Thursday 18 February 2010

No coin imports "barred"

There is an inaccuracy in the ACCG press releases and other writings about the reasons behind their Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt. They write that " Ancient Coin Collectors Seek Judicial Review of Controversial Decisions to Bar Coin Imports". In reality of course, no coin imports are "barred". All that is required to comply with US law in the disputed case is that for an (initially) five year period, any imports of artefacts (for example ancient coins) of two specific and defined categories will be more carefully examined by US Customs to see if the are accompanied by the paperwork (two types are allowed) required by the 1983 Cultural Convention Implementation Act. That is all. Hardly "controversial". Any importers unable to supply the paperwork at the point of entry have in addition ninety days to supply them, which seems ample time. In reality, ALL coins and ancient artefacts imported into the USA should also be accompanied by the same paperwork - that is the implication of Article 8 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property accepted by the USA in 1983. The fact that CPIA only in fact obliges US Customs to look more carefully at imports from specific countries with which the USA has a specific MOU about this is a measure of the relative indifference of the US authorities to the question of American responsibility for the protection of the world's cultural heritage against the demands of the US domestic no-questions-asked marketand its place in the international movement of such artefacts.

The bottom line is that no coin mports are "barred" outright by any US law (looted material from Iraq being an exception, but in fact unprovenanced Mesopotamian artefacts regularly appear on the US market regardless). What the ancient coin dealers of the PNG, IAPN and ACG are fighting for in their Maryland lawsuit is the "right" to disregard even the current weakly imposed lenient legislation that exists in the US to allow the market in dugup antiquities to remain totally no-questions-asked.

Let us note however that it is just one small minority segment of the market that is fighting for US law to sanction the continuence of nineteenth century models; responsible dealers in other antiques and antiquities from Cyprus and China affected by the same MOU are content to follow the law and not kick against it. This does not reflect too well on the collectors of coins.

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