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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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Summary of Greek MOU Public Comment

John Hooker analyzes public comment regarding a potential MOU with Greece

By John Hooker |
September 27, 2010

The on-line public submission process has closed and the counter recorded 1347 entries.  After tallying all of these, the following results can be reported:

71.2% were opposing the MOU, completely, or provisionally. Their main provision, overwhelmingly, cited coins, and coins were also mentioned by the vast majority of those in this category who rejected the MOU outright.

28.8% were supporting the MOU, unprovisionally. Very few of these even mentioned coins.

These results must be taken as an approximation for the following reasons: with such a repetitive task, errors are bound to occur -- especially at moments of distraction despite best efforts to avoid them. The error rate would seem to be well below 1%.

There were a number of repeated entries -- apparently, some people were unsure if their submission had got through and had sent it again. This happened mostly with attachments. These were not tallied, thinking that such errors could happen on either side and while the total numbers would be affected thus, the percentages would be far less so. Subsequent observation showed that the pro MOU side were more likely to send attachments, so again, their percentage might even be lower than that given here.

There were a few submissions in an unrecognizable format. They might be an incomplete stage of conversions such as PDF and HTML. It seemed most of these came from submitters on the pro MOU side, so they were given to that side, save for the times when an attachment indicated it was from someone known to be on the side not supporting the MOU.

Being on the side that does not support the MOU, the analyst gave as much credit to the other side as was feasible. A best guess is that an in-depth analysis would give the MOU opposition a slightly higher percentage, perhaps around 72-73%  -- but the difference is insignificant and this is only a guess.

The difficulty, with these submissions, is that they were not for a single issue. The majority of those who supported the MOU seemed unaware that there was such an issue over the inclusion of coins. The bulk of their responses can be defined thus:

"Greece is wonderful -- looting is bad -- sign the MOU" — not trying to disparage here, but merely abstract. Most of their responses were well written, evocative, and passionate. What they did not include, virtually to a person -- was any consideration of a valid opposing view. They seemed unaware of the problems of conflicting infrastructures and the potential loss of rights set forth in various constitutions. Their responses were largely "black box" thinking -- the MOU was a magic pill that would make all of the bad go away. If they had ideas that differed from that given here, they kept them to themselves. A lesser number of them, gave personal accounts of seeing the effects of looting, or said something to the effect that they would like to continue doing archaeological work in Greece.

The numismatists side, overwhelmingly, gave many reasons for their alarm and this went far beyond numismatic concerns (of which there were several types). The responses also addressed discrimination against Americans that was not also applied to the EU as constitutions were in place forbidding such in some places. This was echoed by Martin Zeil, the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology, who sternly said:

"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."

Martin Zeil also addressed the infrastructure aspect citing numbers of Germans involved in the trade. On the numismatists side, such infrastructure numbers were also given by Heritage Auction Galleries:

Responses on both sides made some use of templates or pasted their points of contention from external sources, mostly including personal content. There were respectful comments and belligerent comments -- there seemed to be no limits to the range of emotions or styles. There were a few who didn't seem to know what they were doing there (they were given to the pro MOU side). One man introduced himself and told us how many kids he had.That was it!  Perhaps he had been told "If you want to cast your vote, go here." He did, and thought that by doing so he had voted.

No sharp divisions could be seen among numismatists from their responses -- these went from brief to very detailed, and the numismatists from beginners to published authorities without the slightest trace of class distinctions. Very few numismatists objected to the MOU without listing a couple of reasons and some addressed more than six.

It is pleasing that the submission process was made so transparent, but one must wonder why?  From the responses to the Italian MOU, it is hard to imagine that the State Department was expecting a much different response than the one it got. They are intelligent people. Occam's razor should demand that they be looking for an expedient solution that would be seen to be democratic and that they would negotiate some sort of MOU that would exclude restrictions on coins. By doing so, they could point to the results to support their decision.

But perhaps Occam's razor cannot be employed for DOS -- only time will tell.

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