Friday, October 31, 2008

UK export rules for coins

A few months ago there was some discussion on the ancient coin blogosphere about UK export rules for ancient coins — are they antiquities or numismatic or both?

The UK Museum Libraries and Archives Council has a downloadable booklet, Guidance to exporters of antiquities (including numismatic items), which says that Article 2(2) of the EC Regulation on the export of cultural goods (Number EEC 3911/92) allows member states to exclude objects of limited archaeological importance. It goes on to say:
5. The UK has decided to exercise its discretion under Article 2(2) by excluding the following categories of archaeological objects as being of limited archaeological or scientific interest:
(a) numismatic items of a standard type which are published in a reference work on numismatics;
(b) objects, other than numismatic items, which possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography and which are not in an especially fine condition for the type of object.
... with some additional rules about being lawfully on the market, etc.

Thus nearly all ancient coins don't fall under the strict rules suggested by the EU regulation.


Voz Earl said...

I had this discussion with Paul Barford over on the Unidroit list and he pointed out that par. 8 says:

"Where no EC licence is required (either because the object is to be exported only inside the Community or because the object falls within the categories set out at paragraph 5) exporters need to bear in mind the need to obtain a licence under UK domestic legislation. This requires a licence for any archaeological material from UK soil or UK territorial waters regardless of monetary value and regardless of destination. In addition, archaeological objects from a non-UK source require licences if they are worth £65,000 or more."

So Barford's point was that any coin exported from the UK without a license is in violation of the law--fair enough. My point is that in practice, this law is much the same as anti-jaywalking or speed-limit laws; people break them all the time. Who's going to go through the trouble of obtaining an export license for a $10 Constantinian bronze sold on Ebay? Unless the object is very valuable or important no one will bother with getting an export license. Those who want to make a big deal about this suggesting that it constitutes some sort of nefarious black market activity might as well start making citizen's arrests every time they see someone jaywalking or rolling through a stop sign.

Voz Earl

Ed Snible said...

Barford told me the same thing. He did not mention that the UK added an exemption to specifically exclude published coins and low-grade antiquities.

The explicit exemption implies that coin exportation is not in technical violation.