ANCIENT COIN COLLECTORS GUILD

U.S. IMPORT RESTRICTIONS ON ANCIENT COINS

(CURRENT AS OF July 17, 2022)

This paper details U.S. import restrictions on ancient coins. After an overview of the issue, this paper lists current restrictions. Finally, there is a discussion of “safe harbor” documentation for legal import of restricted items. The ACCG is providing the below information as a public service to coin collectors. While we believe we are providing as accurate information as possible, it should not be construed as legal advice.

For twenty-five years after the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) was passed, there were no import restrictions on ancient coins. This should be no surprise because it is hard to link coins—which by their very nature are instruments of exchange—to one modern nation state. Indeed when the CPIA was being negotiated, Mark Feldman, 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 the Antiquities Coalition, an archaeological advocacy group that has lobbied extensively for import restrictions. Since that time, additional import restrictions have been imposed on coins from Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. Import restrictions remain pending for Tunisia.

The restricted coins can only be imported into the United States with: (a) an export certificate issued by the country for which import restrictions were given (which are non-existent); or (b) “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside that country at least 10 years prior to importation into the U.S.; or (c) “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside the country before the date the restrictions went into effect. What constitutes “satisfactory evidence” is ultimately left to the discretion of Customs, but usually takes the form of a declaration by the importer and a statement by the consigner. Keep in mind, however, that U.S. Customs believes it has authority to ask for additional information to back up such declarations.

The cumulative impact of import restrictions has been very difficult for coin 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 the country for which restrictions were granted. (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. 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.

Another related concern is the burden of proof once an item is seized. Mark Feldman, has also confirmed the legislative intent that the burden of proof was on the government to establish that the object was illicitly removed from the country where it was found after the effective date of the implementing regulations. “Statement of Deputy State Department Legal Adviser, Mark Feldman in Proceedings of the Panel on the U.S. Enabling Legislation of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 4 Syracuse J. Int’l L. & Com. 97 1976-1977 at 129-130. However, CBP instead views the burden of proof as being on the importer, not the government. This, along with the high cost of legal services, leads to most cultural artifacts, particularly minor ones like coins, being abandoned by the importer if they are seized.

While it is true enforcement has been spotty, we know 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.

Below we provide a list of current import restrictions on coins as well as the documentation necessary to take advantage of “safe harbor” provisions of 19 U.S.C.   2606. Properly filled out documentation should allow free entry but be aware it has been reported that on occasion CBP asks for additional documentation, i.e., published auction references pre-dating the effective date of the applicable regulation.

List of Current Restrictions

Safe Harbor Provision

Under 19 U.S.C.   2606, coins of the above restricted types can only be imported into the United States with: (a) an export certificate1; (b) “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside these countries at least 10 years prior to importation into the U.S.2; or (c) “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside of these countries before the restrictions went into effect. What constitutes “satisfactory evidence” is ultimately left to the discretion of Customs, but usually takes the form of a declaration by the importer and a statement by the consigner. As described above, it may be in practice quite difficult to procure such statements because provenance information may be lacking, particularly for Roman or lower value Greek coins.

Under the CPIA, import restrictions only apply to coins “first found in the ground” in these countries. See CPIA 2601 (2). However, if a coin on these lists was excavated outside of those countries in a country that declares anything found in the ground to be state property (i.e., Egypt or Turkey), it may still be subject to seizure pursuant to the National Stolen Property Act and other provisions of U.S. law.

Restricted coins should be imported separately to avoid delays of unrestricted coins. Also, importers should include the find spot, if known, of such coins, though one must also understand that such information may prompt additional inquiries from Customs to ascertain whether such coins were illicitly excavated.

“Satisfactory evidence” under these safe harbor provisions included with Customs paperwork identifying the type of item, country of origin (manufacture), and value should allow free entry, but on occasion CBP asks for additional documentation, i.e., published auction references pre-dating the effective date of the applicable regulation.

The proper customs codes should also be included with the customs paperwork. At the request of the numismatic trade, effective July 1, 2020, the US international Trade Commission has recognized the concept of “ancient coins in trade” through the creation of a new harmonized tariff code subheading for “Coins made prior to the 14th century and not known to be the direct products of excavations, finds or archaeological sites.” As a result of this change, the new HTS code number 9705.00.00.01 should be used for all coins prior to 14th century. where there is no evidence of them coming from a hoard or excavation.

Coins greater than 250 years old that are from known hoards or excavations should still be listed as archaeological objects under HTS code, 9705.00.00.79, and more modern coins not known to be from hoards or excavations should be listed under more general codes. The changes to Heading 9705 applies to imports into the United States and do not change the reporting codes of Schedule B for reporting exports on the Shipper's Export Declaration. Accordingly, exporters may still use Schedule B codes 9705.00.0030 (for Gold) and 9705.00.0060 (for other than gold) for reporting exports on the Shipper's Export Declaration or under the program for electronic reporting of exports. Furthermore, the changes to Heading 9705 apply only in the United States and would not dictate how the EU treats coins for purposes of exports from the EU.

(1) It is our understanding that among these countries only Italy regularly issues export certificates.

(2) This provision is rarely used because it makes more sense to provide documentation of export before the effective date of the import restrictions.


Consigner’s Statement

Here is a sample Consigner’s Statement for the legal import of restricted coins under the “safe harbor” provisions of 19 U.S.C. § 2606.  The statements are shown below but you can download a Microsoft Word version by clicking HERE and a PDF version by clicking HERE.


  • STATEMENT OF CONSIGNOR OR SELLER REGARDING CERTAIN [Fill in Nationality of] COINS

     

    I,         _____________________________, state as follows:

     

     

    1.     I am the consignor or seller of Certain Coins from [ fill in nationality of coins] described on Schedule I (the “Coins”).

     

    2.     I make this statement in satisfaction of the evidence required to establish lawful exportation in accordance with the Import Restrictions set forth in the Convention on Cultural Property, 19 U.S.C. § 2606(b)-(c) (the “Import Restrictions”).

  •  
  • 3.     To the best of my knowledge, the Coins were exported from [ fill in nationality of coins] prior to [fill in effective date of regulations], the date the date such material was designated under § 2604 of the Import Restrictions.

     

    4.      To the best of my knowledge, the Coins do not violate § 2607 of the Import Restrictions as they do not appertain to the inventory of a museum or religious or secular public monument or similar institution in [ fill in nationality of coins] which were stolen from such institution after January 12, 1983.

     

    ____________________________

                            Signature

     

     

     ____________________________

                            Date

     


     

    Schedule I

     

    [Please provide a schedule of the coins being transferred to the consignee or buyer. This schedule must list and identify each coin individually; it is not acceptable to list coins in groups or lots for this purpose.]

     

  • 1                  Importer’s Statement
  • Here is a sample Importer’s Statement for the legal import of restricted coins under the “safe harbor” provisions of 19 U.S.C. § 2606.  This statement should be faxed or emailed to the exporter so it may be included within the package.  We understand that CBP often allows entry simply with a consigner’s statement, but the statute provides for the inclusion of an importer’s statement in the form of a declaration as well.


     

    STATEMENT OF IMPORTER OR BUYER REGARDING CERTAIN [Fill in Nationality of] COINS

     

    I,        _____________________________, state as follows:

     

     

    1.     I am the importer of Certain Coins from [ fill in nationality of coins] described on Schedule I (the “Coins”).

     

    2.     I make this statement in satisfaction of the evidence required to establish lawful exportation in accordance with the Import Restrictions set forth in the Convention on Cultural Property, 19 U.S.C. § 2606(b)-(c) (the “Import Restrictions”).

  •  

3.     To the best of my knowledge, the Coins were exported from [ fill in nationality of coins] prior to [fill in effective date of regulations], the date the date such material was designated under § 2604 of the Import Restrictions.

 

4.      To the best of my knowledge, the Coins do not violate § 2607 of the Import Restrictions as they do not appertain to the inventory of a museum or religious or secular public monument or similar institution in [ fill in nationality of coins] which were stolen from such institution after January 12, 1983.

 

____________________________

                        Signature

 

 

 ____________________________

                        Date

 


 

Schedule I

 

[Please provide a schedule of the coins being transferred to the consignee or buyer. This schedule must list and identify each coin individually; it is not acceptable to list coins in groups or lots for this purpose.]


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