Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ACCG Challenges Import Restrictions by Staging the Import and Detention of Restricted Coins

The ACCG announced yesterday that it now plans to challenge U.S. State Department import restrictions on ancient coins from Cyprus and China outright. This announcement follows the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that it filed against the U.S. State Department in regards to Cyprus in the fall of 2007, and the more recent announcement that the ACCG was planning to press for more documents in that case.

In the release on its website, "Coin Collectors to Challenge State Department on Import Restrictions," the ACCG explains its action:

"As a British Airways jetliner touched down in Baltimore on April 15th , many U.S. citizens were busy writing last minute checks to the IRS....

Part of the cargo of BA 229/16 that day was a small packet of 23 very common, inexpensive, Cypriot and Chinese coins being imported by a collector advocacy group, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG). The entry of these coins, forbidden by DOS under bilateral agreements with Cyprus and China, marked the launch of a test case to determine whether the State Department has banned their importation properly under a 1983 law dealing with the protection of cultural property.

As mandated, U.S. Customs detained these coins being imported from the United Kingdom. The ACCG now plans to use this detention as a vehicle to strike down the unprecedented regulations banning importation of whole classes of ancient coins, The collectors’ group claims that, among other abnormalities, the decision process for these agreements was orchestrated contrary to the spirit and intent of governing law. Moreover, they claim that the State Department misled Congress and the public about its decision not to follow the recommendations of its own Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) — a group of experts charged with advising the president on how best to balance the goals of protecting cultural heritage against the needs of a legitimate trade in cultural artifacts."

In spite of its name, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild is a lobbying body that is most concerned about the interests of no-questions-asked dealers and importers. This is made evident by the fact that rather than attempting to address ethical and legal problems of indiscriminate collecting and dealing in a proactive and transparent way, its leaders have prefered to challenge protective legislation in favor of private and commercial interests. Rather than engaging in an equitable and informed dialogue with archaeologists and government officials/advisors, they have prefered to distort the issues and resort to the tactics of intimidation and abhorrent name-calling against those who oppose their views. The most prominently displayed financial backers on the ACCG's website are dealerships and auction houses. Every ACCG leader listed on its officers pages is a former or active ancient coin dealer, including its founder and executive director. Even some collectors themselves have recently commented on various online discussion fora that it is increasingly clear the ACCG is representing a purely commercial and dealer/importer-driven interest, being less concerned about the "rights" or interests of the private collector.

At least these latest antics by ACCG leaders clearly show what their true goals have been since it filed the FOIA suit in 2007: to strike down protective legislation that only affects dealers and importers who have no real concern for due diligence processes.

Surely, U.S. Customs officials acted properly in detaining coins of Cypriot and Chinese type that were imported without any previous documentation and one would think our border protection officers should be commended for effectively implementing bilateral agreements and controls, especially operating under the likely assumption that one of the ACCG officers provided U.S. Customs with an anonymous tip to ensure the coins would be detained as planned. The ACCG indicated these coins were chosen for their scheme because they have no previous history, which begs the question where they came from and how recently they appeared on the market. Were they looted? What information was lost in the process? The dealer lobby, of course, is not concerned about such things and sees it differently, planning to use this "test case" as a means of overturning import restrictions. It will be interesting to see if the ACCG's buffoonery in this "test case" will be taken seriously by the courts.

Interestingly, in their ignoble ploy to invent a cause to strike down bilateral treaties on import restrictions via legislative measures, the ACCG leadership may have violated their own Code of Ethics, which states "Collectors and Sellers...will comply with all cultural property laws of their own country."

At least now the ACCG's leadership is showing its true colors perhaps more than ever before and its true aims and interests are becoming increasingly apparent.
(Image: The King of Spades)



I now see that Paul Barford has made some further observations which appeared at approximately the same time as my post:

P. Barford,
"ACCG Coin Import Stunt,"
Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues.


I now see that the Executive Director of the ACCG has posted something which I presume is intended to be a response to both our posts here: http://ancientcoincollecting.blogspot.com/2009/05/rose-is-rose.html

I note however that he has not supplied his readers with a link so they can check what ELSE might have been said, other than that the ACCG is looking after dealers', rather than collectors' interests. I wonder why not?