Monday, 23 May 2011

ACCG Lund Defence Fund

As reported widely in the US media, through what he describes as a miscommunication, a member of the US coin-collecting brotherhood is in serious trouble with the authorities in Israel and has lost an entire ancient coin collection to them and it seems to me that he is is dire need of some support from fellow ancient coin collectors. As we all know,
The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is a non-profit organization committed to promoting the free and independent collecting of coins from antiquity. The goal of the guild is to foster an environment in which the general public can confidently and legally acquire and hold any numismatic item of historical interest regardless of date or place of origin. ACCG strives to achieve its goals through education, political action, and consumer protection.
Dr John Lund is doing research for an upcoming book and unthinkingly took a binder containing a collection of ancient coins with him when he travelled on business to Israel which has been seized by Israeli authorities. We are told that the book is called "Bible Coins of Interest to Christians". This meant that Lund's lost coin binder contained a collection of "many coins, including Greek, Persian, Roman and Egyptian coins in addition to Jewish coins". These objects were he stresses legally purchased and exported "on previous trips around the Mediterranean region" and legally owned in the United States where he lives (in Utah). The Israelis are challenging this, so this seems like a forthcoming battle right up the ACCG's street. It challenges everything they say about ancient coin ownership, "collectors' rights" and property rights.

This was the second batch of antiquities from his collection which Dr Lund had had confiscated by the Israelis in a fortnight. According to an Israel Antiquities Authority press release, he was detained in Jerusalem about "two weeks" before his arrest at Ben Gurion airport and had had a collection of "hundreds of antiquities" (including coins) seized when authorities searched his room. Again, coins he says were legally owned and brought as private property through Israeli customs from his home in America.

Lund said he had been questioned at customs about the items when he entered Israel and allowed to pass without any problems. The problems arose when he tried to take the same collection of objects back home. He claims that nobody had explained to him anything about Israeli law on the passage of such items across international borders. Lund said he's concerned for American tourists in Israel who are in the dark like he was.
"Innocently, all over the place, people are buying items, hauling them out of the country and not even aware that they're technically smugglers," he said. "I think Israel has an obligation to let us know that".
Well, although I think Israel does that already some may agree with Dr Lund (a collector of 'Biblical coins") that more could be done. I think therefore this is somewhere the ACCG could supply advice notes for collectors who might be faced with similar problems during their travels abroad. Just how do the laws of popular US holiday destinations affect the ability of collectors to own ancient coins while abroad? I think this case shows all too transparently that collectors need to be informed, and who better to accomplish this task than the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild.

Dr Lund now has to get his property - including his "biblical coin" collection - back from the Israelis, because if he does not this is a huge blow against the "rights" which US collectors claim.
Lund plans to appeal to the U.S. Embassy and find a lawyer versed in international antiquities laws to fight the charges, which he says stemmed from a simple miscommunication..
It seems to me that this is a task for Peter Tompa and his firm Bailey and Ehrenberg, the legal firm in the nation's capital with a lot of experience of fighting governmental injustice and intransigence specifically in the field of the legality of coin imports and exports.

So, I assume that in the next few days in their efforts to uphold US "collectors' rights", to promote the free and independent collecting of coins from antiquity and "foster an environment in which the general public can confidently and legally acquire and hold any numismatic item of historical interest regardless of date or place of origin" we will be seeing the creation of an ACCG John Lund Fighting Fund. Maybe a topical Benefit Auction - legally owned and previously collected "Biblical coins" only is in order? Let us see some expression of coiney collecting solidarity - or are the ACCG going to concentrate on those dealery things like the MOUs and leave a US collector to be pushed around and victimised by a foreign government?


darktech said...

Though I am not an avid coin collector, I would wholeheartedly support this motion. Dr. Lund is a friend of mine, and my family has traveled with him and attended his lectures on multiple occasions. I can vouch for his character, and yes, that coin collection is his personal collection used for demonstration only to teach about them and their scriptural context; none of it is for sale. It is a crying shame that someone who loves Israel so much, and has dedicated his life to studying it has been treated thus. When my wife was a teenager and wanted to buy some such coins, he directed her to a shop in Israel where she could get them. I have wanted to go to Israel with him to see the things she got to see, but if this is how Israel treats tourists and their friends; I'm almost sorry the US bailed out their sorry asses in the '40s. Almost.

Long story short, I'm in.

Paul Barford said...

I'm almost sorry the US bailed out their sorry asses in the '40s.” The law is the law, is it not? For Mormon, Texan, Syrian and Jew. Lund should know the laws affecting his hobby whether it is rifle marksmanship, coin collecting, street racing and iguana rearing wherever he wants to take part in it (or take his coin collection, rifle or iguana).

He has admitted to not knowing the law about antiquity exports, but there is a second accusation, of selling antiquities without a licence, which he categorically denies.

If you have no doubts that he was not selling those artefacts, you will agree that the upcoming (let’s hope) trial will be an important one for the coin collector and antiquity collector. So please do get all of your friends and former students of Dr Lund to contact the ACCG and get them to set up this fighting fund and donate generously to it. Not only helping to prove Dr Lund’s innocence, but in the name of US “collectors’ rights” to be able to collect ancient coins and artefacts irrespective of the source.

I would say that whether or not the ACCG takes up this challenge will define the degree to which they really are on the collector’s side, and are not – as some would assert – merely a dealers’ self-interest group.

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