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Old Coin Sales Irks Archaeologists
By Ancient Coin Collectors Guild

“Some archaeologists are piqued that genuine ancient coins are being sold in a benefit auction to preserve collectors rights,” says Wayne G. Sayles, executive director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild ( http://www.accg.us ).

In a recent post online, one archaeologist likened the private collecting of ancient coins to the slaughter of African elephants. This wildly radical view pits archaeology directly against a venerable 600-year-old tradition of private scholars and museums throughout the world, according to Sayles.

Objects as plentiful as coins, surviving in the millions of specimens, can hardly be treated as priceless treasures to be preserved only by state agencies and institutions. Collectors argue that they are far better stewards and preservationists than most institutions, and are sometimes better scholars.

The ACCG Benefit Auction is now live online and bidding is active.

With 208 lots, representing about 450 ancient coins and related objects, the ACCG Benefit Auction is off to a strong start. Spirited bidding characterized the first two days of the auction, which runs from August 4 to August 17, 2008. The sale is being hosted by VAuctions, a companion to the popular VCoins web site. Lots may be examined and bids may be executed at http://www.vauctions.com .

Donations for this sale came from both the collector and dealer communities, with a very wide range of material. Some exceptionally rare pieces are being offered, including a bronze minima of Libius Severus, a billon tetradrachm of Severus Alexander from Alexandria and a bronze coin from Palmyra struck during the first century BC. The sale also includes many lovely silver tetradrachms struck in Greek cities during the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Roman coin collectors will be pleased to find a very nice run of imperial portrait coins in all metals.

The sale is being held without reserves or buyer’s fees, which augurs well for some exceptional bargains. All proceeds of the sale go directly to the funding of ACCG programs. The guild has no employees and operates entirely through the donated resources of it members.

In July of 2007, DOS imposed import restrictions, reportedly against the advice of its own advisory committee, on coins produced in Cyprus during antiquity. The ACCG ( http://accg.us ) contests these restrictions and may challenge the actions of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in federal court. The guild already has the bureau in court over Freedom of Information Act issues.

Within a 1970 UNESCO resolution, coins join a long list of innocuous objects classified as cultural property. The list includes postage stamps, old books, property relating to the lives of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artists, pictures, paintings, furniture or musical instruments, and many other objects more than 100 years old. The resolution proposes to control the transfer of these objects between nations through government-imposed regulations and restrictions.

in spite of anti-collector efforts, the private collecting of coins from antiquity remains legal in virtually all of the unesco signatory states (though many states have various export restrictions). american coin collectors, who view personal property rights as a fundamental aspect of their citizenship, seek to affirm their rights legally in the face of what they see as overreaching regulation on the part of the u.s. government.
 



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