Sunday, February 1, 2009

German Collections are Being Confiscated. (Posted At UNIDROIT-L)


These troublesome articles were posted recently on UNIDROIT-L:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

German Collections are Being Confiscated.
[email deleted for privacy]
Sorry, I can't translate the whole articles

The German Numismatic Association is trying to stem the tide somewhat.

I have translated part of their statement. It's not a pretty sight if
this is the solution to cultural property theft.

[name deleted for privacy]

Private collections have formed the seed from which a majority of museum collections have grown. Time after time, private collecting has provided important information and new discoveries for scholarly numismatics.

This is why recent events have filled us with worry. Collecting, especially of medieval and ancient coins, has been accused as a criminal act; under the unjustifiable accusation that collecting is the result and cause of the illegal looting of archaeological sites around the world. The police conduct searches of homes, collections are confiscated, collectors are charged with smuggling. There is talk of a reduced legal rights for collectors.

We cannot and will not allow coin collecting and dealing to become criminalized and therefore make the following clarification.

1. Collecting of ancient and medieval coins is not criminal. Documented provenance for every coin is not necessary. Still, we urge collectors to document their collections more than before even if they were acquired at coins shows or other venues.

2. We support the protection of archaeological sites and historically significant coin finds. We understand coin hoards can have more worth than simply their financial worth.

3. We oppose any theft of protected cultural property, demand in return, that collectors ,who buy coins over the Internet or elsewhere, in good faith with without intent to acquire stolen cultural property, are not charged with accepting stolen property. Confiscations of complete collections must be stopped. We oppose the behavior of the police in performing home searches and confiscation entire collections.

- - - - - - - - - - - -


It is disturbing to see this development although not unexpected. Runaway government intrusion into the lives of innocent people over innocent activities is nothing new. Frederick Bastiat, a French economist and political philosopher wrote about 'legal plunder' back in 1850 when he published a powerful little pamphlet titled simply The Law which he wrote following the French Revolution of 1848.

Whether you are a 'civil liberties' liberal or an 'anti-big-government' conservative, somewhere in the middle or totally apolitical, the *one thing* coin collectors need to stand united against is any intrusion by government to meddle in something that isn't worthy of government involvement. Coin collecting is certainly one of those things. When the government get's involved in harmless, innocent pastimes like people's hobbies - where does the government stop?

I'm not shocked or surprised to see this happening with China which is a communist (and therefore statist and totalitarian regime) government do this, for their government it is par for the course. Nor am I shocked that it is happening in Germany because they have flirted with fascism and gone back and forth with mild forms of socialism over the years. But it is still disturbing nonetheless because of the precedent it sets for other governments to follow, they can point to Germany now and say, "they do it, why not us?"

This is where the rubber hits the road for collectors. Do I want the government to suddenly be involved with and regulating my hobby at every turn or worse, do I want my hobby to turn into a criminal activity overnight?