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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

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