Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is the Impact of Import Restrictions on "Coins of Italian Type?"

Many collectors have expressed understandable concern about the impact of new import restrictions on "coins of Italian type." Hopefully, this overview will be of some assistance.

I. What Coins Are Now Restricted?

The January 19, 2011 Federal Register contains a notice that restrictions are extended to certain coins of Italian type:

The categories of coins subject to the restrictions are as follows:

F. Coins of Italian Types—A type
catalogue of listed currency and coins
can be found in N.K. Rutter et al. (eds.),
Historia Numorum: Italy (London,
2001). Others appear in G.F. Hill Coins
of Ancient Sicily (Westminster, 1903).

1. Lumps of bronze (Aes Rude)—
Irregular lumps of bronze used as an
early medium of exchange in Italy from
the 9th century B.C.

2. Bronze bars (Ramo Secco and Aes
Signatum)—Cast bronze bars (whole or
cut) used as a media of exchange in
central Italy and Etruria from the 5th
century B.C.

3. Cast coins (Aes Grave)—Cast
bronze coins of Rome, Etruscan, and
Italian cities from the 4th century B.C.

4. Struck coins—Struck coins of the
Roman Republic and Etruscan cities
produced in gold, silver, and bronze
from the 3rd century B.C. to c. 211 B.C.,
including the ‘‘Romano-Campanian’’

5. Struck colonial coinage—Struck
bronze coins of Roman republican and
early imperial colonies and municipia
in Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia from the
3rd century B.C. to c. A.D. 37.

6. Coins of the Greek cities—Coins of
the Greek cities in the southern Italian
peninsula and in Sicily (Magna
Graecia), cast or struck in gold, silver,
and bronze, from the late 6th century
B.C. to c. 200 B.C.

Source: Federal Register: January 19, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 12)
[Rules and Regulations] Pages 3012-3013.

Accordingly, although the import of coins of great interest to collectors of Greek coins are restricted, the import of most Republican and Imperial coins remains unrestricted.

II. What are the impact of Restrictions?

The above restricted coins of Italian types can only be imported into the United States with an export certificate issued by the Republic of Italy or “satisfactory evidence” demonstrating that the coins were exported from or were outside of Italy at least 10 years prior to importation into the US or that the Coins were exported from or were outside of Italy before January 19, 2011. 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.

Source: Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”) § 307, 19 U.S.C. § 2606.

III. Open Questions

Under the CPIA, import restrictions only apply to coins “first found in the ground” in Italy. See CPIA § 302 (2). However, if a coin of Italian type was excavated outside of Italy in a country that declares anything found in the ground to be state property (i.e., Egypt, Greece or Turkey), it may still be subject to seizure pursuant to the National Stolen Property Act and other provisions of U.S. law. The same principal would apply to a non-restricted Roman coin proven to have been illicitly excavated in Italy in violation of that country's patrimony laws.

The more relevant question is how U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) will treat "coins of Italian type" which do not have a known find spot and/or whose whereabouts cannot be traced back before January 19, 2011, i.e., presumably an ever increasing number of coins as time passes. In the test case brought by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild concerning Cypriot and Chinese import restrictions, CBP has taken the position that “country of origin” for purpose of the CPIA is synonymous with country of manufacture because Cypriot and Chinese coins may be found where they are manufactured. The Court has yet to rule on the validity of this claim.

There is another question related to coins already in the United States. Import restrictions should not apply to them, but what happens if they are sent abroad? Can they be imported back into the United States without the usual certifications? Presumably so, but again we will only know once CBP confronts the issue.

There also is the issue of the overzealous CBP officials. For example, one recently retired official in CBP's New York office was known to reject the certifications authorized under the CPIA. Instead, he apparently often demanded that the importer produce pictures of artifacts from auction catalogues to prove that an artifact was out of the country of origin as of the date of the restrictions. Obviously, if applied to coins, this would pose a major burden to importers.

In summary, these unprecedented restrictions promise to be a major headache for everyone, except, of course, their proponents in the archaeological community and the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Heritage Center. The best I can suggest is to document your coins as being out of Italy before January 19, 2011 as well as you can and only purchase coins from established sellers.

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