Antiquities law ensnares coin collectors

by Walter Olson on August 24, 2011

As I note at Cato, antiquities law has been expanding to restrict private ownership of more and more ancient artifacts. The latest targets are numismatists; more on that in an op-ed that I published last week in the Examiner.

{ 4 comments }

1 Wayne G. Sayles 08.24.11 at 1:07 pm

Thank you for raising this issue before the American people. It should be remembered that most of us in this country are not culturally native. That does not mean that we lack a cultural heritage. In fact, our right to that heritage is as legitimate as that of any person living in our ancestral lands today. One might even argue that our right is relatively greater than that of a person now living in our ancestral lands but who is not a product of the native culture. Isn’t that essentially the argument used to define and protect Native American cultural property? To define culture by modern national boundaries is absurd.

2 OBQuiet 08.25.11 at 6:44 pm

Why would anyone object to this?

I mean can’t you see the upside? This solves out national debt issue!

We buy back all our outstanding debt with Susan B Anthonys and then simply demand that they be returned to us for free! Problem solved.

3 John A 08.26.11 at 3:02 pm

And sometimes, even dealing with countries demanding “return,” just which one?

An expedition found a ship sunk by a storm. The wreck is off Portugal, which of course wants a share. But it was a Spanish galleon with a shipment of gold, and Spain is claiming the whole boodle of ship and cargo. Yet the gold was basically loot from Mexico, so surely it should go there? But albeit when grabbed by the invader the gold was largely “cultural objects,” most of those were melted down and made into ingots – so should that part at least belong to the expedition and Portugal? Or are ingots “cultural,” like coins, buttressing the Spanish claim? Or despite the change in form is the cargo still part of Mexican “heritage?”

Bah. It is salvage of abandoned/lost material.

4 Melvin H. 08.27.11 at 1:06 pm

Or what if the country wasn’t a country at the time of the sinking, like Mexico wasn’t independent of Spain in the 1500’s and 1600’s?

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