Collectors in Germany and from around the world have signed a
petition to fight tighter cultural property laws that have been
proposed in Germany.
Ursula Kampmann, founder and publisher of CoinsWeekly.com, posted
the online petition on July 21, and within 48 hours had received
signatures from Germany and 57 other countries, including the United States.
The petition may be found at www.openpetition.de/petition/online/fuer-den-erhalt-des-privaten-sammelns.
Organizers are seeking 120,000 signatures, and as of July 27 had
Signers are fighting back against proposed regulations on the
Protection of Cultural Heritage that Kampmann said threatens the
collecting of cultural objects by private individuals.
More than coins
Potentially restricted items include not only coins but other
objects as well, according to Arthur Friedberg, a Vermont-based
researcher and dealer in coins who is a past International
Association of Professional Numismatists president.
“If this thing goes through, this thing is will kill the trade in
cultural goods, not just coins but everything — I’m talking about
antiquities, I’m talking about furniture, art, paintings, old cars,”
Items covered by the proposed regulations do not have to originate
in Germany to fall under the proposed regulations. Several paintings
by American artist Andy Warhol that were consigned by a German casino
to an international auction house and sold for millions of dollars
would, under the regulations, be considered to have cultural worth and
would not be permitted to leave Germany if the regulations are
adopted. The same restrictions could apply to U.S. coins held in
Germany if deemed significant, according to coin dealers following the
A statement relating to the proposed regulations was
posted online July 17, with an updated version of the proposed
regulations due for release in late July at the earliest.
The English language statement from the office of Germany’s Minister of
Culture said the regulations are necessary to “improve the protection
of cultural goods and take more effective action against trafficking
in cultural property.”
New rules are also needed to comply with a European Union directive from 2014, but Germany would be the
first nation to meet those demands, according to Ulrich Künker,
director of the German auction house Fritz Rudolph Künker.
Künker and other hobbyists have reviewed the proposed regulations,
but the regulations have not been made public officially.
The 2014 EU directive gives member nations wide authority in
classifying items as cultural property.
The stated objective of the directive is to “ensure the physical
return of the cultural objects to the Member State from whose
territory those objects have been unlawfully removed, irrespective of
the property rights applying to such objects,” according to the directive.
Germany’s new laws are also intended to improve the implementation
of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and bring German law in line with
international standards, the Ministry of Culture said.
Künker adds, “I am afraid if this very strict law becomes active all
other EU members will follow the hardliner law.”
Promises of hobby involvement in the discussion have not been
honored, according to Künker.
“We have no chance to talk to the responsible persons to get our
opinion to the ministry,” he said. “We spoke to ministry of culture,
sent letters, said ‘please involve us in the process, we don’t want to
hurt the market.’ They said, ‘we don’t want to talk to you.’ ”
“Fortunately the entire German art industry and most of the
collectors are against this law and I still have the feeling that many
arguments are on our side,” Künker said.
“There are also good ideas in the law, all it needs is a discussion
with all affected groups,” he added.
Not just German items
Under the proposed regulations, an American piece of art in a German
collection could be classified as German cultural property, Friedberg said.
A promise to include special considerations for coins has also not
developed as expected, Künker said.
“They understand that coins are different from other cultural
property,” Künker said. “But they never sent a protocol, we’ve found
nothing specifically different about coins in this draft.”
The proposed law will mandate a “reverse burden of proof” on
collectors, according to Kampmann.
Per the proposed rules, the owner of a “cultural good” with a value
of at least €2,500 would be required to provide proof as to the item’s
provenance for the previous 20 years. This mandate would further
affect “archaeological cultural goods” with a value as low as €100.
That could extend to just about every single coin that’s not bronze
and many that are bronze, Friedberg said.
The rules also can apply to any German coin that’s over 100 years
old, which would cover thousands of coins issued across German states
“If this goes through you’ll never see a German coin at a United
States coin convention again,” Friedberg said.
Not only would these laws stop future purchases, and sink the value
of many coins, according to Kampmann, but retroactively, the new law
would impose due diligence guidelines that are “impossible to follow
even for the most meticulous collector,” she said.
Rules are fine, Künker said, but the process involving the
regulations should be democratic.
“Let’s slow down, let’s talk about facts and not something we can’t
imagine, and let’s try to find a solution.”
The claim that terrorist groups like the Islamic State in the Levant
(ISIL, also known as ISIS) are plundering and trading in
archaeological treasures as a major means of funding doesn’t match
reality, Künker said.
“If you are talking about ISIS, we all agree that they are evil, but
there is no evidence that there’s a connection between [ISIS and] the
German coin market, the German art market, and it’s really
frustrating,” he said.
“They [German government officials] are trying to do something good,
but they are following the wrong opinion.”
Archaeologist in Germany claims auction houses
Kampmann’s online petition aims at “preserving the right to
privately collect,” and seeks cultural property laws that are not
retroactive, do not require a reverse burden of proof, clearly define
terms like “national cultural heritage” and limit claims by the state
to items of a clear “cultural heritage” nature.
Items that are not deemed national cultural heritage must be allowed
to move freely, and representatives of the hobby and trade must have a
voice in making the new regulations, Kampmann said.
“You know what brings a smile to my face? All the numbers of
Americans that are signing this [petition],” Künker said.
“This impressive number will bring a lot of pressure to the number
and if they see a lot of Americans against it, a lot of Germans
against it, other Europeans against it, this will be noted by the
lawmakers,” Künker added.
More from CoinWorld.com:
what the West Point Mint's bullion storage vault looks like
Liberty, High Relief gold coin ‘currently unavailable’ after sales
top 30,000 within 75 minutes of launch
gold double eagle case continues as court vacates earlier ruling
that awarded coins to family
$1 Coin and Currency set to contain Enhanced Uncirculated 2015-W
Native American dollar
Eagle silver bullion coin sales reach 1,323,500 coins in single day
Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing
up for our free eNewsletters, liking
us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!