Wednesday, January 22, 2014

ACCG FOIAs State and Customs About Bulgarian Designated List

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has served Freedom of Information Requests on the State Department and U.S. Customs seeking information about the preparation of  the designated lists for coins.   Did State and U.S. Customs undertake a principled review of the numismatic scholarship about the find spots of Bulgarian coins before concluding all such coins struck from ancient times to 1750 could legitimately be assumed to be "first discovered within" and "subject to the export control" of the modern Bulgarian nation state?  Or, did they merely seek to justify their efforts to impose the broadest restrictions possible by relying upon information supplied by archaeologists with an ax to grind against collectors who claim that all Bulgarian coins (including those of gold and silver) are "local issues?"  Stay tuned.  


Paul Barford said...

This is a Peter Tompa joke right?

If not, could you provide a reading list of this "numismatic scholarship" you are on the lookout for? Does it include titles in Bulgarian, or is only evidence of use of the scholarship of US coin collectors (private and institutional) on the findspots of coins in their own collections sought? Or on the contrary, is the latter not expected to be used as documenting findspots seem of rather little interest to US collectors and the dealers who supply them?

And what if you find evidence that an archaeologist or two was consulted here? Are not coins archaeological objects (hence their coverage by the CCPIA)?

Cultural Property Observer said...

No, it's no joke and it's State's and Customs' burden to make a principled determination of what coins can be restricted because they are local and which not (assuming all other criteria are met). We just want to see what data they considered, if any. The Cypriot FOIA releases show there was close coordination between anti- collecting archaeologists (well not so anti-collecting when it came to their funder the Bank of Cyprus) and their cronies at State. There's good reason to think the same occurred here.

Ed Snible said...

The American Numismatic Society has produced a digital version of An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards. For example, if you go to you will see hoard #156. All coins are characterized by mint with geocoded latitude and longitude of the findspot.

I am not skilled in RDF and SparQL, but it should be just a few lines of code for a skilled user, armed with a list of mints covered by the Bulgarian MOU and an digital map of the contours of the modern state of Bulgaria to produce a table of ancient mints in modern Bulgaria and the percent of finds of those mint found in Bulgaria vs found outside Bulgaria. The "material", AR is also included so the results could be broken down differently for silver and copper.

There is a whole series of Coin Hoards books, and the rest haven't been geocoded, so this simple experiment would be incomplete. But IGCH is very comprehensive for Greek-era coins found before 1974. It would be worthwhile to have statistics just for IGCH finds of coins covered by the Bulgarian MOU.

Does anyone reading this blog know SparQL or other RDF query language? Let's collaborate.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks Ed. We've provided analysis in the past to CPAC based on IGCH and the more recent Coin Hoard books. These appear to have been instrumental in having CPAC vote against import restrictions on Cypriot and Italian coins, but then State stopped having CPAC make recommendations about what items should be restricted. Now, they are just doing what they want apparently.