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Turkish Numismatic Association Chairman Cem Mahruki Call for change in Ottoman Coin Law

Gold and silver coins from the Ottoman sultans are being melted down because traders are afraid of being charged with smuggling Lamenting rules making it illegal to have, purchase or sell such coins in Turkey, Mahruki says it is time for the government to reform the law

The following is from an Article from Hurriyet Daily News

“Turkey desperately needs to change its legal injunctions against the trading of Ottoman coins if it wants to preserve such heritage, according to the head of the country’s top coin-collecting association.

“In our country, people who are seized with a copper coin from the Sultan Mahmud II that is not even worth a Turkish Lira are treated like smugglers,” said Turkish Numismatic Association Chairman Cem Mahruki, who added that the system was very different in Europe.

“In most of contemporary countries, especially in the European Union countries, old coins are freely purchased and sold over the Internet,” he said.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Mahruki said the Code of Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties banned the purchase and sales of coins until the last six sultans and only granted permission for collection under very stringent conditions.

Many moneychangers and junk dealers obtain old gold and silver Ottoman coins made of valuable metals everyday, Mahruki said, but added that such people typically melt and turn the coins into bars of gold for fear of the law.

“In this way, hundreds of kilograms of historic Ottoman coins vanish because those having these coins are considered as smugglers,” he said.

Law encourages smuggling

In this, the law does not prevent smuggling but, on the contrary, encourages it, Mahruki said. “Old coins that cannot find buyers in the country are found by smugglers for cheap prices and taken abroad.”

Noting that the potential for coin collection is high in Turkey, Mahruki said: “If the law is amended, coins that collectors easily purchase and sell will remain in the country and moreover, the ones abroad will be brought back. We can see its example in paper coins that can easily be collected, and coins inherited from the period of the last six Ottoman periods.”

Complaining about the high prices Turkish collectors must pay at European auctions to bring Ottoman coins back to the country, Mahruki said, “If the goal is to prevent smuggling abroad, there should be heavier punishments and measures against smuggling of these coins to abroad. It should be free to own, purchase and sales the Ottoman and Turkish coins.”

Mahruki also said the current law violated the right to property and that many families had old coins from their ancestors.

“More importantly, millions of Anatolian women have gold coins inherited from their families, and they use these coins as jewelry without knowing that it is forbidden. According to law, all these women are guilty and smugglers, and they must be punished. This shows the senseless and severity of situation,” he said.

Ultimately, coins are not historical artifacts but mass-production materials, Mahruki said. “Coins should be considered as an ethnographic tool used daily and should be freely purchased and sold.”

Ministry remains silent

Speaking about the issue, coin collector Necati Do?an said gold and silver coins of the Ottoman era had been vanishing for years as they were melted for gold.

Blaming the Culture and Tourism Ministry for remaining silent, he said: “These values that have no chance to be reprinted are melted by jewelers or used in different fields like jewelry. It is as if people are trying to get rid of them.”

Turkish people are not able to collect money from Mehmet the Conqueror period but Europeans and Americans can easily collect it, Do?an said. “There is nothing to say if a coin collector, living thousands of miles away from Turkey, can easily collect the cultural material of my country.”

Do?an said the state could also levy taxes on the collectors. “Our goal is to exclude the coins of all Ottoman sultans from the scope of the law and open them to collectors and all who are interested. This culture can be transferred to next generations in this way.”

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