Monday 19 December 2011

Focus on CCPIA: "Protection of Cutural Heritage Treasures - Please stop it"

Coin collector Bill Howden would like to see the United states "stop" its International Cultural Property Protection program, he is concerned about restrictions on the "free flow of collector coins [without documentation of lawful export] from one country to another". He urges the CPAC "Please stop it with the [...] restriction on the free import and export of coins [...]". He says this
"is very detrimental to the exchange of cultural information and experiences and will undermined world efforts for better understanding and appreciaiton of other nations, especially among the young. The free export of coins, a movable object that was often meant to flow internationally, does no harm to traditional protrection of cutural heritage treasures. It is a very different matter".
Although the joining-up of the thinking seems to be lacking, the meaning is clear, Howden does not mind people buying dugup coins without documentation of lawful export... Similar sentiments are revealed by another "member of the public" (obviously another coin-fondler):
Renewing this would do nothing but continue to infringe upon my rights as a US citizen. Why are you allowing these people to create MOU's [about the trafficking of artefacts without documentation of lawful export] that don't serve to protect the interests of the US people NOR the people who we are agreeing to have an MOU with? I can bet you that the people of Cyprus DO NOT CARE about ancient coins and other common archeological items. Honestly, this probably doesn't make sense to those making this decision, and I'm tired of typing the same message, so I'll just say that the only decision you should be making is to say NO to this MOU. That is a NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!
So the Cypriots "do not care" their cultural heritage is being smuggled, and the only one who has "rights" to this material is the US citizen ? That's Edward Beck's point of view. Ekram Barlas is clearly completely uninformed. He is against an MOU extension because he reckons:
Madam/Sir, Restrictions which curtail collecting do not contribute to preserving the related objects. They rather encourage a black market for them.
So, a "black market"' would involve the trading of ... well, things like artefacts removed from the country clandestinely without documentation of lawful export. In other words precisely what is regulated by the CCPIA (which the collector surely should be aware contains absolutely no measures to "curtail collecting")

Twelve days into the comment-gathering process, Frank Robinson reveals he too has no idea what the discussion is about ("there are more than enough coins to go around") and thinks refusing entry to the USA of coins without documentation of lawful export is hurting what he calls "honest dealers". That is a new definition of honesty then. [UPDATE: According to coin dealer Dave Welsh it turns out that Frank Robinson is a retired US administrative law judge - so we might have expected him to find out what the CCPIA regulates - which is legal export and not "how many coins" there are available for archaeologists - I wonder if he is pals with Judge Waddoups]. Coin collector Mark McGlone posits that "Such prohibitions [on the movement of material without documentation of lawful export] [...] reduce respect for the law" (among collectors, or dealers, or smugglers, he does not say). Collector "Michael" also thinks there are enough coins to go around.

Sam Spiegel suggests, but fails to justify that "the restriction of the importation of coins from Cyprus [without documentation of lawful export] is not consistent with the general interest of the international community". There are so many coins he says that preventing the smuggling of "the vast majority cannot be considered integral to preserving cultural heritage" because it allows "a wider audience [...] to appreciate them". And a fair number of dealers to make a tidy profit from making them available to collectors who do not really care if they are smuggled or not.

Thomas Brown who collects "private coins" does not want to see coins without documentation of lawful export denied entrance to the US market as this would "limit our trade with Cypriot as well as other foreign dealers". Surely that is exactly the point, to limit the contacts with those in Cyprus and elsewhere selling such material to only those able to supply responsible collectors with coins accompanied by documentation of lawful export. No? Who'd want to enter into business agreements with the other type (in other words, smugglers)? Mr Brown?

I think there would be a very good case for putting people who go online like this to blithely write about defending their "rights" to buy smuggled goods on a watch list, and see what else they are buying abroad and bringing into the country.

Vignette: What kind of trade contacts and practices are the opposers of the CCPIA being asked to defend?


Scott said...

What proof do you or anyone else have that these artifacts are "smuggled goods?" Specifically regarding ancient coins, what proof do you have that these did not come out of Cyprus as part commerce and were held in different areas of the world? You make these statements like you have all of the answers. Nobody does.

After the U.S. gold recall of 1933, collector coins were allowed to be retained. However, researchers who investigated the records from that time believe that only 25 percent of the gold coins survived. Many of those coins were either shipped off shore or used in international commerce. In fact, a hoard of over 70 US gold coins were recently auctioned in England. Those coins were buried by someone who died during the WWII air raids and were forgotten about until they were unearthed 2007.

Under your logic, those gold coins should be US property and not sold at a public auction. Under your logic, the coins should have been confiscated by the British government and given back to the US government. Under your logic, these are black market collectibles and the seller, auction house, and buyer should be arrested.

I am not a collector of ancient coins, but as a member of the numismatic community it bothers me that the State Department has been capitulating to nearly every foreign government regarding artifacts that have been in worldwide circulation for hundreds or thousands of years with no issue. Suddenly, when countries appear to have an issue with the United States, they appear to be using peripheral means to try to take action against the U.S. and its citizens. Allowing the State Department to entertain these types of actions should be abhorrent to any collector because if it begins with the ancient coins, then where does it stop?

I support the efforts of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild and will be adding my dissent to the MOU.

-- Scott Barman
Author of the Coin Collectors Blog

Paul Barford said...

@Scott Barman,
"What proof do you or anyone else have that these artifacts are "smuggled goods?"..."

Well, I am discussing here a particular piece of US legislation, the CCPIA, this defines two (actually three) types of documentation of lawful export of the items covered. It follows that if an attempt is made to bring an object on the designated list NOT having those types of documentation, then by the definitions set out in the CCPIA, they are unlawfully exported. The colloquial term for that Mr Barman is “smuggled”. The people opposing the existing MOU are holding out for the import of goods which by the laws of their own country are unlawfully exported. But, you go ahead and add your voice to the rest of the ACCG camp-followers.

You will note that the US “implementing” legislation gives considerably more leeway than the original Convention to the definition of “lawful export”; this is because the US is applying the universal principles of the Convention (see Art. 3) in a highly selective manner.

You are wrong, it is not the foreign states who are selectively targeting the US, but the US selectively picking and choosing whose cultural property they will help protect from smuggling – quite out of accord with the general tenor of the Convention, and this is why I think the US should no longer be a state party to a Convention of which it is not willing to fully respect the attendant obligations.

To answer your (false) objection, that second kind of documentation considered enough proof of “lawful export” by the CCPIA includes precisely objects taken out of the source country before the bilateral cultural agreement was entered into, which is the case you mention. Check out the legislation before suggesting it does not cover a particular situation – because in this case you are wholly mistaken. You will note in this part of the CCPIA, it makes no mention of the principles embodied in the UNESCO Convention, this is something the Americans made up for themselves.

Where, indeed "does it stop" Mr Barman? The US quite blatantly stops far short of any serious attempt to deal with the problem of the illicit trade in antiquities across its borders, and the ACCG seeks to weaken it even further. They do not deserve any support from RESPONSIBLE collectors concerned about illicit antiquities. But you go ahead and lend them YOUR support. I am sure you will.

Paul Barford said...

@ Scott Barman, ACCG supporter:

I do not follow your point about the Hackney Hoard (discussed on this blog twice at least).

I do not know where you get the “by your logic” from. I was discussing the US CCPIA which is about import/export of antiquities, it makes no reference to who owns what is dug up. Neither does it have any force outside the USA, being precisely what it says, an act for implementing a Convention in the territory of the USA.

When buried in 1940, the coins were the property of a German citizen, living in London and not in (‘Continental’) America to which Executive Order 6102 applies.

By English law (the fourth category under the 1996 Treasure Act, ‘would have been Treasure Trove’) the inquest found that they were the property of the descendants of Mr Sulzbacher.

I really do not see how you wish to apply US law to this case, especially since the coins were found in 2007 and the 1933 and 1934 ‘gold recall’ legislation was finally cancelled by President Ford in 1974 (Pub. L.93-373, check it out).

In any case there is not even a tenuous connection between this hoard and the CCPIA.

I’m sorry to say that I think you are just trying to pick holes in something you quite obviously have made no real effort to understand. But since you say that despite everything you support the ACCG, I do not find that at all surprising.

Scott said...

While I am going through the various notes to refute you with the various documents open in front of me, I want to make one comment, in your first reply to me above you commented, "The colloquial term for that Mr Barman is “smuggled”." However, you failed to recognize that I was quoting YOU! In your fifth paragraph (including block quotes) you asked, "So the Cypriots "do not care" their cultural heritage is being smuggled, and the only one who has "rights" to this material is the US citizen ?"
(Emphasis mine)

I would suggest that you are responding more out of emotion than anything else. So please excuse me while I provide you with documented, factual evidence.

Paul Barford said...

I really do not see the point you are making, the law defines what is unlawfully exported, the colloquial term for that is "smggled' and you are quoting me. Yes, so?

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