Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kerry Ignorant of Collateral Damage to Legitimate Trade and Museums

It's evident listening to Secretary Kerry that he has been grossly misinformed about how the State Department and CBP misapply import restrictions under the CPIA.  If restrictions were applied as contemplated, there would not be so much collateral damage to the legitimate trade.  Unfortunately, however, our CBP and State Department take cues not from the plain meaning of the statute, but from the archaeological lobby's desire to "shift the burden of proof" to the collector based on the dubious assumption that undocumented means stolen.

Under the CPIA, the burden is on the government to prove: (1) the item is of a type that appears on the designated list; (2) the item was first discovered within and subject to the export control of the country for which restrictions were granted; and (3) that it was illegally removed from the country for which import restrictions were granted after the date the restrictions were imposed.  19 USC Sections 2601, 2604, 2606, 2610.  Draconian rules that assume guilt after only the first element is proved are for dictatorships like Egypt, not for democracies that respect rule of law like the United States.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Outgoing Obama Administration Gifts Egypt and Archaeological Lobby with a MOU

The outgoing Obama Administration has gifted Egypt's authoritarian government, its cultural bureaucracy and supportive archaeologists with a MOU that will likely ban import of undocumented Egyptian antiquities created before 1517.

In so doing, the Administration has ignored 91% of the public comment to CPAC which raised serious concerns with any MOU.  Moreover, the decision once again raises the question whether there was any "done deal" from the outset.

Implementing regulations are expected soon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

State Department Official Confirms Collector Concerns

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Larry Schwartz has confirmed collector concerns about how the State Department has administered the CPIA in a video prepared on behalf of the Antiquities Coalition, an archaeological advocacy group.  For Schwartz and the State Department, MOUs only stem the flow of "illegal" antiquities; not legal antiquities openly sold abroad that don't meet stringent documentation requirements.  The CPIA's legal requirements are "not hard;" there are no real procedural and substantive constraints before import restrictions may be approved.  The burden of proof is on the importer; artifacts can be seized and forfeited without proof they were first discovered within and subject to the export control of the country for which restrictions are given.  And, of course, State sees itself as a partner with foreign cultural bureaucracies, academic archaeologists that depend on these foreign bureaucracies for excavation permits and their advocacy groups.  But what rule of law and the interests of museums, collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic and antiquities trade?  They apparently don't rate, something that hopefully will be addressed when a new administration takes over in January.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Greek MOU Extended Not Expanded

Import restrictions on Greek cultural goods have been extended but not expanded despite the best efforts of the archaeological lobby to include all coins made or potentially found in Greece.  (Current restrictions encompass many archaic, classical and provincial types, but exclude Ancient Greek "trade" coins like Athenian Tetradrachms.)

Despite this "win," CPO hopes the new Trump Administration will review all current MOUs.  Unfortunately, they have become little more than a special interest program for a small group of connected academic archaeologists and the cultural bureaucracies of countries where they excavate.  

Meanwhile, the interests of ordinary Americans who collect ancient coins and other cultural artifacts and our great museums have been damaged for years by hard to comply with import restrictions.          

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Egyptian Dictatorship Plays the Victim Once Again

As the Sisi dicatorship and  its apologists would have it, Egypt is a victim trying to reclaim its cultural heritage from rich, foreign collectors.  Yet, others suggest the real problems are endemic corruption, a Pharonic approach to cultural heritage management and extreme poverty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cultural Property Advisory Committee Meeting on Renewals of Cypriot and Peruvian MOUs

On October 25, 2016, the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee met to discuss the renewals of the current MOUs with Cyprus and Peru.   The following members were present: (1) Nina Achabal (NA) (Museum Representative); (2) Lothar von Falkenhausen (LVF) (Archaeological Representative); (3) Patty Gerstenblith (PG) (Public Representative-Chair); (4) Jane Levine (JL) (Trade Representative); (5) Thomas Murray (TM) (Trade Representative); (6) Katherine Reid (KR) (Museum Representative); (7) Marta de La Torre (MDLT) (Public Representative); and (8) Nancy Wilkie (NW) (Archaeological Representative).  This will be the last meeting for Patty Gerstenblith and several other CPAC members who have been replaced late in President Obama’s term.

The following speakers appeared to discuss the MOU with Cyprus:  (1) Josh Knerly (JK) (Association of Art Museum Directors) (JK); (2) Carmen Arnold-Biucchi (CAB) (Harvard); (3) Jane DeRose Evans (CDE) (Temple); (4) Peter K. Tompa (PKT)  (International Association of Professional Numismatists/Professional Numismatics Guild); (5) Nathan Elkins (NE) (Baylor); (6) Paul Keen (PK) (University of Massachusetts); (7) Andrew McCarthy (AM) (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute) (CAARI); (8) Bryan Wilkins (BW) (CAARI); and (9) Joan Connelly (JC) (New York University), a former CPAC member representing the interests of the archaeological community.

The following speakers appeared to discuss the Peruvian MOU: (1) Brian Bauer (BB) (University of Illinois); and (2) Josh Knerly (JK) (AAMD)

There were also representatives of the State Department, and the Cypriot and Peruvian governments present in the room to hear the testimony. 

Josh Knerly (JK)- Thanks PG for her service. AAMD supports the renewal with qualifications.  There needs to be benchmarks to address problems in both the Northern Turkish Republic and Republic of Cyprus itself.  JK refers to his paper and asks for questions.  MDLT asks about inventories.  JK says inventories should be done to protect the contents of all structures, including mosques.

Carmen Arnold Biucchi (CAB)-Thinks all statutory criteria met.  Designated list should be extended to Byzantine coins.  Coins struck in Cyprus mainly stayed there.  CAB advocates that Cyprus adopt Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme.  TM applauds her suggestion about the creation of a legal market in Cyprus.  There is no need to hold redundant material in basements.  NW asks about Byzantine coins.  CAB maintains the Byzantine coins struck on the Island did not circulate off the Island in great quantities.   They were not mainly gold coins, which did circulate. NA and PG ask about the archaeological value of coins which CAB confirms. 

Jane DeRose Evans (JDE)-The Antiquities Department promptly investigates looting.  Coins found by metal detectors are easily smuggled.  Agrees with suggestion for restrictions on Byzantine coins.  Says selling coins found on state controlled archaeological sites won’t make much money because their value is minimal.  JDE emphasizes she is not against collecting well provenance coins.  JVF opines that looting of coins causes huge damage to the archaeological record.  ASOR wants to promote responsible collecting. TM notes that partage was a good system that has allowed artifacts to be displayed in museums.  KR indicates times have changed since partage and now long term loans are desirable.

Peter K. Tompa (PKT)-  Unfortunately, the system appears to be rigged.  When the CPIA was being discussed, a top State Department lawyer represented to Congress that import restrictions on coins would be unlikely.  This changed with the Cypriot MOU in 2007.  Two CPAC members have stated under oath that the change was made against CPAC’s recommendations and that the State Department sought to mislead the Congress and the public about it.  More troublingly, it was recently determined that the decision maker made the decision after accepting a job with Goldman Sachs, where she was recruited by and works for a top Goldman Sachs partner who is married to an AIA Trustee and well known heritage lobbyist.  Moreover, things have not changed.  Just recently, the AIA also awarded the current State Department decision maker at a swank gala hosted by this power couple.

Substantively, PKT notes that Cyprus is an Island astride major trade routes so of course coins circulated as proved in a scholarly paper attached to PKT’s submission.  In any event, the governing statute only authorizes restrictions on coins that were first discovered within and are hence subject to the export control of Cyprus.  Thus, the standard is whether such coins are “exclusively” found in Cyprus, not generally found or some lesser standard.  Only coins actually found in Cyprus can be subject to Cypriot export controls.  Paying archaeological workers a fair living wage and better site security in the long off season should be investigated.  Finally, Cyprus should consider instituting a Treasure Act or Portable Antiquities Scheme.

PKT's full oral comments can be found here.  IAPN/PNG's written comments can be found here.

PG and NW maintain that the AIA Trustee was not a Trustee back in 2007.  PKT responds that no one just comes out of nowhere to become a Trustee and there was likely some related work beforehand.  In any case, better transparency on how these decisions are made may help clear up such suspicions.

PG asks PKT about NE’s claim that 80% of Cypriot coins are found on Cyprus.  PKT notes this must be an aggregate figure and that presumably coins from the Ptolemaic and Roman Empires circulated within those Empires.  He notes that Roman Provincial coins from Cyprus are struck on the same standard as the Imperial issues and would have circulated in places like Turkey.

MDLT notes that CPAC’s recommendations are advisory. PKT notes that is true but if State rejects them, State is obliged to justify the change in official government reports which was not done and that the decision maker making her decision after taking a job at Goldman Sachs was troubling. 

NW asks if State Department Lawyer’s statement to Congress was made before metal detectors become prevalent.  PKT indicates they were in use in the 1970’s before the CPIA was passed.
JL asks about collectors maintaining provenance.  PKT says this is easier for expensive items like those at auction at Sotheby’s.  He notes some collectors have thousands of low value coins.

Nathan Elkins (NE) discusses unprovenanced coins on eBay. He maintains the IAPN’s data is selective.  Discusses his own data that led to his conclusion that 80% of Cypriot coins found in Cyprus.  States that a US District Court has rejected PKT’s “first discovered within” argument.  (Note, context is important, that decision was made under a very limited “ultra vires” review of government decision making.)

Paul Keen (PK) discusses coins as archaeological artifacts and their importance in dating sites.  He also maintains Cypriot coins did not travel.  PK talks about a commercial hoard from Jordan he reconstituted that was sold in parcels in London, Paris and Malibu.  The original hoard had 1000 coins.  NW asks whether the hoard would have more value as a whole.  PK says yes, but buyers more likely to purchase piecemeal. 

Andrew McCarthy (AM) is director of CAARI.  Notes US Government support for his organization. Cypriot Government very welcoming host to American archaeologists.  Government addresses looting promptly.  KR asks about accusations of Paphos Mayor that local Antiquities Department personnel had stolen artifacts from storage.  AM says this is a smokescreen because the antiquities authority is holding up local road construction.  He produces documents from excavators and police that purport to exonerate the antiquities service.

Bryan Wilkins (BW) is President of CAARI. Maintains MOUs have helped in a decline in looting.  Notes US State Department support including a $100,000 grant per year for the purpose of funding two scholars.  Notes outreach efforts to local communities to enlighten them about the dangers of looting.  Discussion of shipwreck now in Northern Cyprus.  KR discusses long term loans.  NA notes some of the Cesnola collection now on display in Nicosia.

Joan Connelly (JC) attributes all Cyprus’ problems to Turkish invasion.  Sets forth her close relationship with the Cypriot Antiquities service and her long work on the Island. (Note:  Perhaps IAPN/PNG’s 2007 request that she be recused from voting on the Cyprus MOU request should have been granted after all.) Discusses 15 American digs on Island.  Calls for AAMD to apologize for suggesting the Turkish Republic for Northern Cyprus is a recognized political entity.  Attacks the AAMD’s suggestion that benchmarks be set for the renewal of the next MOU as “neo-colonialist.”  In response to question from NA, attacks PAS and Treasure Act.

JL indicates her belief that JC is misconstruing JK discussion of benchmarks.  JC notes she is an honorary citizen of Paphos, decries reckless attacks of Paphos Mayor on antiquities service.

Brian Brauer (BB) states Peru has met the criteria for renewal.  He notes that greater efforts must be made to ensure that site guards get a living wage.   He requests new restrictions on Colonial documents and fossils.  PG says that CPIA may not allow restrictions on fossils.  She asks for more detail on colonial era documents.  BB says now families who own old documents can sell them on eBay.  They should stay in Peru.  BB defers to AAMD on loans and does not express concern about benchmarks proposed by AAMD. 

Josh Knerly (JK) notes he is gratified that not all proposals for benchmarks are controversial.  He notes that all the issues raised by AAMD 5 years ago, especially regarding long term loans have yet to be addressed.  There is some discussion of on-line inventories so that items may be selected for loans. PG expresses concern that these only be made available to museums so that thieves will not get valuable information.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

System Now Rigged; Underlying Facts Have Not Changed

    This is what I said, more or less, at today's CPAC meeting about the renewal of the current MOU with Cyprus.  The reaction from those opposed to collecting was predictable, but I was happy to get support from archaeologists for the idea of paying fair wages to site workers to discourage looting and promoting the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities scheme to ensure coins found outside recognized archaeological sites are adequately recorded.  I hope to be able to prepare a full report of the CPAC meeting in the near future:  

         I am speaking on behalf of the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatics Guild, which represent the small businesses of the numismatic trade.  In many ways, this hearing is greater test for CPAC than for ancient coin collectors.  We've heard a lot from first the Sanders and now the Trump campaigns that the system is rigged. Here, unfortunately, there is strong evidence that may be the case.

          For 25 years after the CPIA was passed, there were no restrictions on coins.   This should be no surprise.  Coins are items of commerce.  So, it is difficult for modern nation states to justifiably claim them as their “cultural property.”  They are probably the most common of historical artifacts and are not of “cultural significance.”  They are avidly collected and traded worldwide—including in places like Cyprus.  It simply makes no sense to preclude Americans from importing coins where there is no real “concerted international response.”   Indeed, when the CPIA was being discussed, Mark Feldman, a high ranking State Department lawyer, represented to Congress that it was “hard … to imagine a case where we would need to deal with coins except in the most unusual circumstances.” 

          In 2007, this changed with Cypriot coins.   According to the declarations of two former CPAC Members, including Former Chair Kislak, that change was made against CPAC’s recommendations.  Moreover, there was an attempt to mislead the public and the Congress about CPAC’s true recommendations.  Even worse, it has recently come to light that the decision maker at the time made the decision after she had already announced she was leaving for a job at Goldman Sachs, where she was recruited and works for the husband of an AIA Trustee who has been very active lobbying on cultural heritage issues.  Nor is the situation better now.  In fact, the AIA just gave an award to the current State Department decision maker at the swank Metropolitan Club, again courtesy of this same well connected couple.   Under the circumstances, how can collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic trade think the system is fair? 

           Let me touch on some issues brought up in papers by members of the AIA and related groups trying to justify these restrictions.   First, there is the claim that Cypriot coins did not circulate in any numbers.  But this does not mesh with Cyprus’ status as an Island astride major trade routes or information in the scholarly paper attached to the IAPN submission.  Indeed, as referenced in one letter by an AIA member, there was a Smithsonian exhibition several years back entitled, “Cyprus: Cross Roads of Civilizations.” That pretty much says it all.  In any event, the governing statute only authorizes restrictions on coins that were first discovered within and are hence subject to the export control of Cyprus.  Thus, the standard is whether such coins are “exclusively” found in Cyprus, not generally found or some lesser standard.  Only coins actually found in Cyprus can be subject to Cypriot export controls. 

          Next, there is the claim that coins tell us something about Cypriot history.  Maybe so, but virtually all of what we have learned we learned well before import restrictions were imposed.  Limiting Americans’ access to such coins simply won’t help add much to that knowledge.  Moreover, Professor Joan Connelly makes the point that she has spent an astounding $100,000 per coin in “dig dollars” to recover coins worth perhaps a few dollars on the open market at her site.  This begs the question whether perhaps at least some of these “dig dollars” might be better spent on site security during the long off season and paying her local workers a fair living wage so they will not be tempted to do any looting in the long off season.   

          Finally, the State Department and Cyprus have never seriously considered alternatives to import restrictions like the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Act.  Import restrictions do more harm to legitimate collecting and the appreciation of Cypriot culture than good.  Indeed, it's a real shame that they particularly hurt the ability of Cypriot and Greek Americans from getting in touch with their heritage.  Such restrictions should be ended or limited to coins actually found in Cyprus.