Saturday, December 03, 2011

Poland discredited?

UK Detectorists: The way to Block Discussion

[toxic URL suppressed to avoid contributing to its statistics] by Paul Barford

Over on the UKRally forum, in the context of the recent Twinstead Theft case, metal detector user "Hammyman" writes about so-called "media misinformation". He reckons "I think you will find B******d is behind this.It's got him written all over it. Most definately, one day he will reap what he sows". if he's talking about the Daily Mail article, this Ba***rd pleads not guilty, never touch the paper myself. Hammyman claims he has at some undisclosed time had some kind of "argument about this with an online Blog artist, I think you know who I mean". Anyway he claims the upshot was that "after contacting the publisher they took it down and made an apology to RallyUK. since then not another thing has been published...". First I have heard of anything being taken down by a blog "publisher" about a rally (Wordpress? Blogspot? Google? or a dedicated server?). Why would any of these supporters of free speech "apologise" to metal detectorists trying to quash free speech? Sounds like a shaggy dog story to me... Hammyman further claims:

the country is now banned from our server so no more worries from there anymore [icon_thumright] Why don't the other forums do the same as us and ban Poland from access to their forums, it's real simple, that would stop him.. if anybody would like to know how to do this, it is a simple command [...]

for the benefit of would-be blockers of the artefact hunting ilk, this is followed by:

here is the Code [...], just copy and paste this into your ,htaccess file using a ftp program.

A whole country banned from accessing discussions of metal detecting in Britain? Wonderful. That really shows the devotion of British artefact hunters to honestly presenting what they do to the outside world.

Poland is a big country RIGHT in the centre of Europe, 38 million people. My Polish colleagues estimate there are 60 000 metal detectorists here (though they are wrong) and at the moment the Polish tekkies are engaged in some serious political wrangling, trying to get the law on metal detecting relaxed (got a whole pile of stuff on my desk on this). Interestingly, the (real) professional numismatists (academics, not shopkeepers pretending) in Poland are behind them. Letters are flying about from professional institutions for and against to the Ministry, and guess what? The situation in "Britain" and the sad old PAS argument is trotted out (how could it be otherwise?) in aid of the Polish tekkies. How remarkable then if the Men from the Ministry want to look into the British scene, they will find their access blocked by some code on a server which makes the forums inaccessible to those central Europeans who do not happen to be a step ahead of the "tekkies" and their "techies". If these blockers have their way, about the only resource on the web they and anyone else in Poland interested in the topic will will be able to use to look into what "benefits" the open British policies on artefact hunting have brought is this "Portable Antiquities and Heritage Issues" blog, which of course only presents one person's (considered) view. Obviously that's not very helpful in generating a picture of the British detecting scene, nor in generating trans-continental debate. But of course British metal detectorists could not give a monkey's about that, they can barely look beyond the hedge around the field with "their" "productive" site in it.


Blocking access to uncomfortable candid information however is endemic in what the Daily Mail calls the "murky world of metal detecting". A few days ago, a detectorist here told me where I could follow a link to show what a decent bloke the organizer of the Twinstead rally was. The link led to a forum where you have to register to be able to read that thread. I could have registered as "Bazza1234" or "Beergutmax" or some other suitable screen name, but then, why hide? So I used "Paul Barford". Apparently the account needs site moderator approval to be activated before I can read anything there. That was three days ago and the email welcoming me to the site has yet to arrive, so I guess the moderator (I beliebve this is the one known as "Jammy Johnny" from South Lanarkshire) recognised the name and decided it belongs to the Great Satan and I'll never know from that forum thread what a sweet decent guy that "SkunkyPaul" really is. I'm not really sure that is my loss. I think I've seen him on You Tube anyway. I guess there are things on the new British Metal Detecting forum that the moderator does not want outsiders like me seeing and expressing an opinion about...


It now appears that ArchaeoGollum has managed to discredit not only archaeology, whose establishment has for years maintained an embarrassed silence about his fanatical rants, but the entire nation of Poland which is apparently now being looked upon by detectorists as the "Land of the Freak and the Home of the Rave."

The author of this whining complaint apparently thinks that expressing his opinion ought to be welcomed and sought after by others. Here is a different perspective:

“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”
~Home for the Holidays (1995)"

It's not hard to understand why detectorists and numismatists would have such a perspective toward ArchaeoGollum's toxic opinions. In the vernacular, they would be classified as LLDs.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Obaminable Import Restrictions

Obdurate Obama Bureaucracy Imposes Broad Import Restrictions on Greek Coins and Cultural Goods
by Peter Tompa

Obdurate Obama Bureaucracy Imposes Broad Import Restrictions on Greek Coins and Cultural Goods

The Obama State Department and US Customs have imposed broad import restrictions on most Greek coins and other cultural goods. See

The restrictions on coins are exceptionally broad, but seem to exclude large denomination trade coins:

Coins—Many of the mints of the listed coins can be found in B.V. Head, Historia Numorum: A Manual of Greek Numismatics (London, 1911) and C.M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek Coins (London, 1976). Many of the Roman provincial mints in Greece are listed in A. Burnett et al., Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius (44 BC– AD 69) (London, 1992) and id., Roman Provincial Coinage II: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69–96) (London, 1999).

a. Greek Bronze Coins—Struck by city-states, leagues, and kingdoms that operated in territory of the modern Greek state (including the ancient territories of the Peloponnese, Central Greece, Thessaly, Epirus, Crete and those parts of the territories of ancient Macedonia, Thrace and the Aegean islands that lay within the boundaries of the modern Greek state). Approximate date: 5th century B.C. to late 1st century B.C.

b. Greek Silver Coins—This category includes the small denomination coins of the city-states of Aegina, Athens, and Corinth, and the Kingdom of Macedonia under Philip II and Alexander the Great. Such coins weigh less than approximately 10 grams and are known as obols, diobols, triobols, hemidrachms, and drachms. Also included are all denominations of coins struck by the other city-states, leagues, and kingdoms that operated in the territory of the modern Greek state (including the ancient territories of the Peloponnese, Central Greece, Thessaly, Epirus, Crete, and those parts of the territories of ancient Macedonia, Thrace and the Aegean islands that lie within the boundaries of the modern Greek state). Approximate date: 6th century B.C. to late 1st century B.C.

c. Roman Coins Struck in Greece—In silver and bronze, struck at Roman and Roman provincial mints that operated in the territory of the modern Greek state (including the ancient territories of the Peloponnese, Central Greece, Thessaly, Epirus, Crete, and those parts of the territories of ancient Macedonia, Thrace and the Aegean islands that lie within the boundaries of the modern Greek state). Approximate date: late 2nd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.

Obviously, the obdurate bureaucracy could care less that over 70% of the public comments received by CPAC opposed these restrictions and that the actual support for them is limited to archaeological fanatics who hold that the only legitimate cultural exchange is a museum loan.

It is also ironic that these restrictions provide for the repatriation of any coins seized by US Customs to the bankrupt Greek state, which has no money to care for major cultural sites, let alone for the thousands upon thousands of ancient Greek coins already within State collections.

Again, more proof that the Obama administration is anti-small busines and pro-government regulation, despite all the claims to the contrary.


President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are both responsible for this latest betrayal of the legitimate interests of large numbers of honest law-abiding American citizens, to pander to the unrealistic and economically destructive desires of a very small number of interested archaeologists, and to pander to the desires of an irresponsible foreign government that cannot take proper care of the antiquities it already has.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Financing the Eurodebt

ACCG "Sell the Antiquities to US to pay off Eurodebt"
by Paul Barford

Economic doom and gloom in Yurope has the coineys over in the US rubbing their hands with glee. They have been banging on for the last couple of months about how Greece and Italy could resolve their 'eurozone' financial problems by the simple expedient of emptying their museum storerooms onto the market and letting private collectors buy the formerly state property (assets) and use the cash raised to pay off their collective debts. According to the BBC, Greece's debt is 340 billion (UK billion 000 000 000) euros. If the US has a population of 312 700 000, that means that to allow this model to function, EACH and every US citizen would have to buy antiquities or work of art to the value of 1091 euros (1453 dollars).

Also according to the BBC, Italy needs 400bn next year to "refinance maturing debt, finance the deficit and pay interest". To pay for that for this year alone, EACH US citizen would have to fork out another 1710 on antiquities and works of art from their museum storerooms.


Now I am sure the dealers in such things would be very happy if suddenly (for the problems of Greece and Italy are urgent) 700 billion euros worth of antiquities and works of art suddenly appeared on the market for them to profit from. Those collectors who already have such items in their collections (maybe bought as a nest egg investment) might not be so happy, as their value would plummet as the market is flooded with quality goods.


Of course this has been done before, for example the Bolsheviks sold off items from the state collections to finance their repressive regime, many of them ending up in US public collections where they remain to this day (Anne Odom, Wendy R. Salmond (Eds) 2009, 'Treasure into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938, University of Washington Press). It seems some antiquity dealers would like to see the return of the days of the Robber Barons.

Instead of the national patrimony, perhaps the nations concerned might try to find a commodity more easily saleable, such as weapons to Third World states feeling under threat by the sort of US neo-colonial sentiments we see expressed by the US collecting lobby.


The difficulties of nations with problems in financing sovereign debt cannot be solved by selling cultural objects, so far as advocates of State ownership of these things are concerned. But the debt must nevertheless be financed in one way or another; it cannot be wished away. Here are the economic alternatives:

1) Leave the EEU and return to the nation's prior national currency, which will then be devalued to absorb the sovereign debt, either intentionally or by financial consequences of default. This will create economic hardships to that nation's citizens. An extreme example of that occurred in the Weimar Republic during the early 1920s, whose consequences included the rise to power of Adolf Hitler.

2) Raise taxes to fund the debt, which will also create economic hardships to that nation's citizens, although it can be socially skewed to place more of the burden upon the wealthy and the middle class.

3) Sell off marketable national assets such as real estate, and award commercial concessions to private corporations. This approach has been tried recently and there have been some success stories, however the potential scope for this is limited and it inevitably attracts some of the same sort of criticism for selling off national heritage as does selling cultural objects.

4) Allow foreign investors to acquire commercial assets such as businesses and privately held real estate, which tends to incur the wrath of the powerful Socialist political faction that exists in every one of the European nations with unfundable sovereign debt.

5) Jawbone Germany and France into paying for funding of the sovereign debt (this is presently being advocated by those who rationally foresee the negative international consequences of default). That would transfer the resulting economic hardships onto the shoulders of French and German citizens, whose enthusiasm for this approach is very limited. There are however so many Frenchmen and Germans that individual hardships would be much less significant than those resulting from forcing citizens of improvident nations to pay for their own follies.

It appears to this observer that 5) and 4) will first be tried, and indeed to some extent this is already underway. It won't suffice, although some degree of relief may result.

Next, perhaps, would be 3), which will start to create political turmoil and also won't suffice.

Then 2) will be tried and, depending upon how resolute political leaders are (and how much their citizens have learned about economic reality), it may possibly suffice to pay down what unfundable debt still remains after 5), 4), and 3). The result would be reduction in sovereign debt to a level the bond market can tolerate and absorb at rates that nation can afford to pay.

One can easily see that this is not a situation that has any painless solution. There will be pain, lots of it, and no one will like it at all. There will be public outcry, which always seems to center upon a perception that such pain does not fall evenly distributed. Every part of society must bear its "fair share" and apparent exemptions will be searched out, and fiercely criticized. Ultimately this scrutiny and criticism will reach every private and public institution, eventually including the costs of heritage protection. Budgets will be cut, museums will be closed or their staffs cut back, archaeologists and conservators will be laid off and priority will be given to maintaining assets that produce income, for example Pompeii.

It is hard to imagine that at some point in all this turmoil, the public in these nations will not come to understand that they are paying huge sums for countless museum storerooms, warehouses and other repositories in which tens of millions of redundant artifacts have accumulated, until there is no more room to accommodate what is dug up now. Can anyone imagine that the public will want to pay for more storerooms and warehouses? Can anyone imagine that they won't realize that the contents of these facilities have become a vast, intolerable dead weight upon society, which competes with their own personal needs and those of their families? Can anyone imagine that at some point an irresistible public demand will not arise, to reduce such artifact holdings to a more manageable level?

This contingency has been discussed for quite some time in archaeological forums. One proposed approach is reinterment, whereby redundant artifacts would be taken to designated publicly owned sites (which would have to be secured and protected against criminals who would like to dig these artifacts up and sell them on eBay) where they would be reburied.

In a way this proposal resembles the sequel to the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, when a public weary of the arms race that led to World War I demanded disarmament. This Treaty imposed a 5:5:3 ratio of naval strength upon Britain, the United States and Japan -- and Britain's allocation included the ships of her Dominions. All these nations had meanwhile realized that ships armed with 12 inch guns had become obsolete due to development of larger shell calibers which could penetrate their armor, and it was decided to dispose of them. On 12 April 1924 HMAS Australia (eleven years old) was towed out and scuttled while a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft dropped a wreath and HMAS Brisbane fired a rolling 21-gun salute. Similar events transpired in other nations. The USA and Japan preferred to dispose of their surplus battleships as targets, systematically sinking them while intensively studying their resistance to damage.

It is certainly feasible to "scuttle" surplus artifacts, which could be sealed up in converted cargo containers filled with an inert gas and buried in a public repository where they could be kept and protected against looters, at far less cost than that of above-ground storage. But in this new form of long term storage, they would not in any way benefit society.

The alternative (which archaeologists and cultural ministry officials refuse to consider on ideological grounds) is to select surplus artifacts that are redundant to science but would have value to collectors, and sell them into the antiquities trade with provenance. This would have important social benefits, including raising significant funds to pay for archaeology and conservation, devaluing looted artifacts and educating the public. But it presumes that cultural ministry officials (and politicians who appoint them) could bring themselves to face facts and make sensible judgments. Perhaps if the perceived alternative were losing their positions, they might be more amenable to this approach.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Atlas Shrugs

Germany Told to Save Europe
by Peter Tompa

Europeans (and Americans) are looking to Germany to "save Europe" by doing more to prop up the bankrupt Greek economy and the ever more shaky Italian one. See

However, throwing more money at the Greeks and the Italians will only delay the inevitable. What is really needed is to break down the internal barriers in each country that have led to special interests strangling any chance for much needed economic reforms.

But this is a blog about cultural property issues. On that score, isn't it funny that self-righteous archaeologists hold up Italy and Greece as models for all to emulate? Meanwhile, rational systems like those in Germany and the United Kingdom that recognize the importance of collectors and the trade in cultural goods to the appreciation of ancient culture and its ultimate preservation, get little but scorn heaped on them, largely because they don't allow archaeologists to monopolize policy toward cultural property issues.

Archaeologists assume that government control over all cultural artifacts is the answer-- but how can this be, particularly in the current environment where these governments and their economic and cultural systems that favor the connected few are facing default?


At the present rate it won't be long before the laws of economics pass an inexorable and drastic judgment upon the irresponsible financial policies of European debtor nations -- a judgment that will shake the EEU to its core.

Alarmed at the prospect of a forced return to fiscal reality with incalculable political consequences, the leadership of the EEU is turning to Germany as the only economic power with the potential financial muscle to take on the role of Atlas, and support for a while longer their tottering EEU world. It however seems as though the final result was decades ago predicted by Ayn Rand in what was perhaps her most famous politico-economic novel.

The German people and their political leaders have very little enthusiasm for bearing such a cosmic burden and being prudent and thrifty themselves, are inclined to think that those who got themselves into such a mess by their own improvidence and stupidity should now get themselves out of it. Germany could probably survive almost unscathed an enforced shrinkage of the EEU to its economically sound core and the departure of marginal economies such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland, to return to their previous national currencies which would then be devalued to absorb their unfundable sovereign debt.

While such a course of events would soon return Europe to economic sanity, it would also impose hardships upon the inhabitants of these debtor nations that could have serious consequences. The cost of imported goods and raw materials would skyrocket, and they would become unable to buy nearly as much from abroad as they do now, which could very well mean that economic essentials such as oil would get priority while consumer goods and food from abroad would be almost unobtainable.

Tompa rightly questions how European leaders can possibly justify continuing to pay for the now clearly failed policy of State confiscation and subsequent ownership of all archaeological artifacts, countless millions of which -- insignificant, utterly redundant to science and useless to society -- are now amassed in museum storerooms and warehouses. It seems to me that we are also moving toward a judgment here, in which the laws of economics will in the end inexorably bring about great weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in the halls of academia, cultural ministries and other lairs of unrealistic cultural ideologues who unthinkingly expect society to forever pay the bill for their social delusions.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fluff for Brains

US Import Restrictions Only Apply to Illicitly Exported Items

"The accusation that many coineys with educations gained in US schools have fluff for brains seems to be increasingly confirmed by the flow of whingeing pseudo-justifications which has recently been emerging from the milieu."


I shall not (for reasons of both my intense disgust and personal ethics) venture either to identify who it was that said this, or to quote any more of his very defamatory blog post other than to observe that it could only have emanated from an essentially amoral, antisocial individual who in any genuinely rational society would not be deemed fit to be left at liberty (without appropriate clinical monitoring and supervision) to publicly spread such inflammatory poison. Any reader interested in finding out the omitted details will have little difficulty doing that.

The world is really not in any way actually about this remarkably unpleasant man, or his insufferable archaeocentric fixations or his virulent compulsive hatred of the "archaeological establishment" which decades ago dispassionately took his limited intellectual, ethical and professional measure, rationally decided that there was no real potential in him and then cast him upon the scrap heap of history, where those who are unable to succeed are socially recycled to become raw material for those who might in the future perhaps achieve something.

Because reality does not conform to his unreasonable and nonsensical desires, he has in his warped, deluded mind almost entirely withdrawn from reality and instead mentally dwells in mystical, cloudborne Wolkenkuckucksheim, that imaginary dream-world where everything is always perfectly in accord with one's personal desires regardless of their actual sensibility or practicality.

He has degenerated into a miserably twisted caricature of the once idealistic, well-intentioned young man who decades ago entered the field of archaeology as a student. By degrees he has made himself perhaps the closest simulacrum in the real world of Gollum, Tolkien's imaginary creature utterly possessed and consumed by his all-pervading need to recover the Ring, that object in this case being some small modicum of respect from the archaeological establishment that long ago rejected him, and today absolutely ignores him -- seeing in him nothing but an unpleasant and professionally discreditable embarrassment. This cantankerous archaeo-Gollum is today an intensely embittered compulsively ranting crank, whose deluded like can be found standing upon soapboxes in some of the more disreputable public parks, verbosely urging sinners to prepare to meet their doom.

Archaeo-Gollum's essentially insignificant life has by degrees degenerated into a compulsive all-pervading need to utter innumerable repetitive, verbose, turgid rants in an evidently insufficient attempt to find some outlet through which to vent his consuming anger and hate. He really stands for nothing of any social value but conversely stands against almost everything important to humanity, apart from his own outlook on archaeology. No one in his or her right mind would ever imagine trusting this irrational ideologue to propose a sensible solution to any burning controversy. Should he ever attempt to do so, his fire hose would not dispense cooling water but 100 octane aviation gasoline.

There are those who believe (probably because I dare to publicly express my candid views upon his irrational fantasies regarding cultural property law) that I hate him. Actually I don't. I have in truth gradually come to hate his poisonous political and social views, however for the man himself in his private capacity, I am only able to feel sadness and pity. Somehow, I sense that he, like Smeagle, may once have had much good in him.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lawyer Barford

US Import Restrictions Only Apply to Illicitly Exported Items
by Paul Barford

The accusation that many coineys with educations gained in US schools have fluff for brains seems to be increasingly confirmed by the flow of whingeing pseudo- ustifications which has recently been emerging from the milieu. Peter Tompa now asks: Do Import Restrictions Only Apply to "Illicitly Exported" Items?

Do MOU's only apply to "illicitly exported" artifacts as archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has claimed? No. In fact, import restrictions as applied by US Customs bar entry of coins openly and legitimately sold in markets abroad merely because they are of a type on a designated list.

Whoah, whoah. What is the CONNECTION between "openly and legitimately sold" within a country and "openly and legitimately exported"? None. As these clowns well know. The coiney lobbyist whinges on:

First, for coins coming directly from the country for which import restrictions are granted, there is an exception if they are accompanied with an export permit.

"OK, your starter for ten, fingers on the buzzers: "what do we call a coin exported from a country which has export restrictions which is accompanied by an export licence?"..." [buzzzz] "Yes, Oxford Magdalene, "licitly exported". That is the correct answer".

"Fingers on the buzzers, now what do we call a coin exported from a country which has export restrictions which has been taken out of the country without getting an export licence?" [buzzz] "No, I am sorry Wisconsin Numismatic Academy, the correct answer is "illicitly exported", bad luck".

"Fingers on the buzzers again, what is the correct legal term for a coin removed from a country which does not issue export licences and therefore has none? Anyone?" " [buzzz] "Yes, Wisconsin... No... no. No, the correct answer is that we call such a coin 'illicitly exported', or simply smuggled, bad luck again..." [raises eyebrow, discretely makes note to producer never to ask these peabrains back].

Three days later, the TV production company got an indignant letter from the
principal numismatist of the Wisconsin Coin Academy:

The import restrictions discussed on the programme are both illogical and themselves definitely illicit, according to the 1983 CCPIA implementing US accession to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. That [is a] very clear contravention of the terms of the CCPIA...

They ignored the letter as the writings of a madman of course.

Basically, if you have an antiquity of a type which is on the designated lists (which certainly contain many, many more categories than just a few scrappy coins) and you want to import it into the US either get the seller to obtain an export licence, or failing that as the CCPIA (19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.) SECTION 2606. Import Restrictions, (a) Documentation of lawful exportation (note that title, Peter Tompa in particular) "unless the State Party issues a certification or other documentation which certifies that such exportation was not in violation of the laws of the State Party". Note
this has nothing to do with "open and legitimate sale within the country".

Neither has it anything in the least connected with its 'provenance' or collecting history. This is purely and simply about lawful export (note that title everybody, Peter Tompa in particular). All is not lost even if you've not got one of those, there is a get-out clause [2606(c)(1)(B)] "a statement provided by the consignor, or person who sold the material to the importer, which states the date, or, if not known, his belief, that the material was exported from the State Party not less than ten years before the date of entry into the United States, and the reasons on which the statement is based". Not even on oath, not even asking for any supporting material to be supplied. Basically scribbling down some (could be made-up) story of innocence. Now the reason the silly whingers are complaining about even this is that they reckon a fellow dealer scribbling such a note on a company letterhead would - they assert - cost "more than the coin itself". So who else except dumber-than-my-cat coineys would do business with a seller that would charge you an arm and a leg for putting down a few words on paper why the circumstances of the sale of these particular coins are not breaking the law? How much were Spinks charging to scribble a note about the coins seized in Baltimore on their way to the ACCG?



Emperor Barford seems to have tired of that role for the moment, and now seeks to misrepresent himself as a lawyer, despite the fact that his qualifications in that field are just as insignificant as his knowledge of ancient numismatics. Ignorance has never, however, stopped or even slowed down the ridiculous pretensions of this deluded fanatic.

As best I can understand this particular bit of fanciful drivel, he now describes distinguished cultural Property law expert Peter Tompa, whose activities in that field undoubtedly earn about ten times as much as Barford's current work as a document translator and who graduated from the Washington College of Law, American University (J.D. cum laude, 1986) and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (B.S.F.S. 1982). Let's see, Mr. Barford claims to hold a mere baccalaureate degree, which in the field of archaeology isn't much -- one is expected to have a doctorate if one wishes to be taken seriously, which Barford of course is not (by archaeologists at any rate).

Tompa on the other hand not only does hold a doctorate (cum laude at that) from a prestigious university, and has studied Foreign Service as a career field, he has a very solid track record of accomplishment in cultural property law, in which he is a well-regarded, multiply published and often cited authority.

Mr. Barford appears to be unable to open his mouth in discussing cultural property law (or anything other than archaeology, of which he does have solid knowledge) without instantly putting his foot in it, which at any rate would tend to somewhat diminish his incessant outpourings of irrational drivel. Also, come to think of it , that particular physical contortion does seem quite apt, in view of the nearby warm and dark place where his muddled head evidently rests.

Illicit Import Restrictions

Do Import Restrictions Only Apply to "Illicitly Exported" Items?
By Peter Tompa

Do MOU's only apply to "illicitly exported" artifacts as archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has claimed?

No. In fact, import restrictions as applied by US Customs bar entry of coins openly and legitimately sold in markets abroad merely because they are of a type on a designated list.

There are limited exceptions to this embargo, but they provide little solace for coin collectors.

First, for coins coming directly from the country for which import restrictions are granted, there is an exception if they are accompanied with an export permit. However, this is easier said than done. There are currently import restrictions on certain coins of Cypriot, Chinese and Italian types. Cyprus offers no export permits. Italy does, though the process is evidently time consuming. When the issue was being discussed before CPAC, it was said that the Chinese regularly issued export certificates for certain items. However, since there have been reports that they are no longer so easy to obtain. Even if export certificates are provided, the costs of obtaining them may very well exceed the value of the coin itself, particularly if the coin in question is only worth a few dollars.

The second means of legal import is applied in the much more common situation where a coin is coming from one of the open markets in a third country. That anticipates procuring certifications documenting that the coin in question was out of either Cyprus, China or Italy as of the date of the restrictions. Again, even if this information is available and the foreign consigner is willing to provide it, the costs of compliance may very well exceed the value of the coin itself.

Import restrictions do indeed apply to all undocumented coins on the designated list, not just "illegally exported" ones as Barford misleadingly claims.

Such restrictions are therefore grossly overinclusive-- and do indeed suggest that the Obama State Department has taken an anti-small business position in imposing them, particularly on such popular and widely collected issues as the Greek coins of S. Italy, Sicily and certain Roman Republic and Imperial city coins.

Such coins can and are freely traded worldwide, but no longer can easily be imported into the US. Thus, these restrictions are not only place onerous burdens on small businesses, they also discriminate against American collectors.

How then are such restrictions consistent with President Obama's stated goals of eliminating onerous government regulations and protecting the interests of American small business?


The import restrictions Tompa discusses are both illogical and themselves definitely illicit, according to the 1983 CCPIA implementing US accession to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. That very clear contravention of the terms of the CCPIA is a key aspect of the ACCG's legal challenges to recent import restrictions on ancient coins, and the atmosphere of unreasonable secrecy within which they were discussed, negotiated and issued. It is impossible to find out what the State Department has been doing and why they did it, without a lawsuit. Clearly something that cannot withstand the light of day is going on and to preserve our liberties, it is essential to expose it to the full glare of public scrutiny.