Seizure and Detention at the New York International

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January 19, 2012 – The New York International Numismatic Convention is the most prestigious coin show focused on precious ancient coins. That’s the reason, why a number of important numismatic companies organize their sales during this show. One of them is the Classical Numismatic Group, which announced a joint sale with Swiss Nomos Ltd. for January 4, 2012: Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Coinage – Selection from Cabinet W.

On January 3, 2012 law enforcement officers seized two coins from this sale on behalf of the Criminal Court of the City of New York: No 1008 a decadrachm from Acragas attributed to the hands of die engravers Myron and Polycrates estimated at $ 2.5 million, and No 1009 a tetradrachm from Catane featuring the facing head of Apollo from the die engraver Herakleidas estimated at $ 300,000. For the first piece there was a provenance dating back to the 1960s: “From a collection in the United States, once in a Swiss collection and, earlier, in an English collection in London in the 1960s.” Concerning the tetradrachm from Catane the catalogue stated: “Purchased privately from an American collection in 2010.”

Officials did not stop at the seizure. The owner of the coins and co-owner of Nomos Ltd., Dr Arnold-Peter Weiss, was detained. Dr Weiss is an internationally recognized hand surgeon and holds a chair of Orthopaedics at Brown Medical School. Beyond that he is well known as a generous patron of institutions and museums in the numismatic world.

“Chasing Aphrodite” – a investigative website challenging critically the antiquity trade – has published an unsigned and undated testimony of Investigator John Freck, shield 178 of the New York County District Attorney’s Office. This text mentions but one coin, the tetradrachm of Catane. Peter Weiss is accused of criminal possession of stolen property with a value in excess of $ 50,000 in the second degree with intent to benefit a person than an owner of the property and to impede recovery by an owner thereof.
The affair got under way – according to the deponent – due to information of the Italian Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale. John Freck said that a “confidential informant” had recorded a conversation, in which Peter Weiss said about the tetradrachm of Catane: “there’s no paperwork, I know this is a fresh coin, this was dug up a few years ago … This was dug up two years ago. I know where this came from.” The deponent claimed that Peter Weiss himself had informed him that he purchased the coin in 2010 for $ 250,000 in order to sell it for approximately $ 350,000.

Within his article for CoinWorld Jeff Starck quoted Dr Alan Walker director of Nomos Ltd.: All the coins are in the U.S. legally. All of the coins left Europe legally. It was all handled 100 percent by the law, as far as we know.” Later he added: “He [Peter Weiss] has very good legal counsel and is 100 percent innocent.”

Classical Numismatic Group sent us the following press release dated January 19: “On January 3, 2012 the New York County District Attorney’s Office seized two coins from a joint Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. (“CNG”) and Nomos AG auction that was to be conducted the next day. Dr. Peter Weiss, the Chairman of Nomos AG, was detained at the time for questioning.
CNG is fully cooperating with the New York County District Attorney’s Office and is not a target in this investigation. CNG and its attorneys are conducting an internal review of CNG’s consignment policies and procedures in light of this event.”

The verdict will concern not only the defendant, but also all who collect ancient coins in the U.S., because this lawsuit will put forward a convincing case for all those, who want to include coins in all international agreements on cultural property known as MOU (Memorandum of Understanding).
Here coins are concerned, which average collectors will never be able to afford. But as soon as a collector has to prove that his coins are legally in the U.S., all those collectors will be in trouble who collected cheap coins, which never were sold in auctions.

If you want to read the testimony, click here.

If you want to know more about Peter Weiss, here you will find his bio.

For the article in CoinWorld, click here.

Another article you will find at Numismaster.