The Washington Post published an article this week about the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's quest to fight new regulations regarding the importation of ancient coins.
They're only worth about $275, but 23 bronze coins seized by the federal government at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport last year just might be the most important chunk of change for numismatists in years.
These well-worn coins, struck more than a thousand years ago in Cyprus and China, are at the center of a dispute over U.S. rules that collectors across the country say could threaten their popular and beloved hobby.
For generations, collectors have freely bought and sold coins from around the world, including many from ancient times. But the United States in recent years began restricting imports of some coins as part of a broader effort to protect antiquities and combat the looting of archaeological sites abroad.
It began with some Cypriot coins in 2007, then certain Chinese coins were added last year. But numismatists are worried that Roman coins, the passion of many collectors, could be next to join the list.
So the Missouri-based Ancient Coin Collectors Guild bought the 23 bronze coins in April last year from a London dealer, solely to challenge the rules and set off a legal showdown over requirements that people show proof of where or when certain coins are unearthed.
In a lawsuit filed February in Maryland federal court, the collectors say presidents John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan were ancient coin collectors. Most coins, they contend, were so widely circulated in ancient times that it might be impossible to know when they were dug up. Plus, they argue, the rules will do little to discourage plundering because they apply only to U.S. collectors.
Wayne G. Sayles, a longtime collector and guild executive director, said he agrees that some antiquities -- such as religious icons, mummies and precious artwork -- need the government's protection and belong to the people of the country in which they were found. But he thinks coins are different. Most aren't high-dollar items, he says, and collectors keep, study and protect coins that museums don't want.
"Do I think that the Liberty Bell ought to be sold to somebody in Russia? No, it belongs here. I understand that, and I agree with that. But we're not talking about the Liberty Bell," Sayles said.
To read the complete article, see:
For some coin collectors, federal regulations don't add up
Wayne Homren, Editor
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