This article comes from our April 17, 2017, weekly issue
of Coin World. Want to get all of our content, including
special magazine exclusives? Subscribe today!
The cultural property battle in Germany ratcheted up a notch on
March 4 when government agents visited the Numismata show in Munich
and arrested one dealer and four collectors.
The Kunstfahnder (“art investigators”) of the Bavarian State
Criminal Police arrested five people during and outside the show in
the first major public effort at enforcement of a relatively new law
governing illegal trafficking of cultural goods.
A total of 30 police officers and officials were engaged in the
sweep, according to a press release from the local police authority. A
person identified only as a cultural heritage expert from the
Landeskriminalamt, the Hessian police, was also on hand.
Four collectors, a 49-year-old man from Bulgaria and three Serbian
nationals between the ages of 30 and 47, were detained outside the
show, the report said, because they could not provide evidence of the
provenance of their ancient coins. Police estimate that the coins were
worth €1,600 (about $1,710 U.S.). The coins were seized but the men
were released, pending charges.
Connect with Coin World:
up for our free eNewsletter
Like us on
us on Twitter
Hubert Lanz, who operates Numismatik Lanz, an auction house and coin
dealership with a strong online presence, told Coin World that
police prepared for the Munich arrests.
The collectors from the Balkans had a few Roman denarii of minor
value, and the police “inflated the prices for the three pieces they
had on them,” he said.
The main target of the police action in Munich was an Afghani
citizen from Bronshoj (near Copenhagen), Denmark, who was selling a
variety of coins and antiques, such as spear points and decorative items.
The enforcers quickly assessed the items, noting that most of the
coins were from Iran, Afghanistan and India.
“Afghanistan is one of the countries that is heavily looted in the
chaos of war for decades,” according to a translation of the report
from the German police.
The dealer could not provide documents proving the origin of the
approximately 6,000 coins and about 1,000 other objects or their legal
import to Germany, according to the police.
The items were worth more than €50,000 ($53,438 U.S.), according to
Lanz told Coin World that his assistant was at the arrested
dealer’s table when the police arrived.
The fight against the paper dollar has been
renewed: Inside Coin World:
Newly introduced legislation on Capitol Hill is not the first
attack on the paper dollar. Calls for its elimination have been
voiced since the 1970s.
“He had no documents with him, but he also had no important coins
at his table,” said Lanz. “The bronze items and many of the coins were
probably fake and are of minor value. [The dealer] is now still under
arrest. ... I understood that [he] was calm and supportive at this
investigation, but had no idea that he had broken any law, because
Europe is supposed to be a free trading zone at least for cultural
items of not scientific value [referring to the Treaty of Lisbon].”
It is unclear whether the dealer has been released as of press time
Lanz said this is only the first of such police actions.
“I have heard [March 29] the police in Wiesbaden confiscated a
collection of sigloi of the Achemenides from an Iranian collector, who
was buying them since at least 10 years on Ebay, without any prior
warning,” said Lanz. “As you know, that most of the Persian sigloi do
not originate from Iran, they can come from anywhere in the east and
circulated, many with banker’s marks.”
A report in Germany’s Numismatisches Nachrichtenblatt, or
“Numismatic News Gazette,” confirmed details provided by police and Lanz.
The new law went into effect in 2016 and requires at least 20 years’
of provenance for objects of cultural importance, and requires an
export license for objects that are more than 70 years old and worth
more than €300,000 ($320,566 U.S.).
Peter Tompa, a U.S.-based collector and lawyer said that the arrests
for violating the documentation requirements are “indeed a troubling
development. As you know, most ancient coins are not ‘documented’ to
the extent the bureaucracy requires.”
Coin World will report more information as it is confirmed.