There is an effort to impose import restrictions on ancient coins from Cyprus into the United States. If enacted this would pose a dangerous precedent that could lead to a situation where it will be difficult if not impossible to collect ancient coins. For more information and to help, submit your opinion through this easy-to-use fax wizard provided by the ACCG. A discussion about this topic has been ongoing on the Yahoo news group: Moneta-L.
The import restrictions under consideration and therefore also the inclusion of coins are ostensibly intended to protect archaeological sites from looting and source countries - Cyprus in this case - from loss of their cultural heritage. But in actuality the inclusion of coins is an attack on the ability of coin collectors to engage in their hobby. It will not achieve its intended goal but will rather attempt to stifle interest in and collection of these objects. It may even increase the chance of their destruction.
The reason given for these import restrictions is to eliminate the market for looted cultural treasures by making it illegal for any undocumented object to be imported into the United States. I disagree with the inclusion of coins because coins are plentiful ancient artifacts that are found in places other than archaeological sites. They are often found outside of an archaeological context. Furthermore coins are not only the cultural heritage of Cyprus but cultural heritage of us all and exist in such quantities whereby it is possible for them to be studied by archaeologists when found at archaeological sites, included in museums, and also studied and collected by any individual interested in doing so. Private and institutional collectors contribute to the preservation of these objects and to our understanding of them and of the cultures which produced them.
Looters are the common enemy of both the archaeologists and the coin collectors. To effectively combat looting, I believe measures need to be taken in the source countries to go after the looters. Looters will be a problem whether or not import restrictions are imposed on coins. In fact if such restrictions are imposed on coins looters may melt down such coins for their metallic content rather than risking exporting them into a collector's market. Any cultural value intended to be protected by this restriction may instead be destroyed by it. Destroyed directly by the melting down of looted coins, or destroyed indirectly by the limits imposed on the study and collection of ancient coins.
Update: The proposed import restrictions on coins from Cyprus have been enacted.