Coins on UNESCO 1970 Convention

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by PMONNEY, Jul 7, 2018.


    PMONNEY Flaminivs

    Are ancient coins, more than 100 years old- regardless of value- to be considered as protected cultural goods ?
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Two issues:

    1. Coins only 500 years old are generally considered modern.
    2. For truly ancient coins, the answer is complex and it depends on which country they are found in and what particular coins you're talking about.
    Alegandron likes this.
  4. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    I hope not. In my opinion, the UNESCO convention was not intended to protect common, multiple produced and utilitarian artifacts like coins, which were intended for trade and often traveled far beyond the country of manufacture. Many coins were also intended for local use, and these were also produced in multiples and are very common. I think the intent of UNESCO is being twisted and bent to the whim of archaeologists trying to (a) protect their monopoly on digging, and (b) garner favor with source countries who issue excavation permits. Certainly, the US had a longstanding tradition of excluding coins from export controls until fairly recently.

    My hope is that a political solution can be reached that recognizes "orphan" coins that have been in the trade since 1970. Personally, I'd not be adverse to drawing a new line in the sand at 2018 vs 1970 - but the archaeologists would have to be reasonable in accepting a certification for coins that don't appear in printed sale catalogues before the new date. Source countries should also be required to adopt systems like U.K.'s Portable Antiquities Scheme to encourage and reward innocent finders to report finds. Is this a pipe dream? Probably yes.
  5. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    The text of the UNESCO convention is at . It says "... the term `cultural property' means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to the following categories: ... (e) antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals; ..."

    For a coin to be a protected cultural good it needs two things. First, it needs to be 100 years old. Second a country needs to designate what is a cultural good. Some countries exempt coins, others exempt coins below some value threshold, but others say every individual coin is important.

    The 100 year rule on the treaty just means the treaty doesn't cover recent items. For example New Zealand law says the Pattern Waitangi Crown (a silver coin minted in Britain in 1935, depicting Ta ̄mati Wa ̄ka Nene and Governor Hobson signing the Treaty of Waitangi. Only three are known to exist) is a cultural good, but it is not 100 years old so the treaty doesn't cover it.

    Many people believe the treaty was intended to cover objects valuable enough to be catalogued. If a coin is so minor that it would sit unrecorded in a museum box if it was turned into local authorities it doesn't deserve treaty protection according to the opinions of many. It is hard to test this theory in a legal setting because how can lawyers in one country debate "importance" designations made in another country in another language?
  6. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Therein lies much of the rub. We expect governments to act reasonably and with legitimate purpose, at least we expect that in the U.S. No offense to anyone here, but I'd venture to say that most of the coins CT members collect would not see daylight beyond a museum basement (I'll excuse @AncientJoe from that generality). Is it reasonable for a government to impede trade in such items? This doesn't even get into the find spot versus issuing authority issue. Should a source country govt have the right to claim ownership of an item that they cannot prove came out of their soil?
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