CoinWorld published an interesting page-one article by Paul Gilkes on the legality of holding Liberty Dollars, the controversial coins made by Bernard von Nothaus. Here are a few excerpts. The image is from the LibertyDollar.org web site (now defunct).
Liberty Dollars held by collectors may be subject to seizure as contraband by federal law enforcement, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Secret Service said Aug. 24.
Statements by officials for those two federal law enforcement agencies seem to reverse the position taken in comments released from the United States Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, N.C., and published in Coin World in April, that mere possession of Liberty Dollars did not constitute a violation of any federal statute.
Soon after von NotHaus’ March 18 conviction, Coin World obtained and published comments from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte stating that while mere possession of Liberty Dollar medallions was not a violation of federal statutes, actual use or intent to use them in the manner for which von NotHaus was convicted would be considered a violation.
The reversal of opinion surfaced after a Michigan collector sought to display his award-winning Liberty Dollar exhibit at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill. Aug. 16 to 20. ANA officials denied the collector the opportunity amid fears the exhibit’s contents would be seized off the convention bourse floor by federal authorities. The collector had exhibited the collection in various venues previously.
With previously public statements in hand from public officials stating that mere possession of Liberty Dollars is not a violation, why would the ANA go out of their way to ask a different government official?
That's just asking for trouble. They risked getting a different answer, and that's just what they got from a different source. What would you expect a cover-your-butt bureaucrat to say? And now we have a mess on our hands.
The organization was understandably concerned about the risk of seizure, but the risk is borne by the exhibitor - it's his coins that stand to be seized. If wants to exhibit them anyway, let him exhibit. Now the poor guy not only didn't get to exhibit, he has his name published in CoinWorld, basically putting a "come seize this collection" sign out for the government officials who are now on notice about it.
The only good that can come out of this now is if this incident becomes a test case in the courts. Hopefully the courts will allow common sense to prevail and permit the possession (and public display) of numismatic items that are harmless in themselves.
If this does end up in the courts (and with a successful outcome for collectors), I wouldn't be surprised to see the exhibitor or ANA counsel to come out and say, "Yeah, that was our plan all along". For now at least, it looks like a completely unnecessary stumble into a hornet's nest.
To read the complete article, see:
Liberty Dollars may be subject to seizure
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