Cultural Property Statement

Approved by the Board of Trustees 10/22/05.

American Numismatic Society Statement on Cultural Property Concerns

October 22, 2005

The American Numismatic Society recognizes the importance of legislative and treaty provisions aimed at curbing illicit traffic in archaeological artifacts.

At the same time the Society is aware that in the case of coins such measures can have the unintended effects of placing an undue burden on lawful collecting, legitimate numismatic trade, and scholarly research.

Historically, coins were produced by the millions and they survive by the hundreds of thousands. Since the Renaissance coins have been avidly collected and studied by princes, scholars, and historically-minded hobbyists alike. While the illicit recovery of coins from archaeological sites and the failure to record hoards properly continues to do irreparable harm to numismatic scholarship, collecting and dealing in coins that have been in private hands for many years does not contribute to the destruction of cultural heritage. Likewise, because most coins in private collections have been traded and held without any provenance, it is unreasonable to assume that a coin is stolen, illegally exported, or illegally imported merely because the holder cannot establish a chain of custody beyond receipt from a reputable source. Taken together, such considerations argue that within the world of artifacts, coins as a class do, in fact, stand apart.

Accordingly, The American Numismatic Society urges that in cultural property deliberations over the importation of artifacts, full attention should be given to these exceptional factors that pertain to historical coins, so as to ensure the continuance of legitimate collecting, the protection of the cultural heritage of countries negatively affected by the ongoing trade in illicit antiquities, and the preservation, analysis and dissemination of knowledge of the past.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Numismatics Supplemental Reading Bibliography