The IAPN and the PNG Release an Official Statement on H.R. 2009 Iraq Cultural Heritage Protection Act
From The Celator, July 2003
Arthur L. Friedberg & Harlan J. Berk |
July 01, 2003
The Iraq Cultural Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2009) is legislation recently introduced in the United States
House of Representatives addressing the illegal importation into the U.S. of artifacts stolen from the Iraqi
National Museum (INM). Although this legislation addresses an important cultural property crisis, if passed in
its current form, it will have unintended harmful consequences to those involved in the numismatic trade. This
proposed legislation ignores not only the ample authority U.S. law enforcement already has to seize illegally
imported items, but also the current administrative procedures in place to establish methods of policing
importation of illicit materials with individual countries. Ancient coins have been exempted from previous
cultural property import restrictions after a close review of the issue by the President's cultural property experts;
however, this particular bill with its broad definitions of restricted materials will hinder the legitimate import of
a vast amount of coins into the U.S.
As currently drafted, H.R. 2009 prohibits the import into the U.S of archeological or cultural materials of Iraq
without either documentation that the materials were removed from Iraq prior to August 2, 1990 or official
certification from the government of Iraq that the materials were not exported in violation of any Iraqi laws.
H.R. 2009 defines archeological and cultural materials in extremely broad terms, altering accepted definitions
and categories under current law. Additionally, H.R. 2009 contains stringent documentation requirements that
are virtually impossible for a legitimate coin collector or dealer to meet due to the transitory nature of all
historical coins. Since first being struck in the area, circa the 4th C.B.C., very few coins that may have
originated in what is now described as Iraq necessarily have stayed in that region. It is the very nature of coins
that they often became immediately transitory (e.g. Alexander the Great paid his mercenaries in coins stamped
with images of his own choosing with the expectation that the message they convey would be widely
dispersed as the mercenaries returned home). Thus, a coin that may have originated in the geographic region of
Iraq but was immediately dispersed to other areas over 2,000 years ago, could still be confiscated from a dealer or a collector bringing the coin into the U.S. if that person does not have sufficient documentation to prove that it was ever legally exported from Iraq.
The IAPN and the PNG strongly condemn the looting and destruction of Iraqi cultural treasures at the INM
and unequivocally support the return of these treasures to the Iraqi people. Current law already bans entry of
such material into the U.S. Representative images of such material are available on the U.S. State Department's
International Cultural Property Protection web site at . As numismatic dealers, our members will cooperate in every manner to ensure there is no trade in coins stolen from the INM collection including encouraging the repatriation of any INM coins discovered in the stream of commerce.
The focus of any new legislation should be to protect those unique and irreplaceable objects from early
Mesopotamia c. 3000-1000 B.C; however, the bill is currently drafted so broadly that it could be interpreted to
put restrictions on any coin struck as late as c. 1903 A.D. Thus, it is not the intention of the IAPN and the
PNG to provide cover for those attempting to smuggle illicit Iraqi treasures into the U.S. However, the overly
broad definitions and unrealistic documentation requirements of H.R. 2009 necessitate an amendment to
exempt coinage from its scope so that legitimate numismatic trade may continue. To further this end, the IAPN
and the PNG are requesting their members, coin collectors, and other concerned parties to alert their elected
6/9/04 7:12 PM STATEMENT ON THE LOOTING OF THE CULTURAL PROPERTY OF IRAQ
Page 1 of 3 http://www.goldcoinsoftheworld.com/statment.html
representatives in Congress to the important issues overlooked by this ad hoc legislation. Due to the speed with
which this legislation is being considered, time is of the essence and all interested numismatists are requested to
contact not only their Congressional members, but also the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee,
the Chair of the Trade Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, the Chair of the Senate Finance
Committee, the Chair of the Trade Subcommittee of the Finance Committee, and the State Department's
Cultural Property Advisory Committee. The contact information is provided below, and
that may be sent to representatives can be found at following web sites: ,
, , and .
The IAPN is a nonprofit organization of the leading international numismatic firms founded in 1951. The
objects of IAPN are the development of a healthy and prosperous numismatic trade conducted according to the highest standards of business ethics and commercial practice. The IAPN has 112 member firms in 23
countries, including 35 in the United States. The Association's Secretariat may be reached at 14, rue de la Bourse, 1000 Brussels, Belgium or P.O. Box 1057, Clifton, New Jersey 07014.
A letter outlining the above concerns
The PNG is a nonprofit organization founded in 1955. The PNG's motto, "Knowledge, Integrity,
Responsibility" continues to reflect its aims, and is expressed in the strict requirements for election to
membership to the PNG. The PNG has over 300 members across the United States and abroad. The PNG
may be contacted at 3950 Concordia Lane, Fallbrook, California 92028.
Arthur L. Friedberg
Harlan J. Berk