The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) issued a press release calling for action by all collectors to petition the U.S. State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) to not include ancient coins with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Italy that will claim them as State cultural heritage.

The State Department issued a Notice of Meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee announcing that they will meet in open session on May 6, 2010 starting at 9:30 A.M. to discuss the Italy’s request to expand the MOU. Anyone wishing to attend the meeting must reserve a seat by calling (202) 632-6301 by April 22, 2010, 5:00 P.M. Eastern Time.

Anyone wishing to address the committee or provide written testimony must submit their comments in writing to the committee by faxing it to (202) 632-6300 for statements 5 pages or less. Those more than 5 pages must be mailed with 20 duplicates to Cultural Heritage Center, SA-5, Fifth Floor, Department of State, Washington, DC 20522-0505.

This is where you can help. ACCG is asking for collectors to send letters to the CPAC to oppose adding ancient coins that may be considered “Italian” (e.g., ancient Rome). Such a rule would make almost all Roman and early Greek coins contraband, even if they entered the U.S. from other countries without documentation. Have you ever walked the bourse floor and seen piles of ancient coins in trays on dealers’ tables? These coins have been sold around the world for hundreds of years and not part of any antiquities collections belonging in a state collection.

With one ruling, the CPAC can seriously damage the hobby for everyone. Yes, EVERYONE! It may start with Italy, but where does it stop? Will Canada come after my collection of Canadian coins? What about the 1912 Russian banknotes my relatives brought with them when they landed at Ellis Island? Once this snowball begins to roll downhill, what is to prevent congress from declaring pattern coins as contraband? It reminds me of a numismatic version of the “First they came…” attributed Pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets.

ACCG will help you contact the CPAC using their free fax service at

If you need help constructing a letter, the fax service has suggested text. If you want something a little different, the following is what I sent:

Ms. Katherine L. Reid
Chair, Cultural Property Advisory Committee
United States Department of State
Annex 5
2200 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20522-0505

Dear Ms. Reid:

I am a collector of historical coins and want to see that US collectors retain the same rights as collectors in the EU, where restrictions on the transfer of historical coins between EU countries are specifically forbidden. Please do not allow the rights of US citizens to be further infringed.

I have been advised by the Directors of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild that renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy pertaining to importation of cultural property from Italy is being considered on May 6-7, 2010. Based on comments made during the recent interim hearing, it seems likely that a request will be made and considered to remove the exemption currently in place for ancient coins.

Coins of a type produced at mints in Italy during antiquity literally circulated throughout the known western world at that time as a result of the reach of the empires that occupied the land. Coins from these eras have been found from Britain to India as the empires grew. Because of this wide circulation, it is impossible to determine whether these coins came from Italy or were used in other areas of the those empires. For example, a hoard of copper Roman coins were found in Cardiff, Whales by someone searching with a metal detector in 2007. By removing the exemption currently in place for ancient coins, U.S. collectors would not be able to add any of this hoard to their collections.

The ACCG, the Numismatic Trade and the wider numismatic community have all presented, and will present, a wealth of justification for retaining the current exemption. This would allow Americans to continue to enjoy preserving, studying and displaying coins just like their fellow collectors in Italy and the rest of the European Union. I support the position of these organizations and oppose any attempt to restrict the importation of coins under the terms of this MOU.

Respectfully yours,

Scott Barman

I adopted this note from ACCG’s suggested text and the first paragraph is provided by ACCG from a form that was based on an answer I provided on the second page of the process.

Please help now! The ACCG has made it easy. Even if you use their suggested text or mine, act now. And when you are done, consider giving ACCG a donation to help with their effort. I did!

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