Opposing Papers on Numismatic Law


I happened on two opposing viewpoints on the import restrictions on ancient coins in my inbox this afternoon. The first, written by Nathan Elkins, critiques from an archaeological perspective the test case brought by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild. The case attempted to challenge the breadth of import restrictions against the import of ancient coins, “Ancient Coins, Find Spots, and Import Restrictions: A Critique of Arguments made in the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild’s ‘Test Case’,” Journal of Field Archaeology 40.2 (2015): 236-243. From the abstract:

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) has launched multiple legal challenges aimed at undermining import restrictions on ancient coins into the United States in bilateral agreements with foreign countries.  One key component of the ACCG’s argument is that the State Department has inappropriately restricted certain types of coins according to where they were made rather than where they are found, as mandated by the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.  Although the ACCG has thus far been unsuccessful, it has not been pointed out that existing import restrictions on coins, in fact, have been written to include coins that tended to circulate locally and that are found primarily within the borders of the country with which the bilateral agreement is made.  The ACCG’s argument is thus on shaky ground.  As the ACCG continues to press ahead with new litigation, it is worth drawing attention to realities and probabilities of ancient coin circulation as they pertain to protected coins.


An opposing view is offered by Wayne Sayles, Executive Director of the Ancient coin Collectors Guild, ‘Ideology, governance and consequences from a collector’s point of view‘, Internet Archaeology 33. From the abstract:

This article is a condensed version of the background paper created for an Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) presentation at the 2010 CBA, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, and Newcastle University conference in Newcastle, England. It presents a view shared by many American collectors and independent scholars. The ACCG, a member of the International Numismatic Council, is a registered non-profit organisation within the United States but enjoys the active support of members worldwide.

22 thoughts on “Opposing Papers on Numismatic Law”

  1. Derek;

    Thank you for citing both sides of this important debate. I hope that the piece by Dr. Elkins is soon made public so that the expected opposing views can be placed in context and lead to a broader understanding of the complexities. I am particularly thankful to the Council for British Archaeology for inviting us to particiipate in their Newcastle seminar and publishing an open access summary (linked above) of our 52-page symposium paper. That conference brought together leaders from a broad range of interests in the Cultural Property world in a very cordial, candid and productive environment. It was a great success in my view. Although nearly five years have lapsed since then, the comments shared are still relevant and essentially current. The ACCG test case is still very much alive and moving forward, if slowly, in a contested forfeiture complaint at U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

    1. Peter Tompa is as misleading and deceptive as ever. With an undegraduate and a law degree, he must know how research and publication works. This is a paper published in a refereed academic journal. It is available to subscribers, institutions, and available for individual download from the Journal of Field Archaeology. If a non-subscriber does not wish to pay a fee to download it from the website, the public may access it in university library collections, just as they have been able to access research this way for decades. I will not upload a copy to my academia.edu page as the journal does not allow offprints hosted on third-party sites for a certain period of time after publication. I expect JFA will make the May issue available soon via its website.

      1. Dr. Elkins, not sure how my comment is deceptive. Academia.edu is for posting papers; not advertising papers you have no intention of posting. And we are still waiting to see what you’ve written to CPAC on Bulgaria, etc. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but particularly if its being made to government decision makers your underlying assumptions should be open to public scrutiny.

        1. Mr. Tompa, read what is written above. It is accessible to the public. It is just accessible as any other article one would want to consult for research. Tracking down sources in libraries and databases, and ordering articles, is all part and parcel of the research process. The article is by no means hidden as you imply. It is just as available as an article published in American Journal of Numismatics 2014 which is not allowed to be uploaded to a third party site for a year, although it can be found institutional libraries. You misunderstand Academia.edu. It is indeed for advertising published papers as well as for hosting offprints. As any active researcher knows, many journals now have guidelines that specifically state papers can’t be posted on Academia.edu for a period of time. A great many people on Academia.edu provide citations for their papers, even if they are not allowed to upload them yet, so that researchers know where to find them. It functions much like a bibliography at the end of the article, so that one can track down sources. As far as the deflection attempted by raising the issue of CPAC comments (a completely separate issue), I have always followed the guidelines laid out by CPAC as regards the submission of comments. If you don’t like the process, then that is your problem, not mine.

  2. Didn’t mean to cause a dust up over the papers. Dr. Elkins is absolutely right that some journals prohibit online posting for a period of time. That’s certainly not his fault. Though I note academia.edu makes it possible to request pdf versions, and as he points out any library will be able to get a copy.

  3. I sense just a bit of confusion here about the reply from Dr. Elkins to Mr. Tompa. It has been my impression that Open Access is a very popular initiative within the Archaeological Community these days. in fact, I believe that a number of academic journals have made serious steps in that direction in repsponse to public opinion and a feeling of egalitarian service. I don’t believe that Mr. Tompa, nor the ACCG, nor I personally have ever restricted access to things we have said publicly about Archaeology. In fact we have consistently found that our every word is scrutinized by a host of critical “reviewers” even if they are not “peers”. Perhaps ACCG “Should” charge for that privilege as a way of offsetting our own FOIA expenses 🙂 I fail to see what could be deceptive about asking for the same transparency from those involved in publicly supported institutions and commenting to public agencies? It really seems to me that the shoe is on the other foot. I too am patiently awaiting a copy of the official comment by Dr. Elkins to CPAC on the recent Italy MOU renewal hearing. From informal comments that we have heard, we believe there may be pertinent and verifiable facts that bear on its validity. It would be inappropriate (if not unethical) to repress those facts by obscuring the original document simply because we are not peers in a sense that the author might acknowledge. Since several former CPAC members, including at least two Chairpersons, have publicly criticized committee administration for a lack of transparency, I don’t think our concerns are ill founded. In fact, I will publish a short paper on Academia.edu today speaking to that point among others related to CCPIA.

  4. Derek;

    Your point is well taken, but the issue remains. Sorry for the typo in my preceeding comment. Funny how they always become immediately obvious the second one hits the “send” key. Hopefully enough has been said and any further dust up here will be unnecessary.

  5. Open access is indeed a new and growing phenomenon in humanities publications. It is a complex issue. It makes articles easily available, but skeptics say it compromises the objective referee process and the integrity of content. Whatever one’s feelings about open access, I CANNOT POST A COPY ONLINE as I have stated and substantiated multiple times! A journal’s rules must be respected. I cannot post a pdf as that would violate the copyright agreement! If Mr. Sayles and Mr. Tompa don’t like it, visit a library. As for CPAC comments, I fail to see their relevance to the subject of Mr. Fincham’s post. Cast all the aspersions and allege all the conspiracies you like. It doesn’t change the fact that CPAC has processes through which comments can be submitted by the public.

  6. It’s another irony that those who claim the trade should be more “transparent” are not transparent themselves. I thought academia.edu was developed to allow academics and others with an academic bent to share their ideas with others interested in a particular area. This assumes the underlying assumptions and data will be made available for public scrutiny. Instead, what we appear to have here is yet another anti-trade attack piece given the patina of respectability through publication in a difficult to find journal “peer reviewed” by like minded anti-trade academics that is then referenced — but not published– on academia.edu. That’s enough “proof” for anti-trade bloggers who are already suggesting that this article is “authoritative” on the subject of the merits of the ACCG’s test case. Of course, the end result of that case will depend on determinations of law, not exactly Dr. Elkins’ area of expertise. I’d simply like to see what Dr. Elkins says to judge his claims on the merits. I’d be happy to receive a copy of his article from him if he’s willing to send it to me. I think it’s only fair given the subject matter. Sure, it may become available through the publisher at some point, but Elkins and his fellow bloggers Gill and Barford are hyping it now.

  7. Mr. Tompa, if you wish to ignore what both Mr. Fincham and I have said regarding copyright and the rules/guidelines of individual journals to maintain a narrative you have committed to then so be it. It does not change the facts. My colleagues, Dr. David Gill and Mr. Paul Barford, were given offprints by me. Authors customarily share offprints with colleagues and this is allowed by journals. Hosting a pdf on third-party website is another matter entirely. I am not sending a copy to you as we are not colleagues. Would a scientist writing about the bogus research and arguments formulated by an oil lobbyist send his article to that lobbyist? Would an author writing about the ivory trade send his article to the elephant poachers? I don’t think so. But I trust you can access a library if you wish to read it.

    Now I have more important matters to attend to than justifying why I can’t post an article online.

  8. An interesting point raised here by Dr. Elkins. He acknowledges that he sent offprints to his “colleagues” Dr. Gill and Mr. Barford which are then publicly cited as authoritative and critical of ACCG, but he is prohibited by JFA from sending an offprint to Mr. Tompa or myself as interested “colleagues” who might have other information to add or to clarify pertinent facts. I think the ambiguity of the word colleague may be misleading. What makes Mr. Barford, for example, a colleague and someone with credentials equal or higher than Mr. Barford not a colleague? Are Art Historians and Archaeologists not colleagues? I’m guessing that it’s a personal choice that we all probably could exercise at our own discretion—like using the word “friend”. If so, then the prohibition ascribed does not really exist. Maybe we should be critical of JFA for this “closed wagon” lack of transparency rather than Dr. Elkins—that at least seems to be his implication. In any case, copyright law is not as restrictive for these purposes as Dr. Elkins suggests—ask the legal staff at Google. And, furthermore, the point is really moot. We most certainly will acquire a copy of the article with or without the courtesy of Dr. Elkins. And, eventually, we will get a copy of his CPAC comments as well. We will review them both objectively and we will respond publicly without access controls or fees. The only differerence will be that the general public will not be able to read the Elkins papers in their entirety and form their own unbiased opinions. I apologize for distracting Dr. Elkins from his more important matters.

    1. Mr. Sayles, what is this fluff? I stated that I do not consider Mr. Tompa my colleague and that I chose not to send him a copy. That is all.

      1. And for the record, art historians and archaeologists are colleagues. What an odd question to ask. I am an art historian and archaeologist working within an art history program.

        1. Thank you Dr. Elkins. And for the record, I am an art historian actively working in Numismatics with several academics at the moment, many in the past and technically still a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin since I was formally accepted and never terminated (and am told they have no deadline for completion). That, by your definition, makes you and me colleagues. I thought you might understand that simple fact, and extend some collegial courtesy, but apparently not. Yes, the thought makes me shudder too. I think this banter has gone far enough. You obviously won’t be content until you get the last word, so have at and i’ll get back to more important matters.

  9. I do not see that the text from the reputedly “opposing” 2010 Newcastle conference in any way falsifies the statement “that existing import restrictions on coins, in fact, have been written to include coins that tended to circulate locally and that are found primarily within the borders of the country with which the bilateral agreement is made”. It is difficult to see that it addresses the question in any substantive manner.

    The Academia platform has over 21 million academics signed up but less than six million papers posted up. Obviously many other academics see problems in the copyright issues it raises for them and are loathe to post up more than a fraction of their work.

    But having something open access does not necessarily speed up research if a text first published in 2010 on the Internet and then revised and reappeared in 2013 has only now been “chanced upon” in his inbox by a researcher even though it was widely discussed at the time in other media (such as archaeoblogs). While we are on the subject, please also note Roger Bland’s assessment of the Sayles text in the same open access series: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue33/bland.cfm.

  10. Mr. Sayles,

    One aspect of being a colleague is collegiality. You and your fellow ACCGers have attempted to compromise the employment and reputation of those who advocate for preservation, or to intimidate them into silence. You have consistently stated or implied that those who advocate for regulation and preservation as a safeguard against looting are ‘elitists’, ‘goose-steppers’, or the like. Just earlier this year you compared AIA leadership and preservationists with the Islamic State, the terrorist group (although you later deleted it, I have a record of the text). Such behavior and bigotry is hardly collegial.

    1. Dr. Elkins. Your opinion is noted. I do entirely understand that you and Mr. Barford are colleagues, birds of a feather if you will, and that you and I are not. Actually, I had no illusions about that and am pleased that you clarified it publicly. In all fairness, you might have mentioned that I took down more that 50 posts from my blog on the same day that the AIA/ISIS blog post was removed. They all had to do with Archaeology taking anti-social stands. So it was not any reflection or retraction of what I said in that singular blog post about the nature of National Socialism, Cultural Property Nationalism and religious fanatacism having common roots. But, like Paul Barford just pointed out, this is about Derek Fincham’s post, not about my alleged bigotry. It would be far worse to be ignored and watch silently as the venerable traditions of private collecting and independent scholarship are trashed by a minority ideology. I tried to offer you the last word and no, you just wouldn’t let it go.

  11. Obviously, I’ve not read Elkins paper as its not available. However, as I’ve already explained in comments in response to one of his blog posts, Elkins’ “primary circulation” standard does not comport with the plain meaning of the CPIA’s provisions in sections 2601, 2604 and 2610. Also, if you look at the designated lists for Cyprus, Bulgaria and China in particular, it seems likely there was no analysis done whatsoever. Rather, a date was simply picked and every coin type before that date was restricted. Of course, my opinion may change based on the discovery in the ACCG case, but no such discovery has yet been provided. Rather, the government asked for and received the ACCG’s consent for a rather generous extension of time in which to respond. The new date is June 20.

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