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Category: Coins and the Law

Coin Collectors to Challenge State Department on Import Restrictions

The ACCG has launched phase two of a coordinated plan to challenge import restrictions on ancient coins.

Cyprioy and Han Chinese CoinsAs a British Airways jetliner touched down in Baltimore on April 15th , many U.S. citizens were busy writing last minute checks to the IRS. In the face of mounting global crises, they could hardly have anticipated that some of their tax dollars would be used by the U.S. State Department (DOS) to wage an ideological war against coin collectors.

Part of the cargo of BA 229/16 that day was a small packet of 23 very common, inexpensive, Cypriot and Chinese coins being imported by a collector advocacy group, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG). The entry of these coins, forbidden by DOS under bilateral agreements with Cyprus and China, marked the launch of a test case to determine whether the State Department has banned their importation properly under a 1983 law dealing with the protection of cultural property.

As mandated, U.S. Customs detained these coins being imported from the United Kingdom. The ACCG now plans to use this detention as a vehicle to strike down the unprecedented regulations banning importation of whole classes of ancient coins, The collectors’ group claims that, among other abnormalities, the decision process for these agreements was orchestrated contrary to the spirit and intent of governing law. Moreover, they claim that the State Department misled Congress and the public about its decision not to follow the recommendations of its own Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) — a group of experts charged with advising the president on how best to balance the goals of protecting cultural heritage against the needs of a legitimate trade in cultural artifacts. (more…)

Numismatic Crime Alert

Hand Print and CuffsLa Verne, CA police are investigating the burglary of coin dealer Don Hauser.The loss included a large amount of U.S and foreign gold coins. One suspect is in custody and additional arrests are pending . It is believed the suspects are attempting to sell the coins in the southern California area. Additional information including a list of stolen coins can be viewed on the Numismatic Crime Information Center’s website at www.numismaticcrimes.org.

New York Gold Mart in Manhasset, NY has reported the loss of a 1922 $20 NGC Die Adjustment Strike. The coin was sent via Express mail and never made it to the addressee in Colorado. The coin came out of the Heritage’s February 2009 sale, lot 2280 with serial number 3254046-001. Any dealer or collector with information concerning this coin should contact: Ron Karp 516-365-5465 New York Gold Mart info@nygm.com Or Doug Davis 817-705-4450 Doug@numismaticcrimes.org.

The Columbus Ohio attorney for the leader of a multimillion-dollar burglary ring has turned over more than $1 million in stolen coins and cash to Franklin County prosecutors. Sam Shamansky gave prosecutors rare coins, silver ingots, gold coins and a $1,000 bill on behalf of his client, Kenneth Koon, on Thursday, said Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. [ Read Full Article]

Copycat Hydra?

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

In an earlier blog, I referred to the U.S. State Department as the “Hydra of bureaucracy.” The Hydra was, in Greek mythology, a multi-headed sub-terranean creature with a poisonous breath. If some adventurous soul managed to cut off one of the heads, two more would spring up in its place. That is, I will be the first to admit, a harsh metaphor to describe government employees serving “the people.” In other posts on this blog, I have provided some examples of why I personally feel that service to the people has not always been the primary motivation at DOS, or at least not at the Cultural Heritage Center of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Today, I found online a new State Department “Organization Chart” that I initially presumed was part of the DOS website. The fact that the site had a Blogspot URL did not strike me as odd at first because DOS has widely advertised its new interest in blogging. However, when I clicked on “About Me” it quickly became apparent that this was a copycat and likely a rather creative advertising scheme. In checking all of the posts to date on this private blog, I was able to find nothing but very generic descriptions of the State Department and its functions—nothing controversial or objectionable. But, the thought occurred to me, what if some website creating the impression of an official DOS medium started posting ideological views? Would that not be another head of the same Hydra? Call me paranoid if you like, but in a world where a superpower like China will openly sanction sabotage of a legal auction in another country, I harbor no illusions about the lengths to which ideologues will go in pursuit of their objectives. (more…)

State Department Adds New Import Restrictions

A summary of the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United States and China.

By Peter K. Tompa from the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild

Kai Yuan Tong Bao - The Tang Dynasty - 737The State Department recently announced import restrictions on a wide array of Chinese cultural artifacts, including some coins. The Chinese restrictions specifically cover archaeological materials representing China’s cultural heritage from the Paleolithic Period (c. 75,000 B.C.) through the end of the Tang Period (A.D. 907) and irreplaceable monumental sculpture and wall art at least 250 years old. While broad, the restrictions are nowhere near as extensive as China’s original request which purportedly sought restrictions on artifacts made as recently as 1911.

Under the provision, restricted artifacts must be accompanied upon entry into the US with either a valid Chinese export certificate or certifications indicating that the artifact in question left China before the effective date of the restrictions, January 16, 2009.

The Federal Register has listed the coin types impacted as follows:

a. Zhou Media of Exchange and Tool-shaped Coins: Early media of exchange include bronze spades, bronze knives, and cowrie shells. During the 6th century BC, flat, simplified, and standardized cast bronze versions of spades appear and these constitute China’s first coins. Other coin shapes appear in bronze including knives and cowrie shells. These early coins may bear inscriptions.

b. Later, tool-shaped coins began to be replaced by disc-shaped ones which are also cast in bronze and marked with inscriptions. These coins have a central round or square hole. (more…)

Ad Usam: A philosophical straight jacket

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

A friend and fellow collector of ancient coins sent me an interesting article this year along with the annual family news and holiday greetings. The title is “Everything viewed as ‘Ad usam,’ For use, as gift.” The piece was written by Ron Rolheiser, OMI and may be read in its entirety on Rolheiser’s web site. The OMI, by the way, stands for Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Father Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest, is a noted speaker, columnist and author. He is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. The essence of his article is encapsulated in the extracted quote:

“What ultimately undergirds all spirituality, all morality, and all authentic human relationship is the unalterable truth that everything comes to us as gift, so that nothing can ever be owned as ours by right.”

I have to admit that this premise led me to a moment or two of introspection. Try though I may, I cannot personally imagine a world in which we own nothing. The introspection came when I had to ask myself if this view of mine is somehow aberrant. For most people, the philosophical question probably never arises, but having been told by several people in recent years that it is “immoral” for an individual to own cultural property, specifically ancient coins, I’ve become a bit sensitized to that line of reasoning. Father Rolheiser goes on to say that “…nobody has a right to ultimately claim anything as his own.” Admittedly, perpetual ownership is impossible because mortality trumps all. However, for the here and now, I cannot agree with his view that we have no “right to ownership.” In fact, I would argue that Father Rolheiser is way out on a limb with his view, as are those who believe that the private collecting of cultural property is somehow immoral or inappropriate. (more…)

In violation of a convention?

By Wayne Sayles from his Blog on Ancient Coin Collecting

Cultural property nationalists have a habit of tossing up the UNESCO Convention of 1970 on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as some inviolable international law. I personally know of two instances in the past year where U.S. Customs agents used the UNESCO convention as an authority to detain cultural property being legally imported into the United States.

In both cases, after a simple explanation of the nature of the resolution resulting from that convention, and the U.S. law that implements parts of that resolution, the citing of that convention as an authority was dropped.

In a civil complaint (Case 1:08-cv-02109-HHK) filed in District Court at Washington, DC last week by the Republic of Peru against Yale University, this same charge was made: “Yale’s conduct violates numerous multinational conventions and treaties concerning the protection of cultural property, such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention….”

The merit or lack of merit in this case aside, it ought to be clear to anyone (especially lawyers filing a cultural property suit) that no individual or institution can “violate” the UNESCO Convention. The convention, and its consequent resolution, have no authority and no basis for enforcement.

The law that implements parts of that resolution in the United States (The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act) is far different than the implementing laws of other nations who have signed the resolution. Only the provisions outlined in CPIA have authority in the United States. Therefore, we must look to this law and related international agreements for guidance on how to deal with perceived transgressions. (more…)

New Website Targets Rare Coin and Paper Money Investigations

Pantego, Texas – Dealers, collectors and law enforcement have a free resource to assist in the investigation of crimes related to coins, paper money, tokens and medals. The Numismatic Crime Information Center.

“NCIC maintains the largest database of numismatic crimes and provides dealers, collectors and law enforcement with the data, tools and resources to assist in addressing the complexities of a numismatic investigation”, said Doug Davis with the Pantego police department and a recognized expert in numismatic investigations.

Numismaticcrimes.org is the world’s leading resource on numismatic crime investigations and was created to give law enforcement and victims a free and easy to use system to fight numismatic related offenses.

NCIC assists victims during the investigative process and provides law enforcement agencies with technical and investigative support in order to develop effective case strategies and successful outcomes.

The goal of NCIC is, simply, to provide support and create new and enhanced resources for law enforcement and regulatory agencies to use in the fight against numismatic crime- a fight that must involve not only all levels of law enforcement in this country and abroad but also the entire numismatic community.

The Numismatic Crime Information Center is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation (more…)

The Phantom Opera

Cypriot Coins

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting

Anyone who pays the slightest attention to Washington doings can hardly avoid being struck by the operatic nature of governance. It may be humorous or tragic, by turns, but it can also be mysterious. How do rather consequential things happen? Better yet, who makes them happen? These are ageless questions that have inspired countless authors and playwrights—not to mention political analysts and lobbyists. The Ancient Coin Collecting community is no stranger to the sometimes bizarre world of Washington politics, where the largest cast and most Machiavellian plots are routinely encountered at the U.S. State Department.

It may strike some as humorous that an innocuous group like coin collectors can find themselves pitted against the Hydra of bureaucracy—an event of almost mythical character and proportions. But, not to be outdone by the Greeks, the DOS Hydra is also invisible! Rarely do the State Department and the Defense Department share techniques, but the cloaking of bureaucrats in Foggy Bottom bears all of the characteristics of invisible paint camouflage—making their actions unobservable to the radar of the public and the press. This invisible shield has been recognized for at least a decade, though getting a clear picture is obviously a challenge. The late Steven Vincent, in Art and Auction (March, 2002) labeled Maria Kouroupas, at the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center as a “Stealth Fighter” who is “Washington’s smart weapon in its shadowy war on collecting antiquities.”

The cloaking of DOS bureaucrats has become readily apparent through (the lack of) documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the numismatic community. In 2007, the State Department negotiated an agreement with the government of Cyprus to restrict the importation of ancient Cypriot coins into the United States. Though a landmark decision, in the sense that no previous Memorandum of Agreement (including an earlier one with Cyprus) had ever included a restriction on coins, this decision was apparently made in a vacuum. (more…)

Peru Filing Claim In “Black Swan” Case

Peru. 8 Reales, No Date (c. 1568-1571),Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. announced that the Republic of Peru filed a motion in federal court in one of the company’s pending admiralty cases. As anticipated after numerous statements in the media, Peru formally filed a Verified Conditional Claim in the “Black Swan” admiralty case, which was originally filed by Odyssey Marine Exploration. The case is currently pending before the U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida.

“Odyssey’s position is to encourage every appropriate claimant to present its potential claims in a case like this, so we welcome Peru’s filing, even as the Company reserves its legal position. If the court does not find that the property was abandoned, we believe that the property in the “Black Swan” case would be handled under the traditional law of salvage,” said Greg Stemm, Odyssey Chief Executive Officer.

The nature of a salvage award is that the award to the salvor is not dependent upon the number of claimants. Claimants other than the salvor must either enter into an agreement amongst themselves to split the owner’s percentage of a find or submit their individual claims to the court for adjudication. For instance, in the case of the Central America, an award of 92% of the cargo was made to the salvor, and the remaining 8% was held in trust while various insurance companies were given the opportunity to present their respective claims.

“We believe that Peru’s filing raises a significant and timely question relating to whether a former colonial power or the colonized indigenous peoples should receive the cultural and financial benefit of underwater cultural heritage derived from the previously colonized nations. Odyssey would be pleased to involve Peru in the study and archaeological investigation of any property that is found to have originated in Peru, without regard for whether Peru has any legal rights to the property. We would also be pleased to extend the same courtesy to any other sovereign government, indigenous people, relatives or descendants who might have a legitimate claim or interest in property discovered on any of Odyssey’s shipwrecks,” Mr. Stemm added.

Liquidation of Noe Rare Coin Fund grosses over $60 Million

Tom NoeAccording to reports the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will net as much as $54.9 Million, after expenses, from the divestment of assets sold off from the infamous rare-coin fund managed by Tom Noe.

The Toledo Blade reported that “after more than three years of liquidation, the agency is set to recoup more than the $50 million the state agency fronted former Toledo-area rare-coin dealer Tom Noe to manage the venture beginning in 1998. But the surplus deviates vastly from the $14 million or more in profit the bureau could have earned if it invested the money conservatively in money markets, government bills, or index funds, according to projections by the BWC’s investment department.”

The report was unclear if the total recovery figure, or the estimates of potential profit, included dispersements previously made by Noe during the time the fund was still under his control.

Bill Brandt, whose Chicago-based firm Development Specialists Inc was hired by the state to lead the state’s liquidation efforts, said the fact that the coin fund will return its principal doesn’t let Noe off the hook.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, you’ve returned all the principal, so maybe Noe wasn’t guilty,’•” said Mr. Brandt, the CEO of Development Specialists Inc. “Well, there’s $13 million to $18 million worth of interest missing here. This was used as a personal piggy bank. People have blinders on.”

He added, “Getting the principal back is a watershed event because it normally does not happen. We’ve got to consider ourselves measurably lucky that we did that.”

Starting in June, 2005, Brandt began selling off collections of coins and other rare collectibles, and negotiating settlements to lawsuits.

The bureau recently sold stock in Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, a Florida-based coin grading company, for $7.6 million.

Actually the fund has now returned more than just the original $50 million principal. In fact according to the bureau estimates the gross recovery amount was over 60 Million with projecting net proceeds of $53.5 million to $54.9 million from the coin funds after deducting at least $6.2 million in expenses. The expenses so far consist of $1.2 millions in settlements and $4.6 million in professional services, including $2.4 million for Development Specialists Inc. (more…)

Treasure hunter claims reward after five-year battle

Silver Viking CoinsA TREASURE hunter is set to receive his reward five years after he unearthed a hoard of Viking coins. Andy Whewell discovered 464 silver Viking coins, 26 silver ingots and an armlet in a field in Glenfaba in March 2003.

After being declared treasure trove, part of the Glenfaba hoard went on display in the Viking Galley at the Manx Museum. Mr Whewell and Manx National Heritage were locked in a lengthy battle over the value of the discovery.

In May, MNH vice-chairman Alex Downie MLC called for Tynwald to approve a payment of £275,000 for the find but the matter was adjourned after Peel MHK Tim Crookall revealed five valuations had been commissioned ranging from £166,000 to £490,000.

Last week Tynwald agreed to award Mr Whewell £300,000 for the find. It followed a meeting between the parties at which it was resolved that one of the valuations, which was 12 months old, would be revised to £298,261 taking into account market changes, Mr Downie explained.

After a five year wait Mr Whewell said he was glad it had come to an end but will continue looking for treasures with his trusty metal detector.

Chief Minister Tony Brown admitted: ‘This has been a real long struggle to get this matter sorted out.’ He said all parties were frustrated as they had had to use legislation dating back to the 1500s.

Judge Dismisses Suit Over Pre-Washington Presidential Coins

Samuel Huntington - the first President of the United States in Congress AssembledTAMPA – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a Palm Harbor scholar who is suing the U.S. Treasury secretary for neglecting to circulate coins with the images of the 10 men he says were presidents before George Washington.

Stanley Klos, 54, a scholar of rare historical documents, sued Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in May citing the Presidential Coin Act, which directs the Treasury secretary to issue $1 coins depicting the presidents of the United States and to mint the coins until each president has been honored.

Klos claimed that failing to recognize these men harms his children and all students in America by misleading them about “the existence and identity of the earliest founders and the presidents of the United States.”

U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled that because the Presidential Coin Act only issues coins commemorating presidents beginning with George Washington, who took office in 1789. It does not recognize the presidents under the 1777 Articles of Confederation as holding the same post as Washington or presidents that followed. The Articles of Confederation served as a constitution for the original colonies until it was replaced by the U.S. Constitution in 1788.

Most historians also dismiss Klos’ arguments, saying these 10 men did not have the same powers and authority as the presidents from Washington forward. The title of their office may have been similar, but the post was not the same, the historians say. They weren’t commander in chief, did not have decision-making powers and couldn’t veto legislation. (more…)

Attorney awaits judge’s decision on sanctions

By David Yates for the Southeast Texas Record

Houston Attorney Bill VossLawyer Bill Voss has seen two of his colleagues dismissed from the possibility of professional sanctions, but the Houston attorney is still waiting to see if the same will be true for him.

On July 10, Judge Floyd, 172nd District Court, held a hearing to consider a Motion to Enforce Judgment and Sanctions against Voss for allegations he violated a court order in connection with litigation against a Beaumont company that deals in rare coins.

Attorneys for Universal Coin & Bullion and its president Mike Fuljenz filed the motion Nov. 1, 2007, alleging Voss and his colleagues Jason Gibson and Jake Posey defied a restraining order issued by Judge Floyd in March 2007.

The restraining order was engineered to stop Voss from using an alleged list of clients stolen from UCB as a way to drum up clients.

Voss, Posey and Gibson represent dozens of UCB customers who allege the coin company ripped them off. UCB has counter sued.

UCB sought sanctions against all three of the attorneys, but after a lengthy hearing March 7, 2008, Floyd dismissed Posey and Gibson from the motion.

After being rescheduled several times, a hearing focusing solely on Voss was finally held last week.

“This all started when (an UCB) employee left (the company) and talked to Voss,” said Gibson, who represented Voss at the hearing. “Everything flows from (a former UCB) employee talking with Voss.”

UCB alleged that former employee John Rollins obtained a list of company customers and handed it over to Voss, who then tried to engage the customers as plaintiffs in lawsuits against the coin company. (more…)

Government Moves To Keep $3M in Liberty Dollars

Liberty Arrest Dollar 2008The Justice Department is seeking to permanently keep more than $3 million in coins that were struck by anti-government activists who aimed to create a new currency to compete against the greenback.

In court papers filed in federal court in North Carolina, federal prosecutors say that they need another six months to complete their criminal investigation of the citizens who play a leading role in popularizing the alternative currency, known as the Liberty Dollar.

A prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office in Asheville, N.C., Thomas Ascik, also sought an order that would give the government title to the more than 7 tons worth of gold, silver, and copper Liberty Dollar coins that the government seized last year in raids in Indiana and Idaho, according to court papers. Just last week, a dozen Liberty Dollar supporters filed suit in U.S. District Court in Idaho demanding the return of the seized coins.

[Editors Comment] Is it any wonder that so many people have a deep seated distrust of the federal government when they use these types of tactics. If they want to investigate possible criminal activity, that is fine, Knock your socks off! But to seize property and then try to gain title is just an arrogant abuse of power.  

Noe appeal calls trial, 18-year term unfair

Coin dealer in prison fights 2006 conviction for $13.7 million theft

By Mark Niquette for THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Tom Noe to appeal sentenceThe coin dealer convicted of stealing state money in a scandal that helped Democrats recapture most statewide offices in 2006 has appealed, arguing in part that he didn’t get a fair trial.

In the appeal filed yesterday, Republican Thomas W. Noe’s lawyers argue that his conviction should be overturned or that he should be resentenced because his 18-year prison term is too harsh.

They allege that his rights were violated because, among other things, the trial was not moved out of Lucas County, where Noe faced an “overwhelmingly negative media onslaught” before and during the trial.

The appeal filed with the state’s 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo lists seven major grounds for vacating Noe’s conviction and sentence, including that prosecutors failed to prove each element of each specific charge.

Tom Noe conferring at his trial in 2006Lucas County Prosecutor Julia R. Bates said yesterday that she had not yet read the appeal, but she insisted that Noe received a fair trial. Although it was a high-profile case, most of the prospective jurors didn’t know many of the details, she said.

Noe, 53, managed a $50 million investment in rare coins and other items for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The investment was shut down in May 2005, and Noe was found guilty of stealing $13.7 million for personal use.

Read full article Here

U.S. Treasury Responds To GATA Freedom of Information Act Request

By Patrick A. Heller for Numismaster 

Federal Reserve Bank of New York VaultOn Dec. 6, 2007, the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, Inc., (GATA) filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with both the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury. GATA sought information about possible gold swaps that the U.S. government may have handled and any related information about policies for such swaps.

In mid-April, the Federal Reserve responded, releasing part or all of hundreds of pages of worthless information, but also claiming that it was withholding all or part of the information of about 400 pages of documents. The status of the withheld documents is currently under appeal.

From the Federal Reserve response, it has already been established that there is substantial discussion in the federal government about gold swaps, at least theoretically if not in actual practice. This contradicts the previous position of the Fed and Treasury that gold swaps were never even discussed.

On June 18, the Treasury Department sent its response to GATA. The Treasury denied having any documents for five of the eight categories of the FOIA request. It stated that it was withholding a single document covering two categories because it referred to procedures for gold swaps that “may take place in the future.” It released a single one-page e-mail for the other category. The May 11, 2007, document released was a notice to various Treasury officials that weekly reporting of reserves data was changing slightly to conform to the template specified by the International Monetary Fund. This document emphasized that the reported data did not change.

Read Full Numismater Article Here

Government Is Sued Over Seizure of Liberty Dollars

Liberty Peace DollarBy JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN for the New York Sun

The federal government’s attempt to stop a group of gold-standard activists from minting an alternative to the greenback is about to face its first legal test.

A dozen people around the country filed suit in U.S. District Court in Idaho this week demanding the return of all the copper, silver, gold, and platinum coins — more than seven tons of metal in all — that the FBI and Secret Service seized in November during raids of a mint in Idaho and a strip mall storefront in Indiana.

The Justice Department had decided that the coins, many of which bear the familiar symbol of Lady Liberty and the phrase “TRUST IN GOD,” were being illegally marketed as government-sanctioned currency, according to the sworn affidavit of an FBI agent.

The creator of the coins, Bernard von NotHaus, who lives in Miami, claims that the federal government is trying to shut down production of his liberty dollars, as the coins are called, because of the competition they pose to the greenback. In recent years, his precious metal coins have outperformed the dollar, whose value has plunged in relation to gold.

The raids in November were the result of a two-year undercover investigation of Mr. Von NotHaus and how he sold liberty dollars. The Justice Department has not followed up with any criminal charges against Mr. Von NotHaus or the regional distributors of his coins.

In the suit filed in Idaho, the various plaintiffs say the federal government has no right to continue holding onto their coins any longer.

Read Full Article Here

Spain in U.S. Court Today over Black Swan Treasure

CNN Video of Black Swan ClaimsA battle royale over an estimated $500 million treasure that a Florida deep-sea salvage company found last year is due for a fresh round in court in Florida on Monday.

The Spanish government now says the 500,000 silver and gold coins that the company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, found last year in the Atlantic Ocean near Spain came from one of its ships that sunk in a 19th-century naval battle. Spain wants the entire treasure returned, but Odyssey insists Spain may have no right to it.

Lawyers for both sides are due to present arguments Monday morning in a U.S. federal court in Tampa, Florida, in another round of the case that started last year, Odyssey spokeswoman Natja Igney told CNN.

Odyssey found the coins last year and quietly airlifted them in crates from Gibraltar, a British colony on Spain’s southern tip, to Florida for safekeeping. The company then said it was unclear how the huge quantity of coins it found on the seabed had gotten there. It declined to reveal the location, citing security reasons, and mysteriously dubbed the site “Black Swan.

But the Spanish government, at a recent Madrid news conference, said it’s really not so complicated.

“The mystery is over,” said James Goold, a U.S. lawyer representing Spain, told the news conference. “Using a variety of methods to conceal what it was doing, Odyssey Marine Exploration stripped the gravesite that is the Spanish navy warship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes of coins and other objects. The coins and other artifacts that Odyssey took from the site are documented to have been on the Mercedes,” Goold said.

The Mercedes was a 34-gun frigate, a ship very common at the time in the Spanish navy. The Mercedes left Peru, stopped in Uruguay and was just a day’s sail from Spain when the four-ship Spanish squadron was attacked by a British fleet in October 1804, according to a Spanish government’s filing to the Florida court. (more…)

Open Letter to Henry Paulson, US Secretary of The Treasury on Illegal Rationing of Silver Eagles

Open letter to:

American Silver EaglesHenry Paulson
US Secretary of The Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

RE: US Silver Eagles Illegal Rationing

Dear Sirs:

It has come to my attention that 1oz US Silver Eagle coins are being rationed by the US Mint to 13 authorized dealers and not being made available to the public in adequate amounts.
http://www.silverinstitute.org/news/pr29may08.html

According to US Law: 31USC5112(e) this action is illegal and I demand that this rationing program end immediately.

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+31USC5112

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall mint and issue, in quantities sufficient to meet public demand, coins which–

(1) are 40.6 millimeters in diameter and weigh 31.103 grams;
(2) contain .999 fine silver;
(3) have a design–
(A) symbolic of Liberty on the obverse side; and
(B) of an eagle on the reverse side;
(4) have inscriptions of the year of minting or issuance, and the words “Liberty”, “In God We Trust”, “United States of America”, “1 Oz. Fine Silver”, “E Pluribus Unum”, and “One Dollar”; and
(5) have reeded edges. (more…)

Escala to Settle Litigation and Asserts Claims against Former President and CEO Manning

Former Escala Group CEO Greg ManningEscala Group (ESCL.PK), a global collectibles company in stamps, coins, precious metals trading, and art and antiques, today announced that it has entered into agreements to settle the securities class action lawsuit and shareholder derivative action commenced against the Company and certain of its current and former officers and directors in May 2006.

As part of the settlement of the derivative action, the Company will recover $5.50 million from insurers on behalf of certain of the named defendants on both proceedings. The Company has also agreed to adopt certain corporate governance policies and procedures, and to pay all court-approved attorneys’ fees, up to a maximum of $925,000, together with approved expenses not to exceed $70,000. The Company’s insurer will fund $475,000 of these amounts.

The proposed settlement of the class action litigation provides for the Company to contribute an aggregate of $6 million in cash and 4 million newly issued shares of its stock (subject to increase under certain circumstances) to a settlement fund for the benefit of the class. A substantial portion of the cash contribution will be funded by insurers. If approved by the Court, all claims against the Company and its current and former officers and directors will be dismissed with prejudice and without any admission of liability or wrongdoing.

The Company’s net cash payment obligations under the proposed settlements, after taking into account recoveries, is approximately $1 million.

The agreements are subject to certain conditions, including approval by the court and by the trustees of Afinsa Bienes Tangibles, S.A. and its subsidiary Auctentia, S.A., the Company’s majority shareholders. Both companies, which are named defendants in the litigation, are in bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. and Spain. The Company understands that the trustees are seeking approval of the settlement under applicable bankruptcy laws.

Antonio Arenas, Executive Chairman, said, “We are pleased to have reached a mutually satisfactory settlement in principle with the plaintiffs and we are hopeful that the settlements will be finalized shortly. “ (more…)

Coin collectors, art dealers fear restrictions on Chinese imports

By Kevin Bogardus for The Hill

Importing Chinese CoinsAmerican coin collectors and art dealers say a rule under consideration at the State Department could dramatically decrease the importation of goods from China, crippling a booming antiquities market in the United States.

The State Department has not yet imposed any restrictions, but officials are considering requiring shippers to provide documentation of ownership when moving goods from China to the United States. Chinese officials, who asked the State Department for the change in 2004, argue the rule is a way to protect China’s cultural heritage and prevent the trafficking of stolen goods.

Coin collectors and art dealers fear more than a receipt will be required. Instead, they expect to have to track an item’s lineage under the new rule.

That could dramatically scale back what is a growing, multimillion-dollar antiquities trade with Asia and foist an unmanageable amount of paperwork on small-business coin collectors, critics claim.

Without the necessary paperwork, customs inspectors could seize the artifacts.

Read Full Story here

Lawsuit pries loose documents, more being contested

Peter Tompa summarizes the first round of releases of information under the FOIA lawsuit launched by ACCG, IAPN and PNG.

Freedom of Information ActThe State Department has made its initial disclosures in response to the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the ACCG, the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild. By our count, in that initial disclosure, the State Department released 34 documents in full, 15 in redacted form and has withheld 21 documents. Six documents have also been held for further consultation with another agency before possible release.

The State Department produced several documents that are already publicly available, including the Cyprus MOU and information already up on the State Department Cultural Property Protection web site. Nonetheless, the State Department did also release some relevant documents. These included an “action memo” evidencing the decision to impose import restrictions on ancient coins of Cypriot type. While it is heavily redacted, it does suggest that the decision was approved by the proper decision making authority, Assistant Secretary Dina Powell.

That said, given the redactions, it remains unclear whether or not Ms. Powell was fully briefed about CPAC’s recommendations on extending import restrictions to ancient coins of Cypriot types. While the CPAC report was also produced, it was only produced in heavily redacted form. As a result, it is impossible to ascertain whether CPAC’s recommendations were made known to the decision maker or not. (more…)

Palladium Saint-Gaudens

Proposed Double Eagle in PalladiumBy David L. Ganz, Numismatic News

As the 110th Congress sprinted to a Memorial Day recess, a number of numismatic measures were passed by the House of Representatives May 15.

They now go to the Senate. Some deft parliamentary maneuvers and stealth actions are part of the package.

Foremost on the list is H.R. 5614, a bill whose initial appearance and very title gave the impression that the Mint was being asked to enter mainline production and reproduce a Saint-Gaudens ultra-high-relief gold double eagle. (The original bill’s name was worded this way: “This Act shall be known as the ‘Original Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle Ultra-High Relief Bullion Coin Act’).

The name suggests a gold coin that was fabled a generation ago as a production nightmare that took seven bold strikes on the Mint’s coining presses to bring up the design. The real purpose of the bill, however, was the working miners of Montana who produce palladium – the stealth nomenclature opts for that design with the new metal for the Mint to produce.

A gold 27mm pattern replica is the design choice. As the bill’s legislative history notes, “a 34-millimeter version was hand-struck on a standard double eagle planchet using a medal press and, because manufacturing and technical limitations prevented mass production of these pieces, this production resulted in low mintage, with fewer than two dozen specimens of the 34-millimeter version known to be in existence today.”

It goes on to note that “a second, 27-millimeter, version was struck using two stacked $10 eagle planchets,” which is the coin being reproduced in gold for collectors. But the real purpose of the bill is not gold but to produce palladium coinage.

Read the Full Numismaster Article Here

Thieves make off with $200,000 in Coins

Video News Report BENBROOK (CBS 11 News) ? More than $200,000 in rare coins was gone in a flash.

The coin heist happened in the middle of the night at a business in the 8000 block of Camp Bowie West in Benbrook.

“They were $1,000 – $3,000 a piece,” said Ron Swiney, the coin seller. “They knew exactly what they were looking for I think.”

Police say the thieves came in through the ceiling, drilling through rebar and 8 inches of concrete into the vault.

“Then they got in there drilling a hole through the top of the safe with a rotor hammer drill,” Swiney said. “I think it probably took about three or four hours to drill that hole out of there.”

The thieves appeared to be in quite a frenzy. Any coins dropped were left behind.

“They missed this one,” Swiney said, holding a coin worth $35,000. “It’s the rarest coin of the Morgan Dollars, and it’s not in very good shape.” His only insurance was a surveillance camera. But the thieves cut it. “I figured sooner or later it would happen. Been lucky for 6 and a half years basically,” said Swiney.

Read Full Story Here

ICTA HELPS THWART PROPOSAL FOR CFTC REGULATION OF COIN DEALERS

Last Minute Amendment Could Have Shut Down Precious Metals Coin Dealers

INDUSTRY COUNCIL FOR TANGIBLE ASSETSICTA (INDUSTRY COUNCIL FOR TANGIBLE ASSETS) recently helped defeat an 11th hour proposal that would have put precious metals dealers under the jurisdiction of the CFTC which may also have led to federal licensing and further regulation of the industry.

In late April, during Senate consideration of the 2008 farm bill (HR 2419), a section was added to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and amend the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). The House Agriculture Committee marked up similar legislation, so the two CFTC bills were both being considered by the joint Senate/House Conference Committee that would recommend the final bill.

Tom HarkinA last minute amendment was introduced at the Conference Committee by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would have expanded the CFTC’s jurisdiction beyond the futures markets to include the cash markets.

Had this amendment been accepted, it could have radically changed the manner in which the rare coin/precious metals market functions. In addition, the proposed CFTC jurisdiction could have led the way for CFTC licensing and trading restriction requirements would have affected almost every dealer who sells precious metals including not just bars but certain coins as well.

ICTA worked with lobbyists for the Coalition for Equitable Regulation & Taxation (CERT) and others to inform the Conference Committee legislators of the disastrous impact that this amendment would have on the precious metals industry, including creating an unnecessary second layer of oversight by yet another governmental agency (the CFTC), since cash markets are currently overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). (more…)

Spain claims all treasure from The Black Swan

Black Swan Treasure - 8 Reales Lima Peru Mint

MADRID, Spain: Spain laid formal claim Thursday to a shipwreck that yielded US$500 million (€324 million) in treasure, saying it has proof the vessel is Spanish and demanding that a U.S. deep-sea exploration firm that recovered the booty give it all back.

Culture Ministry officials said the 19th-century shipwreck at the heart of a year-old dispute with Odyssey Marine Exploration is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes — a Spanish warship sunk by the British navy southwest of Portugal in 1804 with more than 200 people on board.

The Spanish government filed evidence Thursday backing up its claim with a U.S. federal judge hearing the case in Tampa, Florida, where Odyssey is based.
Washington-based lawyer James Goold, who represents the Spanish government in the case, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo would now convene the two parties to review the case before deciding who gets to keep the treasure.

“It is the property of the Spanish navy, government and people, and we want it all back,” said Admiral Teodoro de Leste Contreras, who runs a naval museum owned by the ministry.

Admiral Teodoro de Leste ContrerasGoold said at a news conference in Madrid that he expected Odyssey would keep “not a penny” of the salvage.

Spain argues the entire treasure should be returned because naval vessels never cease to be the property of the nation that flagged them, regardless of where they lay, under the principle of sovereign immunity, Goold said.

“Spain has not abandoned or otherwise relinquished in any way its ownership of Mercedes,” Spain argued in Thursday’s court filing.

Odyssey said it would issue a statement after reviewing Spain’s claim and the file provided Thursday to the U.S. court. But company officials has said in the past they believed the court would award them most of the treasure, as they had found it. (more…)

House Authorizes Use of Cheaper Metals in Coins

Lincoln Cent and Jefferson NickelThe House passed legislation Thursday to change the composition of pennies and nickels, addressing dramatic rises in metal prices that have made the coins more expensive to produce than their face value.

Action now moves to the Senate, where the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has a similar bill, though no action has yet been scheduled.

According to the U.S. Mint, it costs 1.26 cents to make a penny and 7.7 cents to make a nickel. The House bill, sponsored by Zack Space , D-Ohio, estimates that reducing the cost of penny production to face value would save approximately $500 million over 10 years, while similar changes to nickel production would save $60 million annually.

“Right now our government is needlessly throwing away money in the production of coins,” Space, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said during floor debate on the bill May 6.

The measure would allow for the minting of pennies made primarily of steel but coated with a copper-colored dye so they appear similar to the current zinc-copper alloy. It also would require the production of 5-cent coins made primarily of steel, with a coating of nickel, in place of the nickel-copper composition originally authorized in 1866 when the coins were first minted.

The last time the penny and the nickel were produced at face value was fiscal year 2005, according to the Mint. (more…)

California Supreme Court Refuses to Review Miller vs Collectors Universe

PRECLUDES MILLER FROM SEEKING STATUTORY DAMAGES OF $10.5 MILLION

Miller vs Collectors UniverseNEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Collectors Universe, Inc. reported that on April 23, 2008, the California Supreme Court denied William Miller’s petition for review of the Appellate Court’s decision, issued in February 2008, that Miller is not entitled to statutory damages of $10.5 million against Collectors Universe.

As previously reported, Miller had argued that he was entitled, under California law, to statutorily prescribed damages of $750 for each alleged use of his name by Collectors Universe without his consent and that, since a jury at the trial of the case found that Miller’s name appeared on 14,060 authentication certificates issued by Collectors Universe, he was entitled to statutory damages of $750.00 times 14,060, or approximately $10.5 million in total. The Appellate Court ruled, instead, that the use of his name constituted, at most, a single violation of the statute in question and, therefore, Miller was entitled to no more than $750.00 in statutory damages. Miller then filed a petition with the California Supreme Court seeking a review by that Court of the Appellate Court’s decision.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s action to deny a review of the Appellate Court’s decision, if Miller decides to pursue his claims once again, his only option would be to file, on or before July 7, 2008 for a new trial to reinstate his statutory and common law claims as well as his claim for punitive damages. In any such new trial he would first have to prove that Collectors Universe violated his statutory or common law rights and, even if he succeeded in doing so, he would have to show how, if at all, he was damaged. He would not, however, be entitled to multiply $750.00 by the number of times, if any, that Collectors Universe used his name without his consent, as his measure of damages. The Company cannot predict whether Miller will seek a new trial.