Monday, April 13, 2015

Mailing coins to and from Europe

The United States Customs Service sometimes seizes ancient coins sent through the mail.

My friend the Cultural Property Observer has been blogging about the legal issues around Customs seizures. I became curious about the statistical properties: how often are the coins seized, does it make a difference what is written on the Customs Declaration, and do the particular source and destination cities make a difference.

My hope had been to send a few coins with sub-$10 market value back and forth with a reader living in Poland to see what happens. It might be interesting to learn if MOU restrictions are being enforced uniformly or are biased.

Surprisingly, my correspondent's Polish Post Office told him US Customs doesn't accept coins sent through the mail. Even more surprisingly, the US Post Office's web site says coin shipments to Poland coins are prohibited by Poland.

I'm not talking about ancient coins. I mean coins and money in general, “including currency in circulation in the Polish Republic”, and silver.

I am curious to see how it this prohibition works in practice. I was unable to convince my Polish archeo-blogger correspondent to enter into an exchange of modern coins with me. Instead I purchased a 2 Złote commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Polish Society for the Mentally Handicapped on eBay for $1.65 plus $3 shipping.

I purchased the coin on March 21st. It was postmarked March 25th. eBay expected it would arrive by April 24th to May 1st. The coin arrived a week early on April 13th. The seller did not declare the coin, so we didn't learn anything about shipping declared coins. I did learn it takes about three weeks for a thick coin-sized object in a Priorytet envelope with 360 Grozy of postage (about US 0.95) to reach New York.

My hope is that I didn't engage in smuggling through this transaction. I did everything above-board: I bought it publicly on eBay, paid with a credit card, received it at my legal residence via the US Postal Service. It was just an undeclared coin with a face value of US $0.53 and a collector value of $1.65. If anyone with a legal background knows otherwise please contact me via email.

If anyone with a Polish address is interested in receiving a few recent US coins from me, with full customs declaration, email me and tell me what kind of US coins you want. No charge. The coins might not arrive. My intention is to fill out declarations with variations of 'coins / gift / value ~$2' and 'numismatic / gift / value ~$2' and just see what gets refused and what gets seized. Anyone in?


Cultural Property Observer said...

Ed, dealers can import large numbers of coins. When they do so, they should have a commercial invoice available for customs to inspect. Material coming in letters should also be properly declared on the outside of the envelope, but there are concerns about doing so for fear of theft.

Sorry your experiment did not work out, but not surprised. Your Polish correspondent is really just interested in scoring perceived points against what he regards as corrupt collectors and dealers.

Paul Barford said...

So, going for the high comments numbers again by another posting on customs issues?

As stated in a previous comment, your lawyer friend should know that you cannot send coins to the US from certain countries in "letters" and declare them "on the envelopes" and as I said, this is a regulation imposed by the US post office.

I have explained my reasons for declining to take part here:

Mr Tompa, since we are on the topic of the central European numismatic trade and exports, I'd like to ask about those Hungarian coins you collect/collected (used to be mentioned on your profile, you've removed it). By what means have you imported them into the US? It might be helpful to the reader if you could describe the process and the various postal regulations involved. Are there any similar problems to those Mr Snible has in exchange with almost-neighbouring Poland?

Paul Barford said...

Well, that was a real conversation killer, wasn't it?