Skip to main content

Cyprus, eBay and the Coin "Lobby"

The new US agreement restricting the import of antiquities from Cyprus has been causing much discussion. These new arrangements came into force on Monday July 16, 2007 (as reported in "U.S. Imposes Restrictions on Importing Cypriot Coins", New York Times, July 17, 2007):
"In a move that some coin collectors fear could eventually make it difficult to pursue their passion, the United States government has imposed import restrictions on ancient coins from Cyprus. It is the first time the United States has limited trade in a broad category of coins as part of an effort to guard the cultural heritage of another country."
The exchanges are becoming more heated.

Wayne Sayles ("Blinded by the Light", September 18, 2007) has launched an attack on Nathan Elkins in response to his blog ("Can Cultural Property Legislation Kill an Academic Discipline?", Safecorner, September 13, 2007):
"Mr. Elkins states that the unchecked trade in undocumented ancient coins is a severe problem. Is it the trade that is the problem, or is it instead misguided laws and the lack of law enforcement on archaeological sites? Should we put barriers on our freeways because people speed? Mr. Elkins would have more controls, more regulation, more restriction. That is a typical bureaucratic approach to solving a perceived, and in this case imperfectly understood, problem. I will continue to disagree."
The different groups need to listen to each other and to members from their own communities ("Coins and Cyprus: Listening to the Coin Forum", August 24, 2007).

But I am surprised to read a message posted on ("The Online Resource for Ancient Coins and Antiquities") on the eve (July 15, 2007) of the restrictions:
"... on sites like eBay my strategy would be to keep as low a profile as possible and avoid buzzwords like "Cyprus" and "coin" (remember all the ads containing words like "Mesopotamian" and "Babylonian" which were taken down after the laws were enacted against selling looted Iraqi antiquities)."
With views like this coming from coin collectors there is little wonder that academic numismatists are right to stress, as Elkins does,
"ancient coins must be considered by cultural preservationists no differently than any other ancient object".


David Gill said…
Now also see Wayne Sayles, "ACCG attacked by archaeologist Elkins", September 19, 2007.
Voz said…
Dear Mr. Gill,

I am the author of the following comment:

"... on sites like eBay my strategy would be to keep as low a profile as possible and avoid buzzwords like "Cyprus" and "coin" (remember all the ads containing words like "Mesopotamian" and "Babylonian" which were taken down after the laws were enacted against selling looted Iraqi antiquities)."

Nice "gotcha!" journalism--ever think about a career with Dateline NBC? I can already picture you and Chris Hansen working together on another exclusive breaking story, but I digress...

I'd like to point out what the regulars at already know--namely that the comment was made tongue in cheek in response to someone else wondering about potential problems stemming from the sale of LEGITIMATE Cypriot coins for which they might have no documentary proof of provenance. In my post, I referenced the ridiculous situation which recently occurred on eBay whereby any auctions whatsoever that contained key words such as Iraq, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, etc. were removed as possible violations of anti-looting laws even when the auctions contained NO ANTIQUITIES WHATSOEVER. The obvious point of my post was that the seller of a LEGITIMATE Cypriot coin on a venue such as eBay, would probably be better off avoiding buzz-words which might cause his auction to be needlessly taken down.

The discussion board at is an informal friendly bunch and many of the posts (mine at least) are meant to be taken with a grain of salt, rather than as profound statements of personal philosophy and ethical mores--I trust you understand the difference.

Yours repectfully,

Voz Earl

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.