Customs block coin movements

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by mrbrklyn, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Of course this is a difficult and somewhat delicate issue, and yes, a "Roman" coin found in Germany for example is not necessarily Italian. (In fact, most probably not. :) ) But in these two particular cases we are talking about coins that, if the two articles are accurate, were found by customs officers when somebody wanted to smuggle them, and at an archeological site in Romania. That is against the law; now people may say the law is wrong, but if they therefore deliberately break it, well, they may have to face consequences.

    The other, and in my opinion grave, problem is coins that in one way or another are "unearthed" elsewhere. An archeological find in the UK for example can and will usually be documented, and in many cases the context of the find will tell us something about since when (roughly) the coins have been in the ground. Don't see any reason why such finds should be, hmm, repatriated. There are borderline cases (think of the Lava Treasure; a while ago the French government wanted the government of Lower Saxony, DE to seize a Roman coin from the third century BC that was found in a ship near the Corsican coast) but fortunately seizing an object temporarily does not mean confiscating it.

    The toughest cases are of course those where private collectors have old coins in their collections. Many of those do not come with a pedigree or proof of purchase, simply because they have been in those collections for many years, were inherited maybe and/or brought into the country (where the collector lives) a long time ago. After all, many ancient coins were mass products, not unique works of art. Seizing such coins, based on the assumption that they were imported recently and illegally, would be plain wrong unless there is some evidence. But we all know that there are collectors who simply want to have certain coins, no matter whether buying and importing them is against the law. Arnold Peter Weiss is a prominent example but certainly not the only one.

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  3. areich

    areich America*s Darling


    The whole approach is counter productive and harms both the history of the objects and their preservation. Can you imagine the Dutch Government seizing Van Goghs in private hands in Japan? This just encourages more destructive looting and a lack of cooperation between public and private interests which is critical for preserving the arts.

    Really, think about it. It is insane. If archeological sites maintained private ownership of coins, then they can sell the coins to collectors or museums in order to fund more digs.

  4. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Christian, you admit coins were mass produced, and we can agree they were made to be traded, frequently outside the borders of the country striking them, so I don't see how your answer really deals with this. You talk about them being "repatriated", you mean stolen from the lawful owners? If you find a coin in the UK you are the lawful owner. If Italy wishes to "repatriate" it, you are really saying that governments should have the right to steal it from the Englishman.

    Sorry, but seeing how coins were mass produced and MEANT to be traded, and amply documented with untold dig sites that they DID flow freely throughout the world, the ONLY conclusion I can come to is the country in which they are found is the controlling law, and Italy, Bulgaria, and Greece have NO claim to a coin found in Germany simply because it may have been struck there. The original strikers of the coin traded that coin to the Germans 1800 years ago, they gave up all rights to it then.

    Having said this, I am 100% in favor of doing this same very thing for most antiquities. Save for some known instances like Athenian export vases, almost all antiquities were made for local use. Therefor, it is mostly provable an Italian or Bulgarian antiquity would have been found in Italy or Bulgaria. THerefor, I very much am in favor of "repatriating" those items.

    I simply believe coins are completely different than antiquities, and that is where I believe the error with these laws are.

  5. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I agree completely.
  6. areich

    areich America*s Darling

    Factually, that is inaccurate, even into the stone age.
  7. areich

    areich America*s Darling

  8. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Basically yes; that is why I wrote "Don't see any reason why such finds should be, hmm, repatriated." In other words, if you find an ancient Roman coin in the ground, outside Italy, it is yours (or whatever the local law says about who the owner would be) and not property of the Italian government.

    Side note: If I find a coin in the UK, I may be the rightful owner ... or not: "Finders have no ownership rights to any find they make in Scotland" But I know hardly any details about this; guess that our British members could help out here. In the meantime, let's replace "in the UK" with "in England and Wales". ;)

  9. Bolgios

    Bolgios Member

    Just to make two points. First on the Koson coins, It is always nice when coins and other artifacts are returned to the country of their origin. However, in this case there are a number of unanswered questions about where (and when) the coins actually originated.

    The original hypothesis that the gold Kosons are medieval (C. PREDA, Istoria monedei în Dacia preromanã, Bucuresti, 1998:232) has more recently been ruled out by chemical analysis (Cojocaru et al, EDXRF and PAA analyses of Dacian gold coins of ‘Koson’ type. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Vol. 246, No. 1 (2000) 185.190), which also ruled out a ‘Dacian’ origin, because the gold is not Romanian (Dacian) gold, since the latters features (very little Cu, no Sn and Pd, presence of As, Hg, Te) are missing. The conclusion is that the gold used for the kosons is not ‘Dacian’ gold.

    So although the gold coins 'Dacian' coins are to be returned to Romania, the question of who actually made these strange coins, that have Roman iconography, a Greek inscription and a Persian weight system, is still a mystery.

    On the Bulgarian coins, the situation is more serious. Recent evidence suggests that many of the 'plundered' coins from Bulgaria are not in fact being sold by 'treasure hunters', but from the museum collections themselves. So if the coins are returned to Bulgaria, it appears there is a serious chance that they are being returned to the people who sold them in the first place. Back to square 1!
  10. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    And if I find a previously unknown archaeological site the coins are taken away from me and sold by the government to fund more digs. So I have two choices, report my discovery and lose everything, or don't tell anyone and plunder the site so I at least get something out of it.

    The problem is that these countries are signing onto the cultural heritage treaties which make the assumption that any coins from those countries are recent finds unless you can prove that they were legally taken out of the country before such and such a date. Typically about 100 years ago. And countries are signing onto these treaties saying that they will enforce these cultural heritage request from other coutries. So if you coins from one of those countries and you try to take it from one country to another, if you can't prove it's provenance back over 100 years it is assumed to be a recently discovered piece and is subject to confiscation by Customs at the border. For most coins this is impossible. Italy has been trying to get coins on the list. SO say you have a tribute penny of Tiberius. If you can't provably trace it's ownership collector to collector back to before 1912 to show that it left Italy before then, then it would be confiscatable. Now this is a fairly common, popular coin which has been treated as a generic item for probably over a hundred years. There are thousands of them out there but you probably couldn't provably trace more than a dozen or two. No one kept records describing each piece and a list of every collector that has owned it and when. SO no records, it belongs to the Italian government.
  11. areich

    areich America*s Darling

    that is a common problem that laws are circumvented through treaties.
  12. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Well, no country is alone in this world. So unless a government is able and determined to simply force its laws upon others, treaties that bind both (or all) parties make a lot of sense ...

  13. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    freedom of coinage
  14. areich

    areich America*s Darling

    Tell that to North Korea
  15. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Except when rights of citizens of one nation are abrogated through non-voting actions of executive bodies. No one should have their rights violated or taken away except through open, democratic elections.

    That is the problem with these "Memorandums of Understanding", its also the problem with the entire UN.
  16. mrbrklyn

    mrbrklyn New Member

    There isn't a single coin collecter in the UN.
  17. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Agreed, but what I wrote was in response to your comment about laws being "circumvented through treaties." How many treaties does the US have with NK? :)

    And medoraman, yes, sometimes treaties are made without much prior discussion in parliaments. But the normal procedure around here, when it comes to the Unidroit Convention for example, is that the administration prepares a bill which parliament then agrees to ... or not.

  18. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Christian, I am just responding to how all of these agreements are being put into place in the US. The Executive arm is, while ignoring overwhelming public input, simply implementing them without the legislative body even having an opportunity to comment, let alone vote.

    This is how the US is banning imports of some items at will, all without any citizen representation in the process. I think the last time they opened this discussion the public input was 90% against, of course they still implemented it. :(
  19. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Fortunately over here in Europe something like that is impossible. Everything, be it at the German federal level or the EU level, is transparent, discussed in public, and ... errm, next subject. :)

  20. areich

    areich America*s Darling

    The EU, where one man one vote is it foundation of it's government(s)
  21. chrisild

    chrisild Coin Collector Supporter

    Well, my previous reply was supposed to be a little more light hearted, but if you rather discuss the way how voting in the EU works ... ;)

    Correct, that is how it basically works over here, but I suppose that particularly for Americans it won't be hard to understand that you also want to take the different sizes (population wise) of the states etc. into account. Some EU member states have a two chamber system, similar to the American one.

    One-man-one-vote does applies (more or less) to the House in the US, while in the Senate each state has the same number of seats, right? Well, here in Germany the one-man-one-vote principle applies (more or less) to the Bundestag, while in the Bundesrat each state has between 3 and 6 seats.

    In the European Parliament we have a mix of both: Each member state has a certain number of seats, very roughly according to its population, and which party gets what portion of those seats depends on how many votes it got in that member state.

    The idea is the very same as in other parliaments: You want don't want one single (member) state, or two or three big ones, to dominate or majorize the others.

    (Any moderators around? :) The topic has had a "political smell" from the very beginning, but if you guys think we get even OTer than before, feel free to edit or move this.)

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