Monday, April 1, 2019

My Comments at Today's CPAC Hearing Regarding a Proposed MOU with Jordan

      Here are my oral comments at today's CPAC hearing regarding a proposed MOU with Jordan.   My written comments on behalf of the numismatic trade may be found here:
          Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the small businesses of the numismatic trade and collectors.  Our papers cover the relevant issues in detail, but let me focus on two important points.  First, you simply cannot assume coins of types that circulated in Jordan were found there.  Leaving other statutory requirements aside, that means there either should be no restrictions placed on coins at all or, if you must have restrictions that they only apply to coins proven to have been illicitly exported from Jordan after the effective date of any applicable regulations.  That is in fact the statutory mandate, but one which has been ignored over the years in favor of restrictions on coins of types on designated lists imported after the effective date of restrictions.  The way that Customs enforces import restrictions has been hugely problematical to the legitimate numismatic trade and collectors.  It has led to embargoes of all coins of given types, rather than focused, prospective import restrictions that do not impact the purchase of coins from the legitimate marketplace abroad, mostly within Europe.  The one appellate court that has looked at the issue has said—wrongly in our view—that import restrictions are a “foreign policy” issue beyond judicial review.   So, if anything, that makes your work to make sure that the Cultural Property Implementation Act is being followed even more important.
          The underlying problem is that U.S. Customs has confused where coins are made with where coins are found.  Only where items are actually found is what is relevant in CPIA, 19 U.S.C. § 2601.  It is simply incorrect to assume that all coins of types that circulated within Jordan were found there.  There is no factual dispute about Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic coins struck elsewhere that were traded throughout these Empires.  It is far more likely any such coins were found elsewhere than in Jordan.  On the other hand, there appears to be a dispute about what Dr. Elkins calls “local coinage,” but which more accurately should be described as “regional coinage.”   As collector and scholar Martin Huth (who co-Authored the ANS book, “Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms”) has stated in his own public comments, “The Nabataean kingdom covered, at different times, various parts of what is now Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Nabataean coins are found in all of these countries. Hence, it is neither possible to equate "Nabataea" with "Jordan", nor to attribute (or re-patriate) a non-provenanced Nabataean coin legally to Jordan. This situation is further compounded by the obvious fact that, as with any ancient or modern coinage, coins were produced for circulation and may therefore be found on the territory of another modern state (e.g., Israel) than that where it was minted (e.-g., Jordan).”  IAPN and PNG also note the same must be true for the coins of the Decapolis, which included cities not only in Jordan but in what is today’s Syria and Israel.
          CPAC should also be aware that coins of the sort that may be restricted also appear to be openly available for sale in Jordan itself at an annual coin show sanctioned by the Ministry of Culture and from Bedouin traders at Petra.  If that does not argue against restrictions, it should at least argue for the issuance of export permits being a precondition of any grant of import restrictions on coins.  Article 6 of the UNESCO Convention and CPIA, 19 U.S.C. § 2606 assume State Parties like Jordan will issue export permits. CPAC should also make any import restrictions conditional on issuance of such export permits.  Such permits should be issued both at the annual coin fair in Amman and at the Petra archaeological site where low value coins are sold to tourists.  This would allow for lawful export of such coins as well as help stimulate the local economy and encourage tourism. 
          Thank you again for listening to the concerns of the small businesses of the ancient coin trade as well as collectors.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

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