The State Department has announced a proposed renewal and amendment of a cultural property agreement or memorandum of understanding with the Arab Republic of Egypt. The State Department has also announced a proposed new MOU with the Republic of Albania. Import restrictions under the current Egyptian MOU cover all ancient coins up to Diocletian's reforms. Roman and Byzantine coins of Imperial types struck in Egypt after that date are not currently subject to import restrictions.
Further information about the March 17, 2021 Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) meeting, how to comment, and a link to comment may be found here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS_FRDOC_0001-5449 Regulations .gov is transitioning to a new website, so at various times, you may need to comment here instead: https://www.regulations.gov/document/DOS-2021-0003-0001
Alternatively, go to the regulations.gov website and type in DOS-2021-0003 in the search box to be taken to the notice and link to comment. Comments must be uploaded no later than March 3, 2021.
A. Background for Coin Collectors
There are large numbers of coin collectors and numismatic firms in the US. Very few collectors do so to “invest.” Most collect out of love of history, as an expression of their own cultural identity, or out of interest in other cultures. All firms that specialize in ancient coins in the US are small businesses. Private collectors and dealers support much academic research into coins. For example, an American collector collaborated with academics to produce an extensive study of Seleucid coins. A further clamp down on collecting will inevitably lead to less scholarship.
While what became the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) was being negotiated, one of the State Department’s top lawyers assured Congress that “it would be hard to imagine a case” where coins would be restricted. In 2007, however, the State Department imposed import restrictions on Cypriot coins, against CPAC’s recommendations, and then misled the public and Congress about it in official government reports. What also should be troubling is that the decision maker, Assistant Secretary Dina Powell, did so AFTER she had accepted a job with Goldman Sachs where she was recruited by and worked for the spouse of the founder of the Antiquities Coalition, an archaeological advocacy group that has lobbied extensively for import restrictions. Since that time, additional import restrictions have been imposed on coins from Algeria, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen. Import restrictions remain pending for Tunisia and Turkey.
1. Current Egyptian import restrictions
The current Egyptian designated list restricts the following ancient coin types down to 294 AD:
In copper or bronze, silver, and gold.
1. General—There are a number of references that list Egyptian coin types. Below are some examples. Most Hellenistic and Ptolemaic coin types are listed in R.S. Poole, A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum: Alexandria and the Nomes (London, 1893); J.N. Svoronos, Τα Nομισματα του Κρατουσ των Πτολe μαιων (Münzen der Ptolemäer) (Athens 1904); and R.A. Hazzard, Ptolemaic Coins: An Introduction for Collectors (Toronto, 1985). Examples of catalogues listing the Roman coinage in Egypt are J.G. Milne, Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford, 1933); J.W. Curtis, The Tetradrachms of Roman Egypt (Chicago, 1969); A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and P.P Ripollès, Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69) (London, 1998—revised edition); and A. Burnett, M. Amandry, and I. Carradice, Roman Provincial Coinage II: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69-96) (London, 1999). There are also so-called nwb-nfr coins, which may date to Dynasty 30. See T. Faucher, W. Fischer-Bossert, and S. Dhennin, “Les Monnaies en or aux types hiéroglyphiques nwb nfr,” Bulletin de l'institut français d'archéologie orientale 112 (2012), pp. 147-169.
2. Dynasty 30 —Nwb nfr coins have the hieroglyphs nwb nfr on one side and a horse on the other.
3. Hellenistic and Ptolemaic coins—Struck in
gold, silver, and bronze at Alexandria and any other mints that operated within
the borders of the modern Egyptian state. Gold coins of and in honor of Alexander
the Great, struck at Alexandria and Memphis, depict a helmeted bust of Athena
on the obverse and a winged Victory on the reverse. Silver coins of Alexander
the Great, struck at Alexandria and Memphis, depict a bust of Herakles wearing
the lion skin on the obverse, or “heads” side, and a seated statue of Olympian
Zeus on the reverse, or “tails” side. Gold coins of the Ptolemies from Egypt
will have jugate portraits on both obverse and reverse, a portrait of the king
on the obverse and a cornucopia on the reverse, or a jugate portrait of the
king and queen on the obverse and cornucopiae on the reverse. Silver coins of
the Ptolemies coins from Egypt tend to depict a portrait of Alexander wearing
an elephant skin on the obverse and Athena on the reverse or a portrait Start
Printed Page 87808of the reigning king with an eagle on the reverse. Some
silver coins have jugate portraits of the king and queen on the obverse. Bronze
coins of the Ptolemies commonly depict a head of Zeus (bearded) on the obverse
and an eagle on the reverse. These iconographical descriptions are
non-exclusive and describe only some of the more common examples. There are
other types and variants. Approximate date: ca. 332 B.C. through ca. 31 B.C.
4. Roman coins—Struck in silver or bronze at Alexandria and any other mints that operated within the borders of the modern Egyptian state in the territory of the modern state of Egypt until the monetary reforms of Diocletian. The iconography of the coinage in the Roman period varied widely, although a portrait of the reigning emperor is almost always present on the obverse of the coin. Approximate date: ca. 31 B.C. through ca. A.D. 294.
With respect to the wording of the restrictions themselves, Customs has issued restrictions based on place of manufacture rather than find spot.
This is significant because such restrictions ignore evidence that demonstrates that Egyptian mint coins are regularly discovered outside of Egypt. Egypt's so-called "closed monetary system” was meant to keep foreign coins "out" and not Egyptian coins “in.” Hoard evidence confirms Ptolemaic coins from Egyptian mints circulated throughout the Ptolemaic Empire which stretched well beyond the confines of modern-day Egypt. (And, indeed, some hoards are found outside the Empire's territory.) They also ignored finds reported under the UK's PAS that show Roman Egyptian Tetradrachms circulated as far away as Roman Britain.
Under current Customs procedures, the above types can only be imported into the United States with: (a) an export certificate issued by Egypt (which have not been issued since the 1980’s and which when issued did not include pictures or detailed descriptions); (b) “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside of Egypt at least 10 years prior to importation into the U.S.; or (c) “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside of Egypt before restrictions were announced on December 5, 2016. What constitutes “satisfactory evidence” is ultimately left to the discretion of Customs, but usually takes the form of a declaration by the importer and a statement by the consigner.
The current restrictions do not extend to Roman or Byzantine coins of widely circulating Imperial types struck at Alexandria that are extremely popular with collectors. However, we cannot afford to take this for granted; we simply cannot assume that the archaeological lobby—which actively opposes private collecting—will not press for “more” this time around. Accordingly, if one feels strongly about their continued ability to collect such coins, they should comment on the regulations.gov website. Why? Because silence will only be spun as acquiesce. So, serious collectors should oppose restrictions on coins or their expansion to widely circulating trade coins as unnecessary and detrimental to the appreciation of ancient culture and the people-to-people contacts collecting brings.
2. Proposed Albanian MOU
The proposed MOU with Albania could also impact popular Greek coins from the cities of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium (Durres). The early coins from these cities copied cow/calf designs of Corcyra (Corfu), their mother city. Later, copies of Corinthian staters were struck, before massive issues of the cow/calf design were issued on the same weight standards as Roman Republican coins. These coins are found in great numbers in former Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
3. The Negative Impact of Import Restrictions on People-to-People Contacts Collecting Brings
The cumulative impact of import restrictions has been very problematical for collectors since outside of some valuable Greek coins, most coins simply lack the document trail necessary for legal import under the “safe harbor” provisions of 19 U.S.C. § 2606. The CPIA only authorizes the government to impose import restrictions on coins and other artifacts first discovered within and subject to the export control of Italy. (19 U.S.C. § 2601). Furthermore, seizure is only appropriate for items on the designated list exported from the State Party after the effective date of regulations. (19 U.S.C. § 2606). Unfortunately, the State Department and Customs view this authority far more broadly. Designated lists have been prepared based on where coins are made and sometimes found, not where they are actually found and hence are subject to export control. Furthermore, restrictions are not applied prospectively solely to illegal exports made after the effective date of regulations, but rather are enforced against any import into the U.S. made after the effective date of regulations, i.e., an embargo, not targeted, prospective import restrictions. While it is true enforcement has been spotty, we know of situations where coins have been detained, seized, and repatriated where the importer cannot produce information to prove his or her coins were outside of a country for which import restrictions were granted before the date of restrictions.
B. What You Can Do
Admittedly, CPAC seems to be little more than a rubber stamp. Still, to remain silent is to give the cultural bureaucrats and archaeologists with an ax to grind against collectors exactly what they want-- the claim that any restrictions will not be controversial.
As discussed above, further information about the March 17, 2021 Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) meeting, how to comment, and a link to comment may be found here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOS_FRDOC_0001-5449 Regulations .gov is transitioning to a new website, so at various times, you may need to comment here instead: https://www.regulations.gov/document/DOS-2021-0003-0001 Alternatively, go to the regulations.gov website and type in DOS-2021-0003 in the search box to be taken to the notice and link to comment or comment from the Federal Register Notice here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/05/2021-02371/cultural-property-advisory-committee-notice-of-meeting
Please also note comments submitted in electronic form are not private. They will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov. Because the comments cannot be edited to remove any identifying or contact information, the Department of State cautions against including any information in an electronic submission that one does not want publicly disclosed (including trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 2605(i)(1)).
C. What Should You Say?
What should you say? Provide a brief, polite explanation about how import restrictions impact you or your business and/or the cultural understanding and people to people contacts collecting provides. Coin collectors should add it makes no sense to expand current restrictions when the State Department already determined which coins were typically “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of Greece. Finally, collectors can point out that Albania, which is soon to become an EU member, must respect the rights of other EU members to export coins of types on the designated Greek designated list, and so should the U.S. Comments from Egyptian or Albanian American collectors are particularly welcome!
Personalized comments are best, but feel free to use this submission as a model:
Please either end the current restrictions on coins, or, at least, do not expand them. It makes no sense to expand current restrictions when the State Department already determined Roman Imperial and Byzantine coins of Egypt did not primarily circulate within Egypt. Nor does it make sense to impose import restrictions on Albanian coins struck on the weight standard of late Roman Republican coins that are not restricted nor widely circulating Corinthian types which are also not subject to import restrictions. Finally, Albania, which is soon to become an EU member, must respect the rights of other EU members to export coins of types on any Albanian designated list, and so should the U.S. This can easily be done by making any MOU with Albania recognize that a legal export of any item on the Albanian designated list from a sister EU country will be treated as a legal export from Albania itself.