally in Greece in order to comply with the statutory requirements found in 19 U.S.C. § 2601.  That provision requires that such coins were “first discovered within” and are therefore subject to Greek export controls.  Under no circumstances should CPAC recommend expanding those restrictions to widely circulating trade coins which can be found most anywhere.  Second, CPAC should recognize the obvious ramifications of Greece’s membership in the European Union (“E.U.”). Coins on the current designated list may be traded outside the E.U. with or without an export license according to the local law of Greece’s sister E.U. members. CPAC, the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) should honor these E.U. export controls, which, after all, are also binding on Greece as an E.U. member.  Finally, he urges that archaeologists be asked to do their own part too.  CPAC should ensure archaeological missions pay diggers a fair living wage and that they be required to file site security plans which take advantage of modern electronic surveillance technology.  

    PT’s full oral statement can be found here:  http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2020/10/this-is-no-time-to-expand-restrictions.html

    GHA’s written comments on the Greek MOU can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0012

    GHA’s and CCP’s written comments on the Bolivian MOU can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0011

    Christos Tsirogiannis (CT) has worked with law enforcement, including the DA in New York City and U.S. Homeland Security, to repatriate artifacts to Greece and other countries.  He is also working on a way to detect looted antiquities using new technology.  Recently, Greek police broke up a antiquities smuggling operation in Patras, Greece, that had coins and other artifacts. 

    CT’s written comments can be found here:

     https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0088

    Kim Shelton (KS) excavates at Nemea.  She has spent sleepless nights in fear of looters.  Economic austerity has made the problem worse.  Coin evidence is important to her work.

    Nathan Elkins (NE) supports restrictions on all ancient coins that circulated in quantity in Greece, including trade coins like Athenian Tetradrachms, which currently are not restricted. Looting results in the loss of important contextual information.  Coins can be important dating tools.  They helped date the ruins of an ancient Synagogue he helped excavate in Israel.

    NE’s written comments can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0028

    Ute Wartenberg-Kagan (UWK) supports restrictions on all ancient coins that circulated in quantity in Greece.  Coins are among the most frequently looted items. Once taken out of their archaeological context, some of the historical and economic meaning is often lost. Sadly, numismatists are used to working with coins that have no archaeological context, and the fact that there is a finite number of coins in the ground makes their protection all the more important. Unfortunately, the trend is going very much in the wrong direction, and here modern technology enables looting on a scale that has not been seen before. Ever more sophisticated and cheaper metal detectors allow more people to dig up coins. Online sales via eBay, vcoins, Amazon, or in Facebook groups, allow the sale of staggering numbers of coins. On any given day, over 100,000 ancient coins and coin lots are for sale on eBay. MOUs should be considered friends of collectors because they help keep looted material off the market.

    UWK’s written comments can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0078

    Morag Kersel (MK) says she was interviewing a collector who had a Cyclodelic figurine which the collector said was worth $1 million.  He indicated now that ancient art is an investment.  MK indicates that the high prices for ancient art helps stimulate looting.

    Dmitry Narkesis (DN) has witnessed looting at archaeological digs.  Looting is real problem that impacts archaeology.  It takes a lot of time and effort to try to fight it.

    Rocco Dibenedetto (RD) states that the AAMD does not oppose the Greek MOU, but Greece should be held to account for its obligations under Art. II of the current agreement.  One of those undertakings is to facilitate loans of materials to U.S. museums.  Despite Greece’s promises to do so, that has not happened.  The designated list should also be scrutinized to ensure that it only covers archaeological objects over 250 years old. 

    The AAMD’s written comments can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0072

    Douglas Mudd (DM) states that current import restrictions have hurt the ANA’s educational mission because foreign scholars have been unwilling to bring their collections to the United States for fear of them being seized by U.S. customs.  Despite import restrictions being renewed over and again, looting remains a problem which suggests they are not working.  DM states that a new paradigm needs to be considered given their failure, one based on Britain’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which encourages people to report finds with the prospect of a cash award for any coins kept by the government.  While expense is an issue, perhaps aid from wealthy countries can help get these programs going.

    The ANA’s written comments can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0023

    Randolph Myers (RM) states there can be no dispute ancient coins circulated in great numbers far from where they were found.  This is detailed in a report appended to the ACCG’s written comments.  This is significant because as recognized by a U.S. District Court import restrictions are only appropriate on archaeological objects both first discovered within and subject to the export control of a specific country. 

    The ACCG’s written comments can be found here:

    https://beta.regulations.gov/comment/DOS-2020-0036-0003

    Question and Answer Period

    Karol Wight asks LAO about the situation in Nigeria.  LAO states Nigeria is under siege, but that is no reason not to enter into a MOU on its behalf.  She again suggests a MOU is a human rights issue.

    Anthony Wisniewski asks TD and DY if they receive foreign government money.  (The State Department recently issued a directive calling for the disclosure of such information.  See https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/13/trump-think-tanks-foreign-funding-429209)  TD states that the Antiquities Coalition does not receive such funding.  DY indicates she receives such funding from the European Union.  (She currently holds a €1.5 million European Research Council grant to study the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.)

    Anthony Wisniewski asks UWK if it is unremarkable that Roman or Byzantine coins from the Thessalonica mint can be found in large numbers in today’s Turkey and Albania.  She agrees with this statement.  

    Joan Connelly asks KS about what coins have been found at Nemea.  KS indicates that coins from many different Greek cities have been found there probably because it was the center for sacred games.  They also find many different coins at a Christian sanctuary on the site.

    Karol Wight asks KB if she has had any other interaction with Nigerian scholars outside her work on exhibits.  KB says all her work has been on exhibits. 

    J.D. Demming asks DM to elaborate on his ideas to disincentivize looting. DM states that the U.K.’s Portable Antiquities Scheme incentivizes people to report their finds.  Perhaps there can be a global antiquities scheme with funding from richer countries.

    Ricardo St. Hilaire asks LAO about whether she saw any parallels between looting and illegal mining.  LAO says Nigeria recognized that it takes a thief to catch a thief so it invested resources to help illicit miners become clean.  She refers to DM’s statements about PAS and says there may be parallels.

  • September 21, 2020 1:26 AM | Sue McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)

    The State Department has announced a proposed renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological and Byzantine Ecclesiastical Ethnological Material through the 15th Century A.D. of the Hellenic Republic. That MOU first authorized import restrictions on Greek cultural artifacts in 2011. It has been renewed once in 2016 without further changes. The initial MOU authorized import restrictions on certain ancient Greek coins. We hope to preclude any further expansion of those restrictions and advocate for acceptance of legal exports from fellow EU countries to be treated like a legal export from Greece.  More info

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