Wednesday 22 February 2012

US Artefact Collectors and the Law

Over in Krause Publications' "World Coin News" coin-dealer-investigative-journalist Richard Giedroyć is publicising some wild claims.
Countries including Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Turkey have been making increasing demands not only to restrict the import of certain coins, but to repatriate coins now in private or museum collections they claim should be able to be returned regardless of how long these coins have been out of their country of origin or where the coins were discovered.
Do they? Where can he document such a statement, or does he want his readers to believe that the claims are part of secret backroom gubn'mint deals involving concessions to foreign governments in return for them buying Big Business's GM mutant popcorn? The mind boggles. The occasion for this latest literary production of the hapless numismo-journalist was a Jan. 7 meeting of the ACCG held during the New York International Numismatic Convention (you know, the one where 'the recent arrest' took place). The subject was '[US] Import Restrictions Declared 'Extra Legal', and the meeting was addressed by (of course, who else but) Peter Tompa and (who else but) Wayne Sayles. The name of the person they invited representing the Department of State's legal department was not given, probably because inviting such a speaker was not on their agenda. Tompa opened by saying:
two University of Miami law professors [...] examined laws regarding the import of certain coins and how these laws are being enforced, despite having no personal interest in coins or in coin collecting. Their conclusion, according to Tompa, was that those enforcing these laws have been going beyond the letter of the law, using the law term “extra legal” to describe these actions.
Now this is old "news", the article to which Tompa refers is obviously such old hat in coiney circles, everybody having read it, that no need is felt here to give details of the names of these professors (Stephen Urice and Andrew Adler) or the context of what they wrote. So basically the coineys are not coming up with anything new.

There is however a welcome new emphasis in the ACCG which now:
encourages those individuals and organizations with an interest in coins as collectibles to lobby to change or to discourage new laws that may restrict ownership rights regarding specific coins. [...] Sayles was careful to clarify what collectors and dealers should and should not do. “It is not in our best interests to find a way to get around the law. It is in our best interest to change the law,” he declared.
Of course one of the primary prerequisites of this is ensuring that they know the existing laws, which statements like the one started this text with do not help. In order to take active part in political life of their country the coineys will need to know how the system they want to change actually works, what it does and what it does not.

One word of sense from the WCN jurnlist:
Sayles told those at the ACCG meeting some coin dealers are now giving clients invoices on which photographs of their coins appear. Current statutes require an affidavit both from the dealer and from the buyer that some specific ancient coins are being imported legally. The provenance and the date of purchase of such coins is becoming increasingly important due to these restrictions.
Yes, and always has been, its just it has taken coin dealers and coin purchasers a long time to drag their hobby into the modern world. But its not just due to the restrictions, keeping proper records of holdings is a requisite of responsible and ethical collecting of such material.

On Urice and Adler:
'Miami Law: US Cultural Property Policies a Shambles'(17 August 2010)
'Talking Rot About "Rot at the Top" ' (20 August 2010)
'Well, it was inevitable was it not?' (23 August 2010)
'Urice and Adler Redraft' (31 March 2011)

Note though that the ACCG are very selective about informing their readers about Urice's writings on cultural property law: 'What the Dealers' lobbyists are Not telling Collectors' 5 December 2011 (and other posts here)

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