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German law could impact coin trade

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By Richard Giedroyc

Controversial legislation regarding the future sales of cultural property including coins is sending ripples through the coin and antiquity markets in Germany.

German coins like this 1807 Berg thaler could become difficult to sell should the new law pass.

German coins like this 1807 Berg thaler could become difficult to sell should the new law pass.

The proposed law was described in a July 10 e-mail from German auction house Ketterer Kunst’s President Robert Ketterer to the website ArtNet News as “most explosive.”

ArtNet News quoted Ketterer as saying, “In case of an amendment there is a danger that important German works may only be sold within Germany and no longer be traded internationally in the future,” adding, “The legal framework for the purchase, sale, and mediation of visual art very strongly disadvantages the German art and auction trade in comparison to the international competition.”

In a July 9 editorial spokesperson Dr. Ursula Kampmann said, “If this draft becomes law the German coin trade will change completely as will the coin trade with German customers… Everybody dealing in objects older than 50 years will have to adapt… Whenever a dealer will buy or sell an ancient object valued at more than 100 euros (about $110 US) or a post-ancient object of more than 2,500 euros (about $2,750 US) he has to execute due diligence and he will have to inform the buyer about the fate of the object during the last 20 years.”

The proposed legislation includes a clause through which all cultural artifacts with a value of $165,900 US (expressed as 150,000 euros in the proposal) or more and older than 50 years would require an export license if sold abroad.

German Cultural Minister Monika Grutters disagrees with these critics of the proposal, stating the coin, antiquity, and art industry interpretation of the proposed legislation is “completely exaggerated and unfortunate.”

According to Grutters, “The state will not expropriate, it will not lay claim to private collections, and it certainly won’t pursue a socialist concept of ownership.”

Grutters continued, “The cultural nation of Germany is obligated to collect and preserve its cultural property.”

She explained, “The EU export license is common practice in the art trade,” noting that the legislation would extend the scope of already existing rules that have been in force for the past 23 years.

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Grutters also said private collectors who loan art and other objects, presumably including coins, to museums would not be prohibited from selling these objects overseas once the period of the loan has ended.

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of the so-called German “research project” ILLICID supposedly meant to fight the illicit trade in antiquities.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology, and the Leipniz Institute for Social Sciences are responsible for this project, which includes a secret file that could store information on just about anything regarding the sale of antiquities including coins.

Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology director Martin Steinebach is responsible for uploading the data he describes as originating from suspicious auctions for the benefit of “archaeologists or investigators from authorities” as “part of a portal that brings investigators and experts together. How the investigators deal with the assessment of the experts will be seen over the course of the project.”

The “experts” of which Steinebach speaks is defined as being the German police, customs officials, and members of public authorities with a supervisory mandate. No definition of what might be deemed as suspicious has been offered.

There is a petition in place that seeks to prevent the law's overreach.

Follow this link for more information.

Follow this link to go right to the petition.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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