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Import Restrictions Declared 'Extra Legal'
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
February 22, 2012

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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After reviewing the new restrictions on importing certain coins, two University of Miami law professors have declared the U.S. State Department’s actions as “extra legal,” according to a spokesman for the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild.

Washington attorney Peter Tompa, speaking at the Jan. 7 ACCG meeting held during the New York International Numismatic Convention, said the two professors examined laws regarding the import of certain coins and how these laws are being enforced, despite having no personal interest in coins or in coin collecting. Their conclusion, according to Tompa, was that those enforcing these laws have been going beyond the letter of the law, using the law term “extra legal” to describe these actions.

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The ACCG, alongside other numismatic organizations, has been conducting an ongoing series of lawsuits regarding where the ACCG views seizures of coin imports or coins already in the United States as been unjust. The ACCG also encourages those individuals and organizations with an interest in coins as collectibles to lobby to change or to discourage new laws that may restrict ownership rights regarding specific coins.

ACCG spokesman Wayne Sayles reported at the NYINC meeting that the ACCG now has 793 individual members as well as 21 affiliated clubs that represent approximately 5,000 additional collectors. Sayles was careful to clarify what collectors and dealers should and should not do. “It is not in our best interests to find a way to get around the law. It is in our best interest to change the law,” he declared.

One of the problems Sayles identified is that U.S. Customs agents don’t apply the laws consistently restricting the import of certain ancient coin types. Part of this may be a lack of understanding regarding these coins, however Sayles said, “We need to get involved internally with [U.S.] Customs.”

The ACCG opposes all coin import restrictions. In January 2011, Italy restricted coins of ancient Rome, ancient Greek city-states, and Italian colonial coins from being imported into the United States. Sayles and Tompa both pointed out these restrictions have only been imposed on coins entering the United States. The same coins are not restricted when imported into European Union countries or anywhere else in the world.

Customs agents have been told to seize specific type coins, rather than basing the coins on where they were found. In some instances, the coins may have been legally excavated in a country other than the country of issue. For example, an ancient coin struck on Cyprus may have been excavated in another country.

Cyprus is one of the countries identified by the ACCG that have requested restrictions be imposed by the U.S. State Department on the import of virtually any ancient coin originating from that island.

An additional factor to consider, according to the ACCG, is that some customs agents are favoring the stance of archaeologists who are against any coins being available to collectors. The archaeologists who favor a full ban on the import of such coins is a minority, according to Sayles. He noted that at a recent hearing only eight percent of archaeologists favored coins being named among future import restriction laws now being considered by the U.S. State Department.

Sayles told those at the ACCG meeting some coin dealers are now giving clients invoices on which photographs of their coins appear. Current statutes require an affidavit both from the dealer and from the buyer that some specific ancient coins are being imported legally. The provenance and the date of purchase of such coins is becoming increasingly important due to these restrictions.

Countries including Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Turkey have been making increasing demands not only to restrict the import of certain coins, but to repatriate coins now in private or museum collections they claim should be able to be returned regardless of how long these coins have been out of their country of origin or where the coins were discovered. The ACCG can be contacted at

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