HomeAncient CoinsBill Introduced to Facilitate Lawful Trade of Ancient Coins

Bill Introduced to Facilitate Lawful Trade of Ancient Coins

Ancient Coin Bill. Image: Adobe Stock / Stack's Bowers.
Ancient Coin Bill. Image: Adobe Stock / Stack’s Bowers.

On April 2, 2024, United States Representative Beth Van Duyne (R-TX24), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a technical correction to the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) to facilitate the lawful trade in ancient, medieval, and early modern coins with our partners in Europe. The bill, H.R.7865 (PDF link), has been referred to that Committee for further action.

Millions of American citizens enjoy collecting historical coins. Thousands of American small and micro businesses service the numismatic trade. Historical coins are amongst the most numerous cultural artifacts. There are millions of such coins openly available for sale worldwide. Private collecting is essential to the preservation and study of numerous numismatic items. It also promotes the appreciation of other cultures and fosters people-to-people contacts with collectors from other countries.

As written, the CPIA only contemplates focused, prospective import restrictions meant to protect archaeological sites and clearly delineated artifacts of cultural significance. No import restrictions were imposed on ancient coins for some 25 years after the CPIA came into law. This is not surprising; ancient coins were items of commerce that circulated widely in ancient times, making it difficult for modern nation states to claim them as their “cultural property.” They are widely collected, including in many countries with cultural property agreements with the United States. Indeed, Mark Feldman, the State Department Deputy Legal Adviser, represented to Congress that “it would be hard… to imagine a case” where coins would be restricted under what would become the CPIA.[1]

All this changed in 2007, when the State Department rejected the recommendations of its own Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) against import restrictions being placed on Cypriot coins and then misled the Congress and the public about its actions in official government reports.[2] Since that time, additional import restrictions have been imposed on ancient and early modern coins from Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen. Moreover, further restrictions are being considered for North Macedonia, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.

Such restrictions impose the probatio diabolica or “devil’s proof” on coin collectors. The problem for coin collectors is that most historical coins, which can be valued for as little as a few dollars each, simply do not carry with them the detailed provenance information that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can demand for legal imports. This often includes citation to an auction record predating any restrictions when the vast majority of collectors’ coins are not valuable enough to be sold at auction.

H.R. 7865 addresses this problem by making the level of proof necessary to import restricted ancient coins from legitimate markets abroad far more reasonable than that being contemplated for far more culturally significant and valuable items. This technical correction to the CPIA allows for the import of coin types on “designated lists” with evidence the numismatic material was acquired lawfully, is of a known type, and is not the direct product of illicit excavations within a State Party after the effective date of any import restrictions on coins.

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[1] Cultural Property Treaty Legislation: Hearing on H.R. 3403 Before the H. Subcomm. on Trade of the Comm. on Ways and Means, 96th Cong. 8 (1979).

[2] Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Department of State, No. 07-2074 (D.D.C.), Declaration of Jay I. Kislak (April 20, 2009).

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Ancient Coin Collectors Guild
Ancient Coin Collectors Guildhttps://accguild.org/
The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is a non-profit organization committed to promoting the free and independent collecting of coins from antiquity. The goal of this guild is to foster an environment in which the general public can confidently and legally acquire and hold any numismatic item of historical interest regardless of date or place of origin. ACCG strives to achieve its goals through education, political action, and consumer protection.

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