State Department restricts imports of Greek coins

It’s another big step forward for the notion of “cultural patrimony,” in this case humoring the whims of foreign governments that wish to suppress private ownership of long-collected everyday antiquities. [Peter Tompa/Cultural Property Observer; my take]


  • In addition to the more general objections to this, there is the problem that Greek coins were used and are found all over the Mediterranean, not just in the territory of present-day Greece. It appears that the importation of common coins found in Italy or Egypt or Turkey is now forbidden.

  • An industry could be made of facsimiles.
    Indeed, facsimiles could be more attactive than originals, especially if some liberties were taken. Imagine a coin with Caesar’s profile, but with regular modern milled edges. But if it had a date inscribed “44 BC”, that might be a bit much even for me…

  • The most ironic thing about U.S. State Department imposed restrictions on the importation of ancient coins is that virtually no other country in the world has such import restrictions. Legal international markets abound in these objects and everyone can buy and trade them except Americans. Where is the justice in that? Worse, the law that DOS uses to impose the restrictions mandates a “concerted international response” and the State Department flatly ignores this mandate. Worse yet, a federal judge in Baltimore says this is OK. It’s very bizarre. A former chair of the the Cultural Property Advisory Committee publicly called these actions of DOS “Un-American”.