by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe
August 20, 2015 – On July 21, 2015, the petition “For the preservation of private collecting” went online. I informed roughly 50 colleagues and friends about it. It is sheer pandemonium since then. Every day I receive up to 100 emails concerning this petition. Numerous coin enthusiasts suggested ways as to make more people become aware of this petition. And believe me, I am really happy to see all parties involved in the coin trade being united for the first time. Actually, I know of people who are skeptical of CoinsWeekly or me but who nevertheless promote the petition!
A look at the internet suffices to see how many websites of various kinds have integrated the petition by now. It is amazing! Even more amazing is the support we receive from abroad. A journalist had informed me that he has never before witnessed a petition concerning a German draft bill where more than 25% of the supporters actually came from foreign countries – not only from Europe and the United States of America, as could be expected, but from quite exotic places as well, like Bangladesh, Egypt, India and Pakistan, Iran and many countries in Latin America (with 54 coin aficionados coming from Venezuela alone). Even people living in the Caribbean, on the Seychelles and in the South Pacific have heard about the petition!
Among the signers there are collectors with a smaller budget or with a bulging wallet. I have met many of them when I used to work in the coin trade. And more than one prince, count or freiherr can be found among the supporters as well. Some of the world’s leading – non-collecting – numismatists have likewise expressed their solidarity. On the third day the petition was online, one of them wrote to me as follows: “Yesterday and the day before the best brains from German numismatics have shown themselves, which makes me proud of being a part of this.”
What consternates me is how many signers do not want to see their names published and choose to remain anonymous. It reflects the great distrust collectors have developed of the government. I have been repeatedly asked about the data security of the website that hosts our petition. Many supporters make it clear to me that they abstain from signing because they fear criminal prosecution if they put their names on the list. Of course, that’s nonsense. A major criterion for us to choose openpetition was their strict guidelines concerning data security. In retrospect, however, I am really glad we that did not choose the petition platform of the German Federal Parliament. Admittedly, we would have needed considerably less signatures to reach the necessary quorum there. On the other hand, we would have got only a fraction of the signatures we are having now, due to the existing collectors’ distrust of the government.
Only a very small number of collectors outside the circle of coin collectors have been won for the petition so far, for which a number of reasons account. Firstly, the media have concentrated on the law’s repercussions mainly for collectors of sensational, high-priced objects while completely ignoring the fact that the law is a potential threat to everybody who possesses cultural goods (just read the due diligence guidelines that apply to everything!). Secondly, the actions of the Hessian police, of which the numismatic media have reported in great detail, have caused a degree of sensitization with coin collectors that is unknown in other fields. Though one or two “civil servant” did attempt to confiscate objects without convincing evidence, these encroachments have not been made public, in order to not disturb the coin collecting market. Lastly, there it is again, the good old NIMBYism. “Well, the law doesn’t expressly refer to our collector items. Making the government become aware of us is the last thing we want.”
Even so, by the time this article was being written, nearly 19,000 people had already signed the petition – which leaves a lasting impression on the politicians. This I have been told by those who have made it their duty to approach the politicians and to inform them about our cause.
Finally there is another proof that our protest is being acknowledged. The voting on the second draft, scheduled for August 26, 2015, was now postponed to mid-September. According to internal information, by the time of the voting a revised draft will be presented. It remains to be seen whether or not that draft still entails the retroactive effect as well as the reversal of the burden of proof. The Ministry stalls for time, as it always does. There is still no online publication of the minutes of the hearing from April 22, 2015, during which representatives of the trade have expressed their concerns, available. The draft bill is very likely to be published only shortly before the voting, making it almost impossible to file a proper statement. Mrs Grütters, on the other hand, might have learned from the media scolding of the previous weeks that it is anything but a good idea to forego the inclusion of the parties concerned.
Nevertheless, the Christian Democratic Union has clearly noticed the dispute about the new legislation. A party comrade of Monika Grütters has come forward. Rüdiger Kruse is Principal Spokesman for Culture and Media in the Budget Committee of the German Federal Government. He suggested something completely different yet very simple: a purchasing program for art of national importance with a budget amounting to 120 million euros.
Anyway, we have decided to extend the period of our petition in order to gather more signatures and to make it clear to the ones in charge therefore that the legislation they pass actually affects every single collector.
If you have not signed the petition yet we would be happy if you did so as soon as possible, and if you informed all your collector friends as well. As was pointed out above, only if everybody convinces all his friends and acquaintances to get on board as well we will have the chance to affect the legislation and thus make the politicians consider the collectors’ legitimate interests.