Preserving our freedom to collect


The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has become a driving force in the ongoing effort to protect coin collectors and museums in which coins are stored from being forced to give up these items to foreign governments under the premise the coins are the cultural patrimony of the claimant nation. — Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News April 26, 2010



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ACCG Represented at CPAC Hearing

The ACCG was represented by Executive Director, Wayne G. Sayles, at the Cultural Property Advisory Committee hearing of 8 September 2005 in Washington, D.C. Sayles expressed opposition to the inclusion of coins in any import restrictions recommended by the committee and characterized the nature of attacks against the collector community. The written submission of the ACCG was published here in an earlier news item. The verbal comments are posted below.

By Wayne G. Sayles |
September 11, 2005

Chairman Kislak and Committee Members,

Thank you once again for this opportunity to relay the concerns that members of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild have about import restrictions, particularly concerning coins from Italy. Under the guise of cultural property protection, there has been an aggressive and escalating assault on the antiquities trade in recent years. Some activists contend that eliminating the market for antiquities, including such relatively insignificant objects as common coins, will eliminate clandestine excavation and thereby "save the past".

In describing the adversaries in this cultural property war, the late Steven Vincent wrote, "The third party is the most extreme. It consists of archaeologists who castigate the trade for removing cultural artifacts from their indigenous context, rendering them useless for scientific study. Many in this group would like to see the antiquities trade shut down altogether. Ricardo Elia once declared to me that he wanted to make collecting as “socially distasteful as smoking cigarettes, wearing fur, or eating an endangered species.”

Professor Elia mirrors the attitude of a small but powerful segment of academic archaeologists that have appointed themselves stewards of the past and view their ideology as morally superior to those who disagree with them. Elia himself admits, "Archaeologists have traditionally treated those who threaten their control over the past -- like indigenous groups, looters, and collectors -- with an almost arrogant disdain." Import restrictions are one of the most effective tools at their disposal. But, should the past be controlled? And if so, who should be so empowered?

In the view of James Watt, Chairman of the Asian Art Department, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Archaeologists have overemphasized their own importance and used the present political and social atmosphere to behave in a way that is extremely damaging. They should not be given a monopoly on the study of culture and antiquities."

Jack Meinhardt, Editor, Archaeology Odyssey magazine, speaking of archaeologists, wrote "...they think, with a distinctly unpleasant arrogance, that they own the past."

Bradley T. Lepper, Curator of Archaeology, Ohio Historical Society wrote: "... academic archaeologists not only do not acknowledge the value of the contributions of amateurs, they either belittle those contributions or vilify the amateur as a looter."

Propaganda and disinformation have become the stock in trade of anti-market activists. Their main objective is to discredit the market -- apparently believing that the end justifies any means. The baseless and often incredulous charges, appearing almost daily in the international media, are far beneath the dignity of a legitimate academic discipline and the excesses have even spurred dissent within the archaeological community itself. The false and misleading information fed to the media, the State Department and Congress exemplifies just how ludicrous and incredible the situation has become.

Is private collecting really so distasteful that it must be eradicated? Any dealer in ancient coins will confirm that some of their best customers are academics. At least a dozen prominent academics are dues paying members of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild. Unfortunately, they are forced to request anonymity and maintain a low profile out of concern for their careers.

I urge you to help reverse the deplorable situation that has been thrust upon us and take a step toward returning balance to cultural property protection. Discourage import restrictions in all but the most extreme circumstances. Recommend an increase in efforts to stop looting in source countries through strong on site enforcement and adoption of fair laws like the U.K.’s Treasure Trove law. Finally, please affirm through your action that the past does not belong solely to academia and they hold no special mandate to control our access to it.

wayne g. sayles
import restrictions

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