Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Supreme Court Denies ACCG's Petition for Certiorari

On Feb. 19, 2019, the Supreme Court denied the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild’s petition for certiorari. See https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/DocketFiles/html/Public/18-767.html
That petition asked the Court to review the Fourth Circuit’s decision that treats import restrictions on ancient Cypriot and Chinese coins under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) as embargoes. The Guild had argued the plain meaning of the statute and the Guild’s Fifth Amendment Takings and Due Process rights require the CPIA to be read to only apply to coins of types on designated lists proven to be illicitly exported from Cyprus or China after the effective date of government regulations. The Fourth Circuit instead approved the forfeiture of Cypriot and Chinese coins of types on designated lists imported into the United States after the effective date of the applicable regulations, i.e., an embargo of all coins of restricted types rather than targeted, prospective import restrictions that do not impact the purchase of coins from the legitimate marketplace abroad.
Denials of certiorari have no precedential value. The Fourth Circuit’s opinion is only binding within its jurisdiction (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina). Nevertheless, the decision will likely be cited as precedent elsewhere, and the archaeological lobby and the US cultural bureaucracy will likely pitch it as approving broad executive authority in the area.
CPO finds it frustrating that broad declarations of executive authority that find little support in statutory language and raise constitutional concerns only seem to provoke public outrage and judicial scrutiny selectively.  That in turn also raises the fundamental question whether Fifth Amendment Takings and Due Process rights are as jealously guarded today as other constitutional rights.  Or, maybe this is just another example where private property rights-- which were of great importance to the "Founding Fathers" -- are being eroded further without much notice from the general public and the media. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Public Consultation on Proposed Changes to UK's Treasure Act

The UK Government is considering changes to the Treasure Act.   Collector based organizations have supported the Treasure Act because it encourages the reporting of finds.  It also ensures the State pays fair market value for finds it keeps and remits back all others to the finder, who may sell them on the open market.  The coins that are recorded are then uploaded on a publicly accessible website.   This has led to the availability of coins on the numismatic market that can be identified as coming from specific, UK find-spots and hoards. 

 Most of the proposed changes appear non-controversial, but certain of the proposals that require permits to metal detect, that create a new offense for purchases of undeclared artifacts, and declare archaeological finds Crown Property, are potentially very problematic. 

 A permit requirement could be used to preclude detecting from “archaeologically sensitive areas,” which could mean everything.

 The proposed new criminal sanction could catch unwary buyers of objects that did not realize they were buying "treasure."  Moreover, collectors should oppose the proposal's efforts to shift the burden of proof in a criminal matter.

 Declaring all finds crown property may be a way to avoid paying fair market value for finds the State retains.

If you are a metal detectorist, an ancient coin collector, or just think the UK's current PAS and Treasure Act do a great job of bringing the public, museums and archaeologists together in a joint effort to record and preserve the past, please consider commenting.
Comments are due on or before April 30, 2019.
For more about the issue, see https://culturalpropertynews.org/uk-changes-treasure-act/
For a direct link to the consultation, see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/revising-the-definition-of-treasure-in-the-treasure-act-1996-and-revising-the-related-codes-of-practice