Wednesday 2 November 2011

Coineyistic Squirrelling in Bulgaria?

There is a fragment of the text by Mark Fox ('Bulgaria Seeks Import Restrictions', Numismatic News/Numismaster October 31, 2011) about the Bulgaria bilateral cultural property agreement request discussed in the post above which deserves some attention. Fox reports that "one Bulgarian numismatist" gave him an account of "what recently happened" in Bulgaria:
This recent MOU-request of the Bulgarian government is directly linked with the new 'Antiquities Act' in Bulgaria-enforced since 10th April 2009 (published in 'State Gazette', no.19, of 13 March 2009; full text here: in Bulgarian, Google it). It was harshly criticized and much debated on all sides and parties; there were a couple of great public disputes; nobody liked it, but it was finally accepted by the previous government (dominated by BSP-the former communists). More recently (in July 2011) two to three minor amendments of that law were passed by the National Assembly, but in effect it is enabled un-changed, however useless and incomplete it is.

According to its regulations, everything found in the lands of modern Bulgaria dating from the Neolithic period to the early 1900s is defined as "national cultural values" equal "antiquity" belongs to the state and cannot be exported (without a special permission by the Ministry of Culture [very hard, nearly impossible to get in fact]).
But all was not darkness and gloom for collectors, one could register collections to legitimise thee ownership of the objects in them (I wrote about this at the time as I recall, this was the situation we had in Poland as a result of the 1962 cultural property law). Sadly Bulgarian collectors did not like this idea any more than western ones:
The law also obliged all collectors to declare all their possessions within a some six- to nine-month period (with an expensive and very slow bureaucratic procedure). Do you know what happened in reality? Of the some 50,000 coin collectors in this country (enlisted in the early 1990s at the numismatic clubs), only around 150-200 collections were de facto declared by this law. The rest simply vanished, buried in bank safes, hidden in the ground, etc. The owners just did not want to bother. Much of it will be exported/smuggled and will finally reach the market, no doubt.
This is supposed to be reason NOT to prevent illegally exported material into the United States? It will all be "up for grabs" to anyone willing to buy illegally exported material, and the US dealers and collectors don't want to miss out?

Fifty thousand members of "numismatic clubs" in the Bulgaria of the early 1990s before the law was changed does not equal 50 000 collectors of illegally dugup ancient coins of course.

So, rather than legitimise their collections, the unregistered Bulgarian collectors have buried their coins "in the ground"? That seems rather atavistic behaviour... Like squirrels.

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