Ancient coins confiscated by US customs?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Gam3rBlake, Jul 25, 2021.

  1. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    Has anyone heard or read about this story?

    A group of ancient coin collectors bought 23 ancient coins from a London dealer.

    They were seized by US customs because they didn’t have the “proper paperwork” to prove that the coins weren’t looted objects.

    Is it safe to even buy ancient coins internationally?

    According to the article they were 1,000-2,000 year old coins. But basically that would apply to all Roman Republic & Roman Empire coins as well as Greek coins like the famous Athenian owl Tetradrachm which is even older at 2,400 years old.

    How exactly do you prove that a coin you bought overseas from a dealer or collector isn’t a looted object?

    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
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  3. Muzyck

    Muzyck I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a biscuit today.

    That's the problem with buying that many at one time. If it were only a couple they would have fit into a CBP pocket and they would have just been "lost" like all of the others that don't make it through.
    coin_nut and Gam3rBlake like this.
  4. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I know the lawyer who handled that case. The US has regulations about importing very old coins from many countries.

    You are probably safe if you only import coins you can prove were on the market in 2010 or earlier. Some denominations, years, and country-of-origin are OK later, please read this 19 page PDF for details.

    Before buying a coin from a non-US-based dealer, write to the seller. They may be able to provide guidance. If the seller doesn't know, don't buy the coin.
  5. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    But at least if they were insured and lost the customer would get their money back.

    Everytime I’ve bought from HA they’ve insured my packages.
  6. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    So stay away from sites like biddr and EBay and such right?
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    All the major auction houses in Europe enclose the proper affidavits and/or export licenses to ship them to the United States and elsewhere. Customs typically reads the paperwork and then releases them without delay. I've purchased hundreds of coins from European firms without even a single issue with customs.
    Nathan B., Orfew, DonnaML and 2 others like this.
  8. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    Do you know if customs deals with coins purchased in the US as well? Or only stuff coming into the US from overseas?

    When I purchased coins from Heritage Auctions there was no paperwork aside from the invoice.
  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Only stuff incoming from foreign countries.
    Gam3rBlake likes this.
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Haven't had any problems on items purchased from Europe except for occasional delays in the New York ISC. Last Leu auction shipment arrived here in San Francisco via post in 3 days from Switzerland, which must be some kind of record.
    Gam3rBlake likes this.
  11. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    Ah ok thanks. I was looking at a site called biddr (it was linked on Savoca Coins) and I noticed most of their prices are in EUR or GBP rather than USD so I want to make sure if I buy from them I don’t get stuff confiscated.
  12. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    Very interesting that they mention these Roman struck coins in bronze, silver and gold.

    It means every Roman Republic coin is at risk of seizure.


    This comment is interesting as well. Apparently if a Roman denarius or aureus is found in say Britain or anywhere outside of Italy it counts as an Italian cultural object. o_O

    john65999 likes this.
  13. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Bidder is just an auction platform, not a coin dealer. Lots of respected and long-standing firms use them as a platform, such as Leu, Savoca, Naumann, Numismatica Ars Classica, Jesus Vico, Artemide, Munzen & Medaillen, etc. Each of these companies has to obey the export laws in their countries (such as obtaining a license for each shipment, which takes weeks in Spain and a week or two in Austria) and secure the necessary paperwork. That's the responsibility of the auction house, not biddr.
    Gam3rBlake likes this.
  14. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    Insurance generally does not cover customs seizures. You don't have to worry about customs when you're a US collector buying coins already in the US however

    It's not any Roman republic denarius at all actually, this bit refers to pre-denarius types. That pre-denarius cutoff was considered a "compromise" when the MOU was originally passed(as stupid as the term is any time it's used to describe unilateral actions which do not benefit one side at all).

    The one bit of good news is the actual Cultural Property Implementation Act that controls these MOUs has a sort of loophole built into the law itself, which is the 10 year cutoff. Regardless of when the MOU passed, if you have evidence that a coin was out of the source country 10 years before today, you can import it. Even 50 years in the future if the MOU keeps getting extended, the cutoff won't be 2011(when they originally passed it), but 10 years before the current date, unless congress actually amends the law, which seems unlikely. That also means that every single day, more coins are becoming legal to export that previously showed up on the market too late. There's nothing the unelected buereacrats in the state department can do about the 10 year provision, no matter how many MOUs they pass.
  15. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    Ah yeah I edited it to “Roman Republican coin” right after I posted it since I realized 211 BC was pre-Empire and pre-Denarius.

    However if I bought a coin overseas like this Quadrigatus I bought from HA there would be a risk of confiscation since it’s pre-211 BC.

    I don’t have any sort of proof it was on the market 10 years ago. :(
  16. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    Yes, quadrigati certainly were meant to be included, which is rather stupid considering there was at least one quadrigatus mint in Spain and many Italian quadrigati are found in Spain as well. Likewise aes rude and aes grave are found in Croatia often and have even been found in the UK.
    Alegandron and Gam3rBlake like this.
  17. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    That is so dumb. I think the “cultural heritage” of a coin should belong to the country in which it was found.

    It’s like if a Persian gold daric was found in Greece and Iran claimed it as cultural heritage. o_O

    & apparently they did indeed circulate widely in Greece based on the fact that tens of thousands of gold darics were used to bribe Athens, Corinth, Thebes and Argos to go to war with Sparta.

    Although I must admit I don’t know if they circulated as gold Persian darics per se or if they were melted down and
    re-minted into gold Greek staters.

    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
    Bing and PeteB like this.
  18. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    I use eBay and Biddr. I have a strong preference for coins with a previous auction history. If there is no history, and the coin is covered by the rules in the PDF, contact the seller. Does the seller have paperwork, and is the paperwork legit?

    In the past, paperwork wasn't needed. I have a library of old auction catalogs. I use them to find proof that coins were on the market before the current rules.

    Nice quadrigatus, by the way!
    red_spork, Gam3rBlake and PeteB like this.
  19. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Supporter! Supporter

    Yeah that’s a good idea but it’s tough for me as a new collector since I don’t have any references. I’ve bought stuff from Heritage Auctions but they are in the US so I’ve never had to worry about it.

    Oh and thanks! :)
    That quadrigatus is my 2nd most expensive ancient coin purchase but I’m very happy with it. Even with the little dings and chips.
  20. sand

    sand Well-Known Member

    I like this loophole. It's another good reason, for everyone to hold onto their invoices, receipts, or any other proof, that they bought their coins. If I understand this loophole correctly, then if you hold onto a coin for 10 years, and if you were living outside of the restricted country (outside of Italy, for example) when you bought the coin, and if you have proof that you bought the coin, then you can import the coin into the US.

    EDIT : I think, that my above statement, is false.
    @red_spork corrected my above statement, in his post # 20 below.
    Thank you, @red_spork.

    There was a thread, started in May, by a US CoinTalker, who had a difficult time, because he ordered a southern Arabian coin, from a dealer based in Canada. The coin was seized, and held for a long time, by US Customs. The CoinTalker had to jump through some hoops, in order to get the coin. He ordered the coin in April, and he finally got the coin in early July.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
  21. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis

    In that case, technically, no. The importer cannot have had an interest in the item more than 1 year before the date of entry, from the text of the law:

    (A) not less than ten years before the date of such entry and that neither the person for whose account the material is imported (or any related person) contracted for or acquired an interest, directly or indirectly, in such material more than one year before that date of entry, or

    Of course, I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice
    Alegandron and sand like this.
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