"Illicit" vs. "Illegal"
"Islamic State" Terrorists and the Antiquities Market , archaeoblogger Paul Barford took exception to this remark: Readers are cautioned that "illicit" is Barfordian doublespeak for "undocumented" or "unprovenanced." It does not mean "illegal."
Illegal - in this blog - means "in violation of the laws of the United States."
Illicit - in this blog - is used in its Barfordian sense as meaning "unprovenanced, or undocumented."
Collecting unprovenanced, undocumented ancient coins is the norm in the United States, as it is (and has been for centuries) in Europe and the UK. Much has been said here, and elsewhere, regarding the costs of documenting provenance and the consequently very small proportion of coins which have a documented provenance. Suffice it to say that if collectors were only allowed to acquire numismatic specimens with a provenance sufficient to satisfy Mr. Barford and his ilk, it would very soon be impossible to continue collecting ancient coins because the supply of such rarities would be exhausted.
Fortunately for collectors, it is not illegal to collect coins that Mr. Barford, and others in the archaeological blogosphere, would describe as being illicit.
The key issue involved is the concept of coins being "innocent until proven guilty." That is, in fact, the law in the United States. However Mr. Barford and his ilk see it the other way round - coins (and all other antiquities) are regarded by them as being illicit unless proven to be licit by valid provenance documentation.
There is actually a rather significant difference between this interpretation, and the usage of illicit in the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Article 3 thereof defines illicit thus:
"The import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property effected contrary to the provisions adopted under this Convention by the States Parties thereto, shall be illicit."
In other words, an illicit coin is one which has been imported, exported or sold in violation of the provisions of the Convention. Nothing in the Convention states or implies that a coin is illicit if it does not have provenance documentation.