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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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Europeans Oppose Potential U.S. State Department Import Restrictions

Opposition to import restrictions on ancient coins is not limited only to Americans, nor to collectors and dealers. Some prestigious voices have joined the discussion.

By John Hooker |
October 21, 2010

A wave of comment from Europe has appeared in opposition to potential U.S. State Department restrictions on the importation of coins from antiquity.  This seemingly unlikely support for the U.S. market and collectors ranges from private citizens to cultural societies and governmental agencies. 

At a Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) hearing on October 12, a comment from Anastasios P. Tzamalis, Immediate Past President of the Hellenic Numismatic Society in Athens, was read into the public record:

“My opinion is that coins should certainly not be included in “cultural objects”. They were, in a way, mass-produced: many copies (often thousands) from the same dies, and cannot therefore be considered unique as another work of art would be. Apart from this, I feel they are wonderful ambassadors for Greece and should be allowed to continue doing their good work.” 

During the public comment period for this hearing, a number of American coin collectors of Greek ancestry voiced the same concerns, feeling that their own cultural heritage was being threatened.

During a similar U.S./Italy MOU hearing, Ing . Ermanno Winsemann Falghera President of the Società Numismatica Italiana in Milan, Italy, submitted a letter voicing concerns about restricting imports of Italian coins into the U.S.:

“With its long standing tradition and also conveying the sentiment of its affiliates, the Society today advises this Honorable Committee [CPAC] to reject the restrictions to the importation of Italian coins in the name of the free trade principle that regulates trade flows within the EU as well as most countries in the world. “It is precisely with the free exchange of goods, of ideas, of initiatives and of cooperation between institutions, that the cultural progress of numismatics has been made possible and that it has grown to today’s sophisticated standards and reach.

“Moreover, it is to be reminded that most of the public collections that we can today admire and study in museums, have been the heritage of private ones, formed over decades, in some cases centuries, by individuals and families who devoted precious resources to their search and formation. Had a ban on the commerce of ancient coins been raised, that would have, de facto, hindered their making with a fatal detriment to the cultural treasures we can share and enjoy today.”

Similar concerns about both Greek and Italian coins were outlined in a letter to CPAC by Martin Zeil, the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology:

“The proposed restrictions (along for similar ones being considered for Italy) would negatively impact the legitimate numismatic trade between Germany and the United States of America and also people to people contacts between US and German citizens.

“Apart from very few exceptions, no licence or permit is needed in Germany, neither for import to Germany nor for export from Germany of coins.

“If the import of certain coins into the United States required an export licence granted by authorities of the export country in future, this requirement could not be fulfilled by German retailers. Legal trade would then hardly be possible between Germany and the United States.

“In Germany there are around 100 auction houses, more than 500 retailers and estimated more than a half million collectors of old coins. Moreover, a considerable number of them are located in Munich, and are engaged in trade with customers in the United States.”

Germany is the fifth largest U.S. trading partner.  Several cities in the United States have significant populations of immigrants from Greece and Italy. 


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