Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Chinese/Cypriot Coin Saga Continues

As a private antiquities collector and tax-paying American citizen, I'm outraged at this stunt pulled by the ACCG. To deliberately break the law for the express purpose of forcing a trial is just unbelievable. No doubt this was cooked up between the "officers" of the organization without bothering to ask the 5000 members they supposedly serve. What would have been the answer if they had? And what of the millions of American taxpayers that will be footing the bill for this farce? I bet no one in the ACCG thought to ask how they would like their tax dollars being wasted on such a scheme. After all, we are already paying for their Freedom of Information Act litigation, but apparently the wheels of justice weren't moving fast enough for them, so the moved to "Phase 2".

What the ACCG fails to acknowledge is that it's not the importation of the coins that is being prohibited, it is the importation of coins without a valid export license or proof that they left before Jan. 16,2009 (for the Chinese coins) or July 16, 2007 (for the Cypriot coins) that is prohibited. They know full well that if the coins they "attempted" to import had proper documentation, they would have never been retained by customs. This was posted by Peter Tompa himself:

Under the provision, restricted artifacts must be accompanied upon entry into the US with either a valid Chinese export certificate or certifications indicating that the artifact in question left China before the effective date of the restrictions, January 16, 2009.

This was also posted to the ACCG website by Peter Tompa and Dave Welsh:

The burden will then shift to the importer to prove that the coin was outside of Cyprus before July 16, 2007 (the date of the restrictions). Coins lacking such documentation are subject to seizure.

the ACCG can't even follow its own already loosely worded "Code of Ethics" (Coin Collectors and Sellers will not knowingly purchase coins illegally removed from scheduled archaeological sites or stolen from museum or personal collections, and will comply with all cultural property laws of their own country.) or even its own bylaws (The guild does not in any way support, condone or defend the looting of designated archaeological sites, nor the violation of any nation's laws concerning the import or export of antiquities.) This conduct shows them to be an organization that can't be trusted or even respected by ethical antiquities collectors no matter what type of antiquity they collect.


Alfredo De La Fe said...

There are several problems. One of the biggest problems I can think of off of the top of my head is that coins of Cypriot type were found ALL OVER THE REGION. The AIA LIED when the president wrote that this was not the case. There are dozens (if not HUNDREDS) of hoard reports dating back decades which have coins which were minted in Cypress being found outside of Cypress.

See my blog for more points...

Robyn said...

Hi Mr. De La Fe, thanks for your comment.

That doesn't in ANY WAY negate the fact that the ACCG deliberately broke the law, their own code of ethics, and their own bylaws with the intention of forcing a trial. Which will be at the tax-payers' expense. Their conduct is absolutely shameful, illegal, and unethical. It's also a sad waste of tax dollars and the court's time. Period.

Many countries have laws requiring export licenses. Do ACCG members routinely ignore them as well? Most other countries where you would find either of those types of coins would also have required an export license to remove them. If the ACCG was doing business ethically and legally, then the MOU wouldn't have mattered.

In the interest of fairness, I'd be happy to look at your blog, but you'll have to send me a link.

Take care,

Ed Snible said...

I'm not a lawyer. I tried to read the law but couldn't understand it.

"If the consignee of any designated archaeological or ethnological material is unable to present to the customs officer ... the certificate or other documentation ... the customs officer concerned shall refuse to release the material from customs custody and send it to a bonded warehouse ... [and] the material shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture."

Is this a crime like smuggling where the importer goes to prison or just a confiscation (like when they take away beverages at the airport?)

Robyn said...

Basically it says that if the consignee ( person the item is being sent to) can't produce the proper documents, the customs officer will seize the item and place it in a bonded warehouse. The item then is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

That same website you posted the link to also says that the consignee has 90 days to produce the proper documents while the item is being held, at the consignee's expense. Let's hope the ACCG smartens up and gets the paperwork, putting an end to this entire mess. If it turns out that they don't have the proper documentation for those coins, they're only making things worse for themselves.

As for punishment, the US has previously used the National Stolen Property Act to punish those who have been caught illegally importing cultural property. See here:

The NSPA says punishment is "Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."Here's a link if you want to read the act for yourself:

I don't know of any other cases pertaining to this particular issue, so I'm not sure what stance the government will take in
the case of the ACCG, personally I'm hoping for a very large fine, plus reimbursment to the government for any and all expenses incurred, and a lot of negative publicity for taking such standpoints to begin with.

Paul Barford said...

Here is an interesting list of things stopped to date by the ICE since it was set up in 2003, I wonder how many other dodgy shipments and of what they have missed though...

Of course the point is not so much the "repatriation" but the punishment of the illegal exporters that should be the focus of these activities.

It is a shame that the ACCG which says it is "concerned" about heritage issues is deliberately breaking the law to deliberately bog down the US legal system with a non-matter (all they have to do is supply the paperwork). The aim of this is solely that of compromising what efforts the US government DO make to maintain their international obligations. The CPIA is already incredibly dealer friendly and relatively toothless. The dealer lobby (ACCG) want more though. I really am SURPRISED that there are not more ethical collectors in the US who are speaking out against these self-interested hooligans.

About the only good thing that can be said about the ACCG is that 90% of ancient coin collectiors in the US will have nothing to do wioth them (their executive director claims the Guild speaks for 5000 affiliated members, while he himslef estimates that there are 50 000 collectors of ancient coins in the US). As a minority they are doing a huge amount of damage to the image of the portable antiquity collector in general.

I hope they lose their case, not because I think your CPIA is any help at all, but because I'd like collectors to see that confronation is not the way to go here.

Paul Barford

Robyn said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the comment, and the link. Interesting reading.

The ACCG says they are concerned about heritage issues, but their actions show different. They show that they are clearly only interested in furthering their own agenda and fighting anything that makes it harder for them to make a buck. I agree,they are only doing more damage to the already tarnished reputation of private collectors everywhere.

I personally would like to see more criminal prosecutions when undocumented items are seized.

My hope is that as more collectors become educated on the issues surrounding no questions asked collecting and dealing, there will be more of us publicly speaking out against it.

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Dear Robyn;

As a followup to your question about how other collectors view the ACCG's perfectly valid and appropriate challenge of the Cyprus MOU, the guild's membership has increased by 20% since you posted this ill-informed piece.



Robyn said...


Since that post is over a year old, I would suspect that your membership didn't increase because of your "test case", but rather increased because of the scare
tactics and mis-information that your organization used to gather support for that test case and your fax campaign regarding the Italian MOU.

For some examples of what I'm talking about, I refer you here:

I wouldn't be too proud of gaining more members that way if I were you.