Tuesday 15 July 2014

US Coin Collectors Misbehaving

Wayne Sayles on his blog apparently proudly, and certainly defiantly, recounts how The Daily Record (a news service for Maryland based business and legal professions), in a piece by Legal Affairs staff writer Danny Jacobs reports the "Ancient Coin Collectors Guild forfeiture case" in its July 13, 2014 issue (Daily Record: Five years on, test case on coins tries USAO's patience). 
The headline is catchy, to say the least: "Five years on, test case on coins tries USAO's patience". The essence of this balanced report is distilled from a recent filing in Baltimore by federal prosecutors. Jacobs describes the document as a harshly worded motion complaining of the "waste of judicial resources" expended by the US Attorney's Office. The USAO lays responsibility for that claimed waste of resources squarely on the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild. In their motion, the government attorney states “We are still here — in the fifth year — for only one reason: Claimants’ refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer,”. 
Sayles is proud of that, the rest of us cringe. Presenting coin collectors as victims (as always) the guy goes on to say:
It remains to be seen where the road will go from here, but one thing is certain— Ancient Coin Collectors will not give up an avocation with a laudable history more than 600-years-old without exhausting every possible resource. If that means wasting the time of someone in Washington, then so be it.
Well, three things are certain, coin collecting cannot possibly have a "600-year tradition" in the USA because the country did not exist 600 years ago and the only coins there 600 years ago were lost on archaeological sites of Viking age in the northeastern coastal regions. What these people are contesting is a very local and specific US law affecting imported coins, ensuring that smuggled material of certain types is not entering the US market. Why any US dealer would want to import coins without evidence of licit export you can guess for yourself.

The second thing that is certain is that none of this is doing the already tarnished image of antiquity collecting, and coin collecting in particular, any good. There has been a palpable shift in public attitudes since they began this case, and the ACCG has scored a home goal with this one.

The third thing which is certain is nobody (let me put that in big letters so they see it this time NOBODY) is requiring collectors to give up their "avocation" (sic, read: habit). What is being asked is that when bringing certain material to the market, dealers ensure that there is documentation of licit export nothing else (big letters for the small minds NOTHING ELSE). This is about taking steps to reduce smuggling and laundering-by-transfer of artefacts, not just coins. All other antiquity collectors in the US are already buckling under and doing this. Coin dealers (for it's the dealers not collectors that are raising the fuss and proseletising crowds of sheep-like followers) think they are in some way "better" than everybody else and should be beyond any laws and regulations. They want to carry on doing what they do (whatever that is) like they would have done it 600 years ago. Six hundred years ago by evading local duties in the movement of material from one jurisdiction to another, they'd have ended up in the stocks at the least.

Vignette: Fifteenth century numismatic troublemakers in the stocks (Albrecht Durer, wikipedia) 

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