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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By David C. Harper, Editor, World Coin News |
July 01, 2004

More than a year has passed since the July 2003 issue of World Coin News gave this space to Peter K. Tompa and his call to collectors to act to prevent passage in the U.S. Congress of an import-control law that would harm collectors and dealers of ancient coins.

The good news is that no such law has passed in the intervening 13 months. The bad news is the bill mentioned last year has been joined by other bad bills that could be passed at any time.

The International Association of Professional Numismatists, the Professional Numismatists Guild and a new organization called the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild have joined to monitor legislative activity in Congress and to call on all hobbyists to lend a hand in their struggle against the proposed legislation by contacting their elected representatives in Congress.

The initial threat to collecting ancient coins came in the wake of the fall of Baghdad in April 2003 and the international news video of looting. Accompanying reports indicated that huge quantities of material of great archeological value were taken.

In the heat of that moment, Congress seemed receptive to a proposal backed by archaeologists to stop such looting. Unfortunately, the fine print of the first bill, H.R. 2009, treats all honest collectors and dealers as if they are international thieves. It puts the burden of proof on anyone bringing ancients into the United States. As written, it prohibits the importation into the United States of archeological or cultural materials of Iraq without either documentation that the materials were removed from Iraq prior to Aug. 2, 1990, or official certification from the government of Iraq that the materials were not exported in violation of any Iraqi laws.

How do you prove a negative? How do you prove the coins you are bringing into the country were not illegally removed from Iraq? Perhaps modern proof sets from Gambia won't come under restriction, but any ancient Greek coin that might have been anywhere near Iraq could come under the scrutiny of customs agents.

This legislation in the House of Representatives was joined by other noxious bills, H.R. 3497 and H.R. 1047. In the Senate, there is S. 671. The most recent bill, H.R. 4641, is called "Cultural Conservation of the Crossroads of Civilization Act" dealing with Afghanistan.

Much has changed since the fall of Baghdad early last year. The looting reports were found to be greatly exaggerated, but unfortunately, the emergence of the truth did not make the legislation disappear. In fact, the decline in the actual need for the legislation actually seems to cause would-be remedies to multiply.

What can World Coin News readers do? Well, they can join hands figuratively speaking with their hobby colleagues who collect and deal in ancients and express their opposition to the bills restricting imports.

A special Web site has been set up to facilitate the process for collectors. Check it out at

On this Web site you can prepare yourself by reading the texts of the various bills. You can read a letter from a collector in Turkey who lives with onerous rules and regulations on his collecting activity. Is that kind of restrictive environment in the cards for the rest of us? Certainly not if IAPN, PNG and ACCG gets help from World Coin News readers and other hobbyists.

With the restrictions put on congressional mail since the anthrax scare in 2001, contacting Congress via the Internet is the quickest and surest method of making your voice heard.

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