A petition to the King
Volume 44, Number 9, September 2007
Tip of the iceberg? If you are a collector of ancient coins, or just deal in these highly collectable artefacts, and if you re planning a trip to the US in the near future, just make sure you have no Cypriot coins in your possession. If you do, just ensure you can prove they are either non-Cypriot or were outside Cyprus as of Friday, July 13, 2007. For US collectors of ancient coins Friday, July 13, was Black Friday indeed. The US Department of State has finally got around to proscribing imports of ancient coins from Cyprus, as foreshadowed earlier this year ("News & Views", COIN NEWS, April 2007). In essence the State Department, in its guise of the US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), has now extended its restrictions on the import of Cypriot archaeological artefacts to include "coins of Cypriot types". These specifically comprise, but are not limited to, gold, silver, and bronze: issues of the ancient kingdoms of Amathus, Kition, Kourion, Idalion, Lapethos, Marion, Paphos, Soli and Salamis dating from the end of the 6th century BC to 332 BC; issues of the Hellenistic period, such as those of Paphos, Salamis and Kition from 332 BC to c. 30 BC provincial and local issues of the Roman period from c. 30 BC to AD 235, such as coins with a bust or head on one side and the image of a temple (e.g. Temple of Aphrodite at Palaipaphos) or a statue (e.g. Zeus Salaminios) on the other. Although the reasoning is not explicit, the designation of "Cypriot types" and the specific mention of the above issues would appear to exclude coins of more general types, such as those of Alexander the Great. These, however, can be difficult for the non-expert to distinguish from non-Cypriot issues. There is also no specific mention of medieval coins, which are also difficult to differentiate from non-Cypriot coins. Paul Davies, the President of the International Association of Professional Numismatists, commented, ‘This is disturbing for a number of reasons. Its broadness in scope, in fact, makes it both unworkable and in all likelihood, unenforceable. Anyone with even the most limited knowledge of ancient numismatics knows that over the centuries, coins of Cypriot origin have been unearthed in many locales off the island. Practical matters aside, we are equally troubled by the lack of trancparency in the State Department’s handling of this issue and in its apparent flaunting of long established precedents and procedures.” In the US, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) have campaigned vociferously against the amendment. A brief response from ACCG can be found at http://acc.us. A more vigorous rejoinder is expected. The State Department decision has generated deep concerns in the numismatic trade at large, particularly in respect of the process involved in imposing the import restrictions. The Federation of European Numismatic Trade Association Professionals have written a strongly worded letter to US Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice, citing an EU Council regulation prohibiting such a bilateral restriction of imports. As important as the prohibition on Cypriot coins may be to the numismatic fraternity, It is but a small part of a much larger battle being waged in the USA between the entire antiquities market and the Cultural Property Advisory Committee of the State Department. This committee was set up in 1983 by Congress to deter pillage of ancient sites abroad while also protecting the legal antiquities trade. Critics now claim that the committee has been stacked to favour the archaeological lobby as seen in the latest ruling on Cyprus.
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