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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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Tompa: Letter to the Editor, Washington Post (unpublished)

A letter from Peter K. Tompa to the Editor of the Washington Post in regard to the Atwood article "Stop, Thieves! Recovering Iraq's Looted Treasures". The letter was apparently not published.

By Peter K. Tompa |
October 04, 2004

Dear Editor:

Despite the claims made by Roger Atwood in the Sunday, October 03, 2004, Outlook Section B2 (Stop, Thieves! Recovering Iraq’s Looted Treasures), any need for Senator Grassley’s legislation (appended to H.R. 1047, the Miscellaneous Trade Bill) has long passed. With the return of Iraqi sovereignty and the extension of an executive order granting Customs the ability to seize stolen Iraqi cultural goods, there is now ample authority and plenty of time to allow the experts on the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) to weigh in on the matter. CPAC review will also ensure that all interested parties (including archaeologists, collectors, dealers and museums) will be granted an opportunity to be heard before the United States decides to impose draconian import restrictions on particular classes of Iraqi cultural goods.

Following this long established procedure is only fair because import restrictions threaten to treat all collectors, dealers and museums importing cultural artifacts like suspected criminals. In particular, unlike the current executive order which keeps the burden of proof on the government, the import restrictions contemplated by H.R. 1047 allow Customs wide authority to seize any artifact with so called "Iraqi characteristics" merely because the importer cannot document the "provenance" of that item dating back to 1990. Such import restrictions will not only impact artifacts traced directly back to Iraq. Rather, given these impossible to meet documentation requirements, the Grassley bill could very well lead to the detention and seizure of hundreds of thousands of perfectly legitimate antiquities that left what is now Iraq decades ago as collectibles or millennia ago in trade (including extremely common ones like ancient coins).

Due process is a hallmark of our system of government and something we hope to see replicated some day in places like Iraq. Unfortunately, Roger Atwood and the supporters of H.R. 1047 in the archaeological community have lost sight of this larger truth in their zeal to "show everyone-dealers, collectors, auction houses, casual buyers-that Iraqi artifacts are hot and will remain hot for the foreseeable future."


Peter K. Tompa

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