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Coin Collectors Seek Change in State Department Policy in 4th Cir.

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 27, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Coin collectors, like bikers and mimes, are a wild bunch, constantly testing the limits of what decent society will tolerate, so it should come as no surprise that the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) had a brush with the law.

What may shock your conscience is that the ACCG has the gall to appeal its wrongdoings to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. The nefarious activity prompting such gumption?

Ancient coin importation.

While we understand that such indiscretions were not meant to be discussed in polite company, this is a law blog, and we have to tackle the tough legal topics of our time.

In 1970, the U.S. became a signatory to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (the Convention), which provides that parties to the Convention may control exports, imports, and international commerce involving specific items to avoid pillaging of a member state's "cultural patrimony."

Congress attempted to enforce the Convention through the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), which the State Department interpreted as a ban on the ancient coin importation, along with bans on other objects of archaeological interest.

Within the last 15 years, both Cyprus and China asked the U.S. to restrict the importation of common ancient coins from their respective nations. In both cases, the U.S. agreed, which, ironically, made freedom-loving America the only nation in the world where importing such coins is illegal, according to PR Newswire.

The ACCG, looking to stir up trouble, ordered 23 of the banned coins from a dealer in London to create a test case for the coin ban. Customs and Border Protection (Customs) intercepted the coins, ACCG objected to the interception, and a court case was born. The ACCG claims that the State Department's and Customs' actions preventing the import of Cypriot and Chinese coins were "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law."

District Judge Catherine Blake dismissed ACCG's actions, finding that the district court did not have authority to review such actions under the APA. On September 20, the ACCG filed a notice of appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Opening briefs in the appeal are due October 31, and subsequent briefs will be due before the end of the year. Will the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals uphold the district court's dismissal, or will it decide that it's time for a little change?

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