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Officials seize two ancient coins at NYINC
By Mike Sussman

Ancient Coins Seized at NYC Auction - Much to the surprise of the auction attendees of the New York International Coin Convention held at the Waldorf-Astoria on January 3, 2012, two Greek coins were confiscated by the New York District Attorney and the Department of Homeland Security. The coins were Lots 1008 and 1009 from “Cabinet W.” The first had a pre-auction estimate of $2.5 million and the second, $300,000.

Erick McFadden, senior director of the Classical Numismatic Group’s London office announced news of the seizure to floor and on-line bidders the next day. Although there was much speculation and consternation among attendees, no explanation was given.

District Attorney’s Office, in a criminal complaint, alleges that, “the defendant [Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss] knowingly possessed stolen property with a value in excess of 50,000 dollars with intent to benefit a person [other] than an owner of the property and to impede recovery by an owner thereof.”

CNG described the coins from Cabinet W: “although few in number, [they] form one of the most important offerings of ancient Greek coinage in living memory. The rarity and quality of these coins places all of them among the finest known examples of their type.” The 19 coins in the group were showcased in a special supplemental catalog.

The details of the complaint are: “Deponent states that at the date, time, and place of occurrence, deponent observed defendant in possession of a 4th century BC [sic] silver coin, called a tetradrachm. Deponent also observed that the defendant was attempting to sell the same for approximately $300,000 under catalogue number 1009 in an auction defendant was conducting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.”

A “confidential informant” claimed that at least one of the coins belonged to the Italian government. The complaint further stated that the investigator was “informed by Captain Massimo Maresca, of the Italian Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, that Italian law, namely the Code of the Cultural and Landscape Heritage, has vested absolute and true ownership of all antiquities found in Italy after 1909 in the Italian government. According to informant, who examined the coin after it was seized, the government of Italy is the true owner of the tetradrachm under catalogue number 1009, and the Italian government never gave defendant or anyone permission, consent, or authority to remove said coin from the ground or to remove it from Italy.”

Surprisingly, the Akragas silver decadrachm was not mentioned in the complaint. It was Lot 1008, the highlight of Cabinet W, with a pre-auction estimate of $2.5 million. The auction catalog describe it as follows: “From a collection in the United States, once in a Swiss collection and, earlier, in an English collection in London in the 1960s.” It is not known why this lot was missing from the complaint. It may be that there are fewer questions about its provenance than Lot 1009. According to the complaint, “the defendant knew that coin 1009 was ‘freshly dug’ and that, therefore, it had to be the property of the Italian government.”

According to the Coin World article of January 9, 2012, “The seizures were the latest action in the ongoing fight over cultural property as it affects coins, and the most visible action since the recent announcement of broader import restrictions of ancient Greek coins, which was made Dec. 1 in the Federal Register.”

Dr. Weiss, is trustee of the American Numismatic Society, is an internationally recognized hand surgeon and Professor of Orthopedics at Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital. He is Editor of the Journal of Hand Surgery and the holder of seven U.S. patents for widely-used medical devices. Dr. Weiss has been honored with the America's Top Doctors, Best Doctors in America, and America's Top Surgeons awards. Weiss is past Chair, Board of Governors of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and previously served as a Trustee of RISD.

Officials seize two ancient coins at NYINC - Ancient Coins Seized at NYC Auction
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