By Richard Giedroyc
Worried about your coins being seized by the government, then surrendered to some foreign country demanding them back as part of their cultural patrimony?
This has become an increasingly serious concern among collectors and museums as more countries are insisting coins, antiquities and fine art that cannot be proved to have been exported before specific dates have been exported illegally and therefore must be returned. For this reason the pedigree of many “ancient” coins is becoming increasingly important as collectors may have to prove their coins came from older collections rather than being fresh out of the ground, found in recent years.
The laws on the protection of cultural property are changing, with more nations insisting they have the sole rights to their antiquities, fine art and early coins. Among countries where exporting coins is becoming a problem are Bulgaria, China, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey. The governments of the United States and Germany are among those that appear to be bending over to comply with the demands of these other nations.
Dr. Jonas Flueck and his wife Pauline Fabre-Flueck say they have the answer. The couple recently founded Ex-Numis, a trademark for Lugdunum GmbH., a company in Switzerland that will help re-identify the provenance or pedigree of ancient coins that have been in various collector hands for many years. The service could add additional value to certain coins for this reason.
Flueck explains the situation best at the Ex-Numis company website. There it says, “In the last few years, there have been increasing laws and regulations on the trading and collecting of ancient coins worldwide. New import restrictions in the United States of America and new laws in preparation in Germany are only a small part of them. Syrian and Iraqi wars have reinforced concerns regarding the trading of looted antiquities used to finance terrorist activities.”
The website continues, “In other words, the future for collecting and trading with ancient coins does not look very bright. In this context, provenance has reached a very important position, as it can be seen as a solution for collectors, numismatic dealers and auction houses to comply with these laws and a way of continuing to pursue and enjoy this century’s long tradition and passion of numismatics.”
Ex-Numis is continuing to compile a database of about a million ancient coin images. The images come from 19th and 20th century auction catalogs from such companies as Ars Classica, Bank Leu, Glendining & Company, Adolph Hess Nachf., Otto Helbing, Muenzen und Medaillen AG, Ratto, Spink Taisei Numismatics Ltd., and others.
According to Ex-Numis, “Newly registered clients instantly receive 25 credits and can send in their [coin] images. The Ex-Numis® staff will then compare your [coin] images to the database and will let you know if there is a direct hit and your piece derives from a large, renowned collection.”
The website adds, “Our database (built up over many years) represents a library of thousands of auction catalogs from every part of the world.”
One of the weak points of this approach is that early auction catalogs only presented images of particularly rare coins. When images of a coin are available these images are compared to images of the coin in question that have been forwarded to Ex-Numis by its present owner.
In a Feb. 11 editorial appearing in the online magazine “Coin Weekly” Dr. Ursula Kampmann says, “Critics also stressed the fact that, at the beginning of the last century, only a tiny fraction of coins in the trade made it into the auction sales at all. And illustrations were provided only for the most expensive ones.
A vicious circle is feared: After establishing such a file, opponents of the trade could argue that being not included in that file would condemn a coin as suspicious.”
More Collecting Resources
• Come on down to the Chicago International Coin Fair in Rosemont, Ill. on April 14 to 17, 2016 to see impressive world coins, meet new collectors and participate in Heritage Auction’s fantastic coin auction.
• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 8th Edition is your guide to images, prices and information on the century's coins.