Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Early Types of Italian Coins Included in US-Italy Cultural Agreement Extension


Alarmist rumours were being spread by US ancient coin collectors that the Italians were requesting the inclusion of coins of Roman type in this month's US-Italy Cultural Agreement Extension. Nobody knew whether Italy had asked for this or not, the State Department were keeping quiet, but the coineys conducted a lively campaign on the assumption that all Roman coins were included in the Italian party's request. It was pointed out that information was circulating in the in the archaeological community back in September last year that this bipartite agreement was not going to cover such a wide range of material and that Roman Coins were not going to be included.

It turns out on publication today of the details in the Federal Register that although Roman imperial coins were not included, as in the case of China, the MOU will cover the oldest forms of coinage represented in the archaeological material. The text of the Federal Register notes:
This amendment comes in response to a Diplomatic Note from the Government of Italy requesting the Designated List be amended. Coins constitute an inseparable part of the archaeological record of Italy, and, like other archaeological objects, they are vulnerable to pillage and illicit export
Perhaps the ACCG are hoping that this diplomatic note will appear in the Wikileaks cablegate archive?

Now to import certain types of numismatic material into the US legally their legal export from the source country has to be demonstrated. Why is that a problem for the US numismatic trade? I am pretty sure that within a few hours they will inform us of a thousand and one reasons why they simply cannot be transparent about their international transactions like this. Of course the real blow is to Italian suppliers who can no longer stick a coin or two in an envelope and post it to the US as no respectable US dealer will now accept such coins without the proper documentation. As we were told the other day that therefore shuts off about "half" of the world market for such things to unscrupulous sellers and careless exporters.

The coins included are: "Coins of Italian Types"
1. and 2. Lumps and cast bars of bronze (Aes Rude, Ramo Secco and Aes Signatum) primitive money - they say.

3. Cast coins (Aes Grave)-Cast bronze coins of Rome, Etruscan, and Italian cities from the 4th century B.C.

4. Struck coins-Struck coins of the Roman Republic and Etruscan cities produced in gold, silver, and bronze from the 3rd century B.C. to c. 211 B.C., including the ''Romano-Campanian'' coinage.

5. Struck colonial coinage-Struck bronze coins of Roman republican and early imperial colonies and municipia in Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia from the 3rd century B.C. to c. A.D. 37.

6. Coins of the Greek cities-Coins of the Greek cities in the southern Italian peninsula and in Sicily (Magna Graecia), cast or struck in gold, silver, and bronze, from the late 6th century B.C. to c. 200 B.C.

So coins of the Roman Empire (ie what many ancient coin collectors collect) are not affected at all. In fact, if you look at the V-Coins portal today, the number of coins on sale there falling into these groups seems to be about 200-250 coins (in a total of 107,570 Items), so really quite a small and specialist part of the US numismatic market.

This decision now places the coiney naysayers in a difficult position. For several years they have been gearing themselves up to fight the inclusion of coins of Cyprus and China in the bipartite cultural property agreements on the grounds that they form a 'dangerous precedent'. They had been attempting to amass information which would challenge the legality of the procedure by which this was done. The Baltimore illegal coin import stunt was to precipitate this challenge. Now, even if a court does determine there were procedural errors, the value of overturning the Cyprus and China agreements has been substantially reduced by the publication of the Italy one. I cannot believe that the Department of State would have allowed there to be even a smidgin of doubt about the procedure followed in the case of the Italian MOU, I am sure that if another costly FOI procedure was initiated by the PNG, IAPN and ACCG it would find everything this time spick and span. Overturning the Cyprus decision now would serve no purpose as the Italy one also serves as a precedent. Maybe US dugup antiquity importers should just get used to the idea that their cowboy days are drawing to a close, and their customer today deserves the comfort of knowing not only that the items on sale have been legally obtained and legally exported, but that the dealer is able to document that.

Maybe it is time to salvage the surplus of coins already in the US from being used as tasteful (ahem) wearable jewellery such as this Republican denarius which can be turned back into numismatic collectables?


Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford- Please explain why you have changed your 9/2 post from "Coins not in Italy Cultural Extension" to "Roman Coins not in Italy Cultural Extension?," and then constructed a post around this changed story. I think this is quite disingenuous.

Paul Barford said...

nine halves? eh?
Is that like coin Elves?

So, Imperial Roman coins are or are not in the MOU?

I seem to recall one Peter Tompa building a whole case for US collectors opposing measures to stop import of illegally exported coins on the premise that this is what was being proposed. Is that not what you did?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford- The DOS offers no hint at what is being considered and certainly Mr. De Caro of the Italian Cultural Ministry suggested he personally wanted restrictions on Roman coins. Sorry, but the Customs and FOIA actions will go on. I'm glad you have more confidence that the DOS followed proper procedures as to this MOU, but if so, why the change in result when there was no material change in the underlying conditions?

Paul Barford said...

"The Customs and FOI actions will go on"

Ha! well, I guess having nailed the pirate colours to the mast the PNG, IAPN and ACCG will have to sail under them to the bitter end eh? After all your shipmates raised all that money so coineys can play pirates, what else can they do with it?

"I'm glad you have more confidence that the DOS followed proper procedures as to this MOU, but if so, why the change in result when there was no material change in the underlying conditions?"
Oh I think there is no doubt about the former.

I think if you look carefully at the list of coins that is and is NOT on that list, it becomes clear that the Italian government and State Department have between them constructed a list which (apart from the aes rude which must be there pro-forma) is a huge numismatic poke-in-the-eye for coiney naysayers. It cuts right to the root of the arguments offered against the MOU(s). They did listen attentively.

That is the changed condition, they are going in for the kill. You have brought what will follow on yourselves.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.