Germany comes down on Collectors with a heavy hand

German numismatists ring the alarm bells

German cultural authorities have begun searching private homes and seizing entire collections of antique coins, if provenance of only a few coins in the collection is not documented.

These invasions are being conducted under the new German laws on importation of cultural property. Coins being subjected to such scrutiny are not restricted to ancient coins presumed to have been excavated - medieval and antique modern coins are also subject to the same measures. In one case, a pensioner from the Thuringian Eisenberg recently acquired four old coins on an Internet auction site. Shortly afterwards his house was searched, ending with seizure of his entire collection.

Collectors are understandably alarmed, because very few coins in their collections have provenances that will satisfy the new laws. When a collection becomes suspect only a short time is being allowed to prove licit origin before the collection is seized, and then even if the suspicion is unfounded, it is very difficult to recover the collection.

Not only coins, but all "cultural objects" more than 100 years old are
subject to these new cultural laws, leading to fears that stamp collections, collections of graphic arts and antique jewelry may also be targeted. The list of "cultural objects" in the 1970 UNESCO Convention is very extensive, including such common things as coins, postage stamps, photographs and printed books.

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