Official Statement of the „Verband Schweizerischer Berufsnumismatiker“ concerning the meeting with representativs of the Federal Department of Culture on October 1, 2009

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November 23, 2009 – A group of numismatists met with representatives of the Federal Department of Culture and members of the cantonal archaeology in order to analyse the position of the coin trade and coin collecting  after 5 years of Cultural Goods Transfer Law.

The list of attendees is in the attachment.

Following points were discussed:

–    Irritation of the market due to interference of the FDC in Ebay trade
–    Differentiation between Ebay trade and professional business
–    Coin fairs as market platforms
–    Coins as commercial goods and cultural goods
–    Proof of origin of such coins by sale
–    Exchange of information

The delegation wanted to attain legal security in dealing with ancient coins. The “irritations” that were felt on the market were due to a pilot project that had been initiated by the FDC. The goal was to prevent the illegal trade of cultural goods on the internet. The FDC, in conjunction with the Federal Police (Fedpol) and the Conference of Swiss Cantonal Archaeologists, has succeeded in removing most offers of such objects out of Switzerland from Ebay and preventing comparable offers from German and Austrian vendors from being delivered to Switzerland. This was an effort to quell illegal excavation on an international and national level. Thus an internal regulation was agreed upon with Ebay; this not being in any way a legal regulation or legal ordinance from the Swiss side. This pilot project was closed end of September 2009 and culminated in a signed *memorandum of understanding between Ebay and the FDC.

Ebay informs its clients concerning dealing with cultural goods as follows: „It is forbidden to offer archaeological cultural goods on Ebay, unless the vendor has an official document of legality which allow dealing with such an object. This document must be shown well legible in the vendor’s offer. (English text translated out of German:

During the discussion it became clear that the FDC clearly differentiates between the anonymous internet market and the professional, established business.

The FDC does not interfere in the sale of ancient coins by way of the professional Swiss numismatic trade, either through their internet pages, store business, auctions, coin shows, etc.

The FDC views, in contrast to the professional trade, Ebay dealers as being without or not indulging in any due diligence responsibility and thus dealing in a “free zone” that may be used to sell illegal (in the view of the FDC) goods. The head of the special group responsible for international cultural goods transfer in the FDC declared that the FDC is interested in strengthening the art historical professional market in Switzerland and that the Cultural Goods Transfer Law should prevent illegal trade and at the same time promote the legal trade.

Coin fairs in the classical form are not trade platforms as Ebay, as long as they do not function as intermediary or take a commission. In this form they do not underlie the special due diligence of the Cultural Goods Transfer Law. The individual exhibitor, if dealing with coins professionally, is required to abide by the rules of the said law.

In the general discussion of coins as cultural goods it was agreed that coins may be cultural goods in terms of the Cultural Goods Transfer Law. This concerns specially ancient coins, which may be connected to illegal excavations. Also coins of later date may be cultural goods if important. Each item must be viewed individually in order to ascertain whether it is a cultural good. With this practically official conjunctive, no precedent is given for a general treatment of coins as cultural goods. It is in the competence of the professional numismatist to view purchases with due diligence and to judge the whole aspect of the individual deal to be sure that the item has a legal provenance.

The participants appreciated the interchange of ideas and agreed to exchange information speedily and in due course.


Benno Widmer, Department head of International Cultural Goods Transfer within the Federal Department of Culture
Tania Esposito, Deputy head International Cultural Goods Transfer within the Federal Department of Culture 
Dr. Jean-Robert Gisler, Coordinator Cultural Goods, Federal Department of Police 
Guido Lassau, Delegate of the Conference of Swiss Cantonal Archaeologists and Cantonal Archaeologist Basel City 
Dr. Hansjörg Brem, Cantonal archaeologist, Department of Archaeology of Canton Thurgau 

Marcel Häberling (President SAPN)
Lutz Neumann (Member of the Executive Board, Secretary General SAPN)
George Brosi (Member of the Executive Board SAPN)
Jürg Richter (Member of the Executive Board SAPN)
Dr. Ursula Kampmann, Editor in Chief Münzen Revue
Dr. Ruedi Kunzmann (President Numismatic Association Zurich)
Marie-Alix Roesle  (Curator Moneymuseum)
Dr. Andreas Sommer (Numismatic Scholar)
Hortensia von Roten (Curator Coin Cabinet of the Swiss National Museum, President of the Swiss Numismatic Society)
Kurt Wyprächtiger (Curator for Numismatics, Museum zu Allerheiligen)

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