Wednesday, December 13, 2023

CPAC to Consider New MOU with India and Renewal of MOU with Algeria

 The State Department has announced that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet on January 30-February 1, 2024, to consider a request for the United States to enter into a cultural property MOU with the Republic of India.  According to the Federal Register notice, public comments and requests to speak are due no later than January 22, 2024, for the public session which will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM on January 30, 2024.  CPAC will consider a renewal of the current MOU with the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria at the same time.

The Cultural Heritage Center's website should hopefully provide some clarity of the scope of the Indian request in the near future.  Import restrictions associated with the current MOU with Algeria already encompass a wide variety of ancient and early modern coin types.  They also cover, at least implicitly, the cultural heritage of displaced Jewish and Christian minority populations. 

The Indian request should raise a number of questions given its likely breadth.  First, are all the listed archaeological objects not only of "archaeological interest" but of "cultural significance," and do they meet the governing statute's 250-year threshold? Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 19 USC Section 2601 (C) (i) (I)(II). Second, are all the listed ethnological objects really the products of "tribal or nonindustrial society" "that are important to the cultural heritage of a people because of its distinctive characteristics, comparative rarity, or its contributions to the knowledge origins, development or history of that people?"  19 USC Section 2601 (C) (ii) (I)(II).

Third, has India taken "measures consistent with the [1970 UNESCO] Convention to protect its cultural patrimony" under 19 USC Section 2602 (a) (1) (B) when concerns have been raised about India’s notoriously poor stewardship of its own cultural heritage, including not only neglect, but outright destruction of Muslim and Christian minority cultural heritage.   

Finally, does the State Department intend to recognize the rights of India’s sectarian Hindu government to ownership and/or control of the cultural heritage of today’s minority Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities?   While India is a democracy, these groups have nonetheless suffered discrimination and have even faced occasional pogroms.  In particular, Muslim and Christian places of worship have sometimes been attacked by mobs egged on by local politicians. 

Coins also raise a number of specific issues.  First, there appears to be a substantial overlap in the types of Indo-Greek, Kushan, Indo-Sassanian, and later Islamic coins found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  Under the circumstances, how can the State Department conclude that particular coins were "first discovered within and [are] subject to export control by" India? 19 USC Section 2601 (2) (C).

Second, coins of all periods are legally bought and sold in India. So, why should our State Department restrict Americans from buying the same type of "Indian" coins abroad?

The current MOU with Algeria’s authoritarian government raises similar questions.  Again, the designated list is exceptionally broad, and includes at least implicitly the cultural heritage of displaced Jewish and Christian populations. 

The exceptional breadth of the designated list is readily apparent regarding coins.  Indeed, it includes many Greek, Roman Provincial, Numidian, Mauritanian, Byzantine, Islamic and Ottoman coin types that circulated either regionally or internationally. Under the circumstances, how can the State Department conclude that particular coins were "first discovered within and [are] subject to export control by" Algeria? 19 USC Section 2601 (2) (C).

How to comment?  According to the State Department, the public should be able to comment on by searching for docket DOS-2023-0040 and following the prompts.  

As of today, however, that link is not active.  CPO will update this blog post once it is possible to comment and/or the State Department provides more clarity about the proposed designated list to be associated with any MOU with India.

Addendum (December 16, 2024):  The blue "comment now" button on the website is now active.  You should be able to directly access the ability to comment here. 

Addendum (January 15, 2024):  The State Department has provided some additional information about the categories of material for which import restrictions will be considered.  They are as follows:


The Government of India seeks import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological materials dating from 1.7 million years ago to 100 years ago, including objects dating from the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Ancient Periods (including, but not limited to, the Indus Valley Civilization, Maurayan Empire, Shunga Empire, Gandharan Kingdom, Gupta Period, and the Gurjara-Pratihara, Rastrakuta, and Pala Dynasties), and Historic Periods (including, but not limited to, the Chola Dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal Empire, and the British Raj).  Categories of objects include stone tools and artifacts, terracotta figurines, toys, coins and medals, seals and sealing, molds, dies, sculpture, utensils, architectural materials, arms and ammunition, scientific instruments, and jewelry and toiletries.  Protection is also sought for miniature paintings, art pieces in cloth and paper, and manuscripts dating from the 7th century CE to 75 years ago. 


Extending the Algeria agreement would continue import restrictions on certain archaeological material from Algeria, ranging in date from approximately 2.4 million years ago to approximately 1750 AD including material from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Classical, Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman Periods.  The Government of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria has not requested additional categories of material.

More here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Amended and Expanded Import Restrictions on Cambodian cultural goods.

 The State Department and US Customs have unveiled amended and expanded import restrictions on behalf of Cambodia's authoritarian government.  These include additional restrictions on a limited number of coin types.  

5. Coins

Rare coinage from the Funan area of Southern Cambodia is included. Coinage dates from the 1st through 6th centuries A.D. In gold, silver, gilded silver, or tin. Designs vary, but coins often bear the image of a rising sun, a deer, a rooster, a Garuda, a team of oxen, and other designs. Inscriptions may be present and in Kharosthi script or Sanskrit.

Source:  88 Fed. Reg. 64372-64379  (September 19, 2023), available at

Friday, September 1, 2023

CPAC to Consider Renewal of MOU for Honduras and Proposed MOU for Nepal

 The State Department Cultural Heritage Center has announced that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee will consider public comment for a renewal of a MOU with Honduras and a proposed new MOU with Nepal.   According to the State Department notice, the period for written comments will end on September 12th, with a public session to take place on September 19th for oral comments.  

Based on the notice, it does not appear that Honduras seeks any new restrictions on coins.  On the other hand, Nepal apparently does seek import restrictions to be placed on coins, particularly the early "Lichhavi" types. 

For a direct link to comment, see here.  Alternatively, go to, and then search for docket DOS-2023-0023.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Cultural Property MOU entered into with Yemen without vetting by CPAC or public comment

 Lee Satterfield, the Assistant Secretary, ECA, has apparently unilaterally transformed current “emergency import restrictions” for Yemen into a cultural property MOU with that country, all without input from Cultural Property Advisory Committee or the public.   Unfortunately, Yemen these days is run by factions aligned with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China. 

The Cultural Property Implementation Act, 19 USC Section 2605 contemplates that such agreements will only be entered into after the proposal is vetted by CPAC, which then is expected to recommend which kinds of objects are considered for import restrictions under the agreement (19 USC Section 2605 (f)).   By converting the current “emergency import restrictions” into ones under a MOU, the State Department has prevented CPAC and the public (including concerned Jewish exile and collector groups)  from commenting on whether import restrictions should continue for the country, which does not respect the rule of law. 

When Yemeni import restrictions were last before CPAC in 2019, despite a short 2-week comment period, any such agreement faced substantial opposition from Jewish exile and coin collector groups.  The State Department presumably engineered this MOU without vetting it through the Cultural Property Advisory Committee and allowing public comment as required under CPIA, 19 USC Section 2605 because they knew it would be controversial and subject to the same opposition today. 

It is unclear whether this will result in a change in the current designated list, which implicitly includes the cultural heritage of Yemen’s displaced Jewish minority as well as a wide variety of coin types.

Addendum (September 3, 2023):  A State Department  press release suggests that the MOU does not only convert current "emergency import restrictions" into "regular ones" under a MOU, but also extends them past their current sunset date, again all without the required input from CPAC and the public.

Note that the first sentence of the press release states, 

 "On Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield and Ambassador of Yemen to the United States Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, accompanied by the Department’s Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, signed a bilateral cultural property agreement that renews and extends protections for Yemeni cultural property which were put in place in 2020 on an emergency basis."

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Public Session of the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee to Review Proposed Renewals of MOUs with Bulgaria and China, June 5, 2023

                 On June 5, 2023, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met in a virtual public session to hear testimony regarding the proposed renewals of MOUs with Bulgaria and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  An update on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA’s) website made shortly before the hearing provided further information about the requests.  See (last visited June 7, 2023).  According to that website, Bulgaria has asked for import restrictions on additional categories of archaeological material dating from the Paleolithic Period to the Neolithic (c. 1.6 million years ago – 7500 B.C.) and on additional ethnological material of an ecclesiastical nature dating from 1750 through the 20th century.  Id.  In contrast, the PRC does not seek any additional restrictions.  Id. 

                The public session was postponed from April 26-27, 2023, presumably to allow all the remaining Trump appointees to be replaced by Biden appointees to CPAC.  Those replaced included Anthony Wisniewski, the sole coin collector representative on the Committee.  One of the replacements, Susan Schoenfeld Harrington, has discernable links to the PRC, as a past Board Member of the China Art Foundation.  See (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Despite the postponement, the public was only allowed an exceptionally short time to comment on these MOUs on the website.  See  (last visited June 7, 2023).  Although the Federal Register notice was posted on Friday, May 19, 2023, due to a snafu, the website did not accept comments until midday Monday, May 22, 2023.  The comment period closed only 4 days later, on Friday, May 26, 2023.  An analysis of the comments that were submitted can be found here.  See  (last visited June 7, 2023). 

                Oral comments during the public session were also circumscribed.  Rather than the usual 5 minutes, each speaker was only allotted 4 minutes to speak.   

                At least the following CPAC members were present for the meeting:  (1) Alexandra Jones (Chair, Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields, CEO Archaeology in the Community, Washington, DC); (2) Alex Barker (Represents/Expertise Archaeology, Anthropology, related fields) Director, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Arkansas); (3) Nii Otokunor Quarcoopome (Represents/Expertise Museums, Curator and Department head, Detroit Museum of Art); (4) William Teitelman (Represents General Public, Legislative Counsel to the PA Trial Lawyers Association, Attorney (Retired)); (4) Andrew Conners (Represents/Expertise Museums, Director, Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico); (5) Michael Findlay (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property, Director, Acquavella Galleries, New York); (6) Susan Schoenfeld Harrington  (Represents Public?, Past Deputy Finance Chair, Democratic National Committee, Past Board member, China Art Foundation); (7) Cynthia Herbert (Represents/Expertise: International Sale of Cultural Property President, Appretium Appraisal Services LLC, Connecticut); and (8) Thomas R. Lamont (Represents Public?, President of Lamont Consulting Services, LLC, Illinois).

                Additionally, at least the following State Department employees were present for the meeting:  Allison Davis (Executive Director, CPAC) and Andrew Zander. 

                These individuals spoke at the public session about one or both MOUs: (1) Kate FitzGibbon (Committee for Cultural Policy/PRC); (2) Elias Gerasoulis (Global Heritage Alliance/PRC); (3) Peter Tompa (International Association of Professional Numismatists/Bulgaria and PRC); (4) Doug Davis (Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation/PRC); (5) Ömür Harmanşah (Archaeological Institute of America/Bulgaria and PRC); (6) Douglas Mudd (American Numismatic Association, Ancient Coin Collectors Guild/Bulgaria); (7) Louisa Greve (Uyghur Human Rights Project/PRC); (8) Peter Irwin (Uyghur Human Rights Project/PRC); (8) Josh Knerly (Hahn, Loeser & Parks, LLP for Association of Art Museum Directors/PRC); (9) Dr. Rowan Flad (Harvard Department of Anthropology/Society for American Archaeology/PRC); (10) Dr. Anne Underhill (Yale/Society for American Archaeology/PRC); and (11) Dr. Rian Thum (University of Manchester/PRC). 

                Alexandra Jones (AJ), CPAC’s chairperson, indicated that the Committee had reviewed all the testimony, and asked the speakers to limit their remarks to 4 minutes each.  AJ indicated that she would allow CPAC members to ask questions after each speaker finished their prepared remarks.  Very few questions were actually posed. 

                Kate FitzGibbon (KFG) spoke first.  She indicated that none of the criteria for renewal of the MOU found in the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) could be met.  The second determination, related to the PRC taking measures consistent with the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of its cultural patrimony, has not been met because of the PRC’s intentional destruction of the cultural heritage of its Uyghur population.  KFG pointed to the creation of concentration camps as well as the destruction of over 500 Uyghur sites in her testimony.  Moreover, the first and third determinations, related to the PRC’s cultural patrimony being in jeopardy, and the effectiveness of the response, could not be met given the booming internal Chinese market for cultural goods.  The fourth determination relating to benefits to the international system could not be met given the PRC’s mercantilist approach to repatriating artifacts and failing to follow through on museum loans. 

                The Committee for Cultural Policy’s and the Global Heritage Alliance’s joint written testimony can be found here: ) (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Elias Gerasoulis (EG) echoed many of the concerns that KFG raised about the PRC’s intentional destruction of minority culture.  He also noted that current import restrictions have the perverse effect of promoting the interests of PRC auction houses associated with the government over their American competitors.  It makes no sense for ECA to undertake to renew the MOU given the anti-American actions the PRC has taken, including the recent spy balloon overflight.  EG believes that renewing the MOU would be tantamount to committing diplomatic malpractice.

                Peter Tompa (PT) asked CPAC to oppose any effort to expand current import restrictions on behalf of Bulgaria to Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  He explained that one cannot assume that such coins come from Bulgarian archaeological contexts.  Only a very small percentage of such coins circulated there compared to those which circulated elsewhere.  He also indicated that it is important to distinguish Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins from Roman Provincial coins, which are currently restricted.  Roman Provincial coins were struck for local use in contrast to Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins which were meant to circulate through the Empire.   Due to time constraints, PT was only able to express general concerns about the MOU with the PRC.  He mentioned that the PRC should not be rewarded for destroying the cultural property of its minority populations or for its failure to address counterfeiting of US historical coins.

                PT’s planned oral comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                The International Association of Professional Numismatist’s (IAPN’s) written comments about the MOU with Bulgaria can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                IAPN’s written comments about the MOU with the PRC can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                PT’s personal written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Doug Davis (DD) indicated that the PRC is a major source of counterfeits with 100,000s of coins being faked.  These are exported in bulk to the US for resale, often to unsuspecting buyers.   The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation Task Force has worked with US law enforcement on seizing $46 million worth of counterfeit US coins.  In addition to historical US coins, counterfeiters are also faking modern US Mint products including bullion pieces like silver eagles.  This is a global problem because Chinese counterfeiters are faking coins of all nations. 

                CPAC member Alex Barker asks DD about what kinds of bullion are being faked. DD indicates the fakes include silver bars. 

                The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Ömür Harmanşah (OH) indicates that the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) supports the renewals of both MOUs.  The AIA maintains that each of the four criteria for renewal found in the CPIA are met for both MOUs.  OH mentions that the PRC recovered 66,000 stolen archaeological artifacts in the year 2021 showing that the PRC’s cultural patrimony is in jeopardy.  OH states that it is important to ensure restrictions are imposed on mass produced items like coins to promote their study.  He further indicates that the PRC has worked to ensure that there is extensive collaboration with US archaeologists and museums.  For example, an exhibition featuring the famous “Terracotta warriors” has been exhibited in a number of venues around the United States. 

                The AIA’s written testimony regarding the MOU with Bulgaria can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                The AIA’s written testimony regarding the PRC renewal can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023). 

                Douglas Mudd (DM) speaks on behalf of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG), a member organization.  DM indicates that import restrictions have negatively impacted the study of coins.  Because coins are so durable many have come down to us from ancient times. There are far too few trained archaeologists to study the numbers of coins that have been found and there is no reason to sequester them all in museums.  The most important thing that can be accomplished is to ensure they are properly recorded, something that can be achieved through programs like the UK’s Portable Antiquity Scheme.  DM also asks that import restrictions not be imposed on widely circulating Roman Imperial coins.  He further believes that the current designated list should be subject to expert review because many of the coin types currently on that list circulated in quantity outside of the confines of Bulgaria. 

                The ANA’s written comments can be found here:  (last visited June 7, 2023).

                The ACCG’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Louisa Greve (LG) opposes the MOU with the PRC.  The PRC is committing genocide against the Uyghurs.  CPAC should not brush aside this genocide and cultural cleansing in order to approve the renewal.  The current MOU authorizes import restrictions through the Tang period.  The PRC has sought to rewrite history through cultural cleansing to create a false narrative that Han was the dominant culture throughout what is today the PRC.  If CPAC and ECA approves this MOU, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UYRP) will protest the decision. 

                The UYRP’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Peter Irwin (PI) is LG’s colleague at the UYRP.  The PRC has not worked to protect cultural heritage, but to purposefully destroy that of the Uyghurs.  Some 10,000 to 50,000 sites have been destroyed to date.  These includes mosques and up to 85% of the historic city of Kashgar. The MOU should not be extended in these circumstances. 

                Josh Knerly (JK) stated the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) supports the extension of the MOU with the PRC contingent on Article II being modified to provide for multi-year museum loans with more significant objects and the PRC granting immunity from seizure for art sent there for display from the US.  The 2019 MOU dropped any meaningful requirements regarding loans.  Multi-year loans are necessary to make it cost effective to bring exhibits to the US.  Only multi-year loans allow museums to share the substantial costs involved. Another issue is US tariffs of 7.5% on Chinese art, which make it impossible for US museums to purchase Chinese art internationally.  Such tariffs give Chinese museums, dealers and collectors a competitive advantage compared to their American counterparts. 

                CPAC member Susan Schoenfeld Harrington asks JK if the MOU provides an opportunity for cultural exchange with the PRC.  JK indicates for this to happen, the PRC needs to change its policies on long term loans and immunity from seizure.

                The AAMD’s written comments can be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Dr. Rowan Flad (RF) indicates that the PRC has undertaken significant self-help measures to protect its own cultural patrimony.  A database of cultural heritage has been established.  There is active collaboration with American archaeologists. 

                RF’s written testimony may be found here: (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Dr. Anne Underhill (AU) states that the PRC has met its obligations under the MOU.  It has protected archaeological sites from looting.  One innovative program has used drones to monitor a site for looting.  Another development is an increase in “indoor excavations,” for which entire depositional matrices are transported to covered labs for careful excavation in safe conditions.  In 2020, 4,200 crimes were investigated, involving 9,700 individuals. Some 93,000 artifacts were recovered.  Access to museums has improved.

                AU’s written comments can be found here:  (last visited June 7, 2023).

                Dr. Rian Thum (RT) indicates that he could not make policy determinations, but he could state facts.  It is an unassailable fact that the PRC has failed to take measures consistent with the UNESCO Convention to protect its cultural patrimony.   It has demolished large parts of the Silk Road city of Kashgar.  It has recently bulldozed two very important Uyghur shrines, and any archaeological artifacts beneath them.  Another target is books.  Initially PRC authorities enforced a “blacklist” of forbidden books.  Now, however, that has been replaced with a “whitelist” which deems any book not explicitly permitted to be forbidden.  This has led to the confiscation and destruction of countless books, some of which are otherwise unknown to scholarship.  It has also prompted some Uyghurs to burn their own books in an effort to avoid being sent to concentration camps.  As was discussed regarding Bulgaria, modern boundaries don’t always correspond with ancient ones.  The same is also true with the status of the Uyghur region in the PRC.  RT observes all of the PRC’s achievements prior speakers associated with archaeological advocacy groups praised relate solely to the study of the PRC’s Han culture. These studies feed the PRC’s narrative.  The PRC seeks to rewrite history to make it appear that Han culture was always the dominant culture in the Uyghur areas.  RT expresses disappointment that his colleagues are unwilling to acknowledge the PRC’s intentional destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage for political purposes.

                No CPAC members asked any additional questions, and AJ concluded the public session approximately 10 minutes early. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

CPAC Should Be Skeptical About New Restrictions on Coins

 This is what I said more or less at yesterday's CPAC hearing.  Due to the time to speak being cut to 4 minutes, I did not get to address the MOU with PRC as much as I would have liked. 

        I’m speaking on behalf of IAPN, which represents the small businesses of numismatic trade.   CPAC should be especially skeptical of US import controls on Bulgarian and Chinese coins.  Both countries have large internal markets in the exact same sorts of coins that are embargoed under US import restrictions. 

          Let me first address the MOU with Bulgaria.   The Cultural Heritage Center’s website now suggests that it does not seek new restrictions on coins, but IAPN nonetheless urges CPAC to oppose any effort to expand the current designated list to include widely circulating Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  CPAC previously rejected such import restrictions during its past deliberations in 2011 and 2018.   Currently, only “Roman Provincial coins” are restricted.  They are completely different than Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  Roman Provincial coins, usually of bronze, were struck by local authorities and were meant to circulate locally.  In contrast, Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins were struck under the authority of Roman Republican or Imperial officials and were designed to circulate throughout the Roman Empire.

          The Cultural Property Implementation Act limits any restrictions to coins “first discovered within, and … subject to the export control by” Bulgaria.  However, Roman Imperial coins found in Bulgaria represent a very small portion of those found internationally. Only 3.2% of hoards containing Roman Imperial coins struck at the late Roman branch mint at Serdica (modern day Sofia) are found within Bulgaria and 96.8% are found outside that country. Moreover, only 6.58% of hoards containing coins from the most prolific Roman Imperial Mint, that at Rome, are found in Bulgaria with the remainder of such coins found elsewhere.  Thus, hoard evidence proves that one simply cannot make the required assumption that such coins were necessarily found in Bulgaria before they can be placed on the designated list. 

          CPAC also should not confuse the Roman Provincial Mint that operated in Serdica during the early Imperial period with the Roman Imperial Mint that operated there in the late 3rd and early 4th century A.D.   Coins of the Roman Provincial Mint at Serdica are restricted already.  Those of the Roman Imperial mint of Serdica are not; nor should they be because again only a small fraction of the entire universe of such coins are found in Bulgaria today.  

          CPAC should also consider the failure of the State Department to hold Bulgaria to its prior promise to facilitate the legal export of coins of the sort that Bulgarians already collect.  Given this failure, CPAC should recommend that U.S. Customs harmonize U.S. import controls with E.U. export controls. The CPIA was passed before the E.U. created a system of export controls for cultural goods.  MOUs with E.U. countries like Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria should be consistent with these E.U. export controls.  This can be done simply by making import restrictions under such MOUs subject to E.U. export controls which have supremacy within the E.U.  This would allow Americans to import coins exported lawfully from Bulgaria’s fellow E.U. members even if they are subject to import restrictions. 

          The current MOU with China should be allowed to lapse.  The PRC should not be rewarded for destroying the cultural heritage of its repressed minorities.   Nor should the US reimpose import restrictions on Chinese coins when its government turns a blind eye to the counterfeiting of US historical coins.   The PRC is also the world’s most sophisticated surveillance state, and simply does not need U.S. help to stop looting.  The PRC government also prides itself on fostering a brisk trade in cultural goods, including coins.  While IAPN commends China for allowing its own citizens to collect common ancient coins, this also means that US import restrictions have the perverse effect of providing Chinese dealers and auction houses with a competitive advantage over their American counterparts.  Indeed, while the US has been enforcing its embargo on Americans importing ancient Chinese coins and other art, Chinese auction houses and dealers have been opening up shop in the US for the express purpose of exporting Chinese art bought here back to China for resale.  Thank you for listening to our concerns. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Low Public Support for MOUs with Bulgaria and China

There are 67 comments posted on the website following the close of the exceptionally short 4-day comment period regarding proposed MOU renewals with Bulgaria and China. CPO reviewed 63 different comments which suggests that 4 were duplicates. All the comments can be reviewed here:

 The vast majority (51) were from coin collectors or members of the small businesses of the numismatic trade. The coin collector and dealer organizations that opposed the MOUs or their application to coins were the American Numismatic Association, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, the Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, and the International Association of Professional Numismatists. Each submitted detailed comments in support of their position.   

 Three groups opposed the China MOU, the Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP), Global Heritage Alliance (GHA) (1 combined submission), and the Uighur Human Rights Project.  

The CCP and GHA have already posted their comments on the Internet here:

There were a mere 5 comments supporting the MOU with Bulgaria and only 4 supporting the MOU with China.  The Antiquities Coalition submitted an additional comment that supported both MOUs.  The Archaeological Institute of America supported both MOUs in separate comments included in these totals.   The 4 comments in favor of the MOU with the PRC, included ones submitted by the Association of Art Museum Directors.   Those comments conditioned support for that MOU on changes related to museum loans.  Dr. Robert E. Murowchick of Boston University and Dr. Anne Underhill of Yale were the only individuals supporting a renewal of the current MOU with the PRC. 

Update 6/8/23- On initial review, CPO missed the testimony of Dr. Rowan Flad of Harvard, who also supported the MOU with the PRC.  Both he and Dr. Underhill also indicated that they were speaking on behalf of the Society of American Archaeology.  Their testimony, as well as that of the other speakers, can be found in CPO's 6/7/23 post.

Monday, April 10, 2023

New CPAC members

 The White House has named the following new CPAC members, replacing the remaining Trump appointees.  CPO would like to thank them all for their service, especially Anthony Wisniewski, the sole ancient coin collector on the panel.  While all "trade" slots are now filled, none of the individuals currently on the panel appear to have specific knowledge of the trade in archaeological and ethnological materials, which of course, is the focus of CPAC deliberations.  

Cultural Property Advisory Committee

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee reviews requests for import restrictions submitted to the United States by foreign governments, considers proposals to extend existing agreements and emergency actions, carries out ongoing review of current import restrictions, and provides reports of its findings and recommendations to the Department of State.

The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act established the 11-member presidentially-appointed Committee to ensure that the U.S. government receives advice from diverse public interests in cultural property matters. The Committee includes two members who represent the interests of museums; three members who are expert in archaeology, anthropology, ethnology, or related fields; three members who are expert in the international sale of cultural property; and three members who represent the interest of the general public. The Cultural Heritage Center serves as the secretariat for Committee and convenes and facilitates the Committee’s quarterly meetings.

Amy Cappellazzo, Member, Cultural Property Advisory Committee

Amy Cappellazzo is a Founder and Principal of Art Intelligence Global. Cappellazzo has spent nearly three-decades operating at the highest level of the fine art market. Most recently, she was Chairman of the Fine Art Division of Sotheby’s. She joined Sotheby’s when her advisory firm, Art Agency Partners, was acquired by the auction house in 2016. The firm filled a significant need in the art market for a client-oriented combination of industry knowledge, financial sophistication, and discretion. Cappellazzo previously served as a market leader in the field of contemporary art at Christie’s, where she rose to the post of Chairman of Post-War & Contemporary Development over thirteen years. Cappellazzo began her career as an art advisor and curator and was a key figure in the establishment of Art Basel in Miami Beach. She holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from New York University, and an M.S. from the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute in City Planning, focusing on the role of Public Art in shaping cities. She hails from Buffalo, NY.

Susan Schoenfeld Harrington, Member, Cultural Property Advisory Committee

Susan Schoenfeld Harrington brings a wide range of experience and perspective to the Department of State’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee due to her diverse and multinational career in consulting, media, law, politics and the arts. Born in Manhattan, she is a graduate of Columbia Law School, Wellesley College, and Hunter College High School. Additionally, she is a recipient of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship and a Fulbright Fellowship, which took her to Hong Kong. Schoenfeld Harrington currently runs a business advisory group in London, with clients that include the Schoenfeld Group at Brown Harris Stevens and Brand Positioning Doctors. Previously the CEO of a media consultancy in Asia, Schoenfeld Harrington worked with international groups including Viacom, Discovery and Microsoft, advising on market entry, programming strategies, etc. Previously, she practiced law in New York, focusing on M&A in the media industry. She is a contributing author to the book ‘Telecommunications in Asia.’

Schoenfeld Harrington has been involved in U.S. Democratic politics for many years, most recently as a Deputy Finance Chair of the DNC. She has been a top ex-pat fundraiser for Democratic Presidential, as well as the Senate and House Committees. She is also a keen supporter of Run for Something, VoteVets, and Onward Together. Schoenfeld Harrington serves on various boards, including the American Friends of the Musee d’Orsay, Hampstead Theatre, Project Rousseau, and as the Secretary of the Chatham House Foundation’s U.S. Board. She served on the Board of the China Art Foundation and is a long-standing supporter of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Thomas R. Lamont, Member, Cultural Property Advisory Committee

Long time Springfield, Illinois attorney, Thomas R. Lamont, formerly served as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Subsequently, he received a presidential appointment to the National Commission on the Future of the Army. Lamont also served as a commissioner on the American Battle Monuments Commission. Prior to his federal service, he served as a member and chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. A graduate of Illinois State University and the University of Illinois College of Law, Lamont currently is the President of Lamont Consulting Services, LLC and resides in Springfield, IL. He is married to wife, Bridget and has one son, Michael.

 The full press release may be found here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

State Department Announces Proposed Renewals of MOUs with Bulgaria and China

 The State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center has provided advance notice of an upcoming CPAC meeting on April 26-27, 2023, to consider renewals of current MOUs with Bulgaria and China  For more, see

The State Department will accept comments on these MOUs from the public at a future date when official notice of the meeting is provided in the Federal Register. 

Both MOUs already impact the ability of American collectors to import historical coins of the sort widely and legally collected elsewhere.   Once a coin type is placed on a “designated list,” U.S. Customs can detain, seize and repatriate it unless the importer produces provenance information that is usually unavailable for most coins, particularly the inexpensive types most people can afford to collect.  These rules apply to all coin imports, not just to imports directly from countries for which import restrictions have been granted.  Ever broader (and sometimes overlapping) lists have made it increasingly difficult to import coins for the US Collector market even if enforcement remains spotty.

The designated list for Bulgaria covers a wide variety of Greek, Roman Provincial, Byzantine, Bulgarian Empire and Ottoman coins that were either made or circulated there.  For more, see 79 Fed. Reg. 2781-2785 (January 16, 2014), available at

The designated list for China covers all Chinese coins from the earliest times to the end of the Tang Dynasty.  For more, see 74 Fed. Reg. 2838-2844 (January 16, 2009), available at

Right now, there are no all-encompassing import restrictions on Roman Imperial coins, but this is subject to change.  Hobby leaders are particularly worried about a staff driven effort to use the Bulgarian renewal to expand current import restrictions to include widely collected Roman Imperial coins of the sort that circulated throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.  See  Roman Imperial coins are by far the most available and widely collected type of ancient coins.  New restrictions on Americans importing such coins from legitimate markets in Europe could greatly damage the US ancient coin market and collecting as a whole. 

Of course, there are other concerns with both MOUs.  One can ask about the efficacy of any MOU with Bulgaria when it is estimated that up to 4% of the population is engaged in treasure hunting for fun or profit.  As for the China MOU, one wonders why the US denies its own citizens the right to import ancient Chinese coins when the Chinese government itself encourages its own citizens to buy, sell and collect the exact same coin types.   Also, does the authoritarian Chinese high-tech surveillance state really need US help to police its own archaeological sites?

Watch here for updates for when the State Department accepts comments for these upcoming renewals on the website.   

Update:: 4/12/23- The Cultural Heritage Center website now indicates that the CPAC hearing has been postponed until a future date.  Watch this website for additional updates. 

Update:  5/1/23-  The Cultural Heritage Center website now indicates that the CPAC hearing will now take place on 6/5/23 and that any comments will be due on or before 5/26/23.  See  It also suggests that there will be no changes in any renewal with China.  While it states that no additional categories of archaeological materials will be considered for times when coins circulated, it is not entirely clear whether this really forecloses consideration of new import restrictions on Roman coins.  The website is yet to go live which gives the ability to comment.  Watch here for an update when it does. 

Update: 5/24/23- The State Department finally published the noticed of meeting on 5/19 and enabled comments on 5/22/23, giving 4 days for the public to comment before the 5/26/23 close on these important renewals.  Cynics will conclude that the exceptionally short time frame allowed for public comment was designed to limit it as much as possible so that the State Department bureaucracy could claim these renewals "were not controversial."  The Federal Register notice and comment button can be found here:

Monday, January 30, 2023

CPAC Has an Important Role

 Here is what I said at today's CPAC hearing.  Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, I had to provide my comments via phone, and will not be able to produce a good summary of the meeting.

        CPAC has an important role to ensure that congressionally mandated limitations on executive authority are honored.

          Here, even assuming that all the criteria for import restrictions are met, CPAC must still ensure that the designated list only encompasses coins and other artifacts that were “first discovered within” and “subject to export control” by Cambodia, North Macedonia or Uzbekistan.

          In other words, there needs to be documentary proof coins now sold on legitimate markets in places like Europe can only be found in Cambodia, North Macedon or Uzbekistan before they can lawfully be placed on the designated list.

          Such an assumption is impossible to make here.  The vast majority of coins that circulated in Cambodia, North Macedonia or Uzbekistan were made elsewhere and circulated either regionally or internationally as items of commerce.  The number of these coins found in these countries is an insignificant percentage of the totals found elsewhere.

          This is particularly true for coins like Alexander the Great tetradrachms and Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins.  Indeed, the State Department approved a speech given at a recent numismatic Congress in Warsaw that made that very same point for Roman Imperial coins.

          CPAC must consider three other points.  First, coins are the products of what at the time were sophisticated industrial practices. Moreover, coins by their nature are “common or repetitive or essentially alike in material design, color, or other outstanding characteristics with other objects of the same type.”  As such, they cannot be considered “ethnological” objects.

          Second, coins can only be found by design with metal detectors.  Several comments, particularly one by Dr. Soren Stark, acknowledge that local officials are often well aware of these activities.  That begs the question why regulations regarding metal detectors such as the institution of a Portable Antiquities Scheme are not tried as a “self-help” measure and a “less drastic remedy” first before limiting the ability of Americans to import coins further.

          Finally, we acknowledge and appreciate the Antiquities Coalition’s statement that the CPIA is meant to only act prospectively to preclude import of artifacts illicitly exported from a State Party for which restrictions have been granted after the effective date of any governing regulations.

          Unfortunately, however, Customs doesn’t see it that way and instead applies restrictions as embargoes on any item on the designated list imported after the effective date of the restrictions.  This is a much broader construction of its authority that allows source countries to “claw back” artifacts imported from legitimate markets abroad.  This also explains why CPAC’s attention to these issues is so important.  Thank you.