July 23, 2015 – The ministerial draft on the new German legislation on the Protection of Cultural heritage is currently under heavy fire by the media. One possible reason is that no experts from the trade were involved in its preparation. Both the trade and the German Numismatic Society were left out of the preparations of the draft bill right from the start. Thus, representatives of the trade had to enforce their claim for participation in the preparatory meeting held at the Federal Foreign Office in December 2014 by writing a letter to the Federal Foreign Minister. Its request notwithstanding, the German Numismatic Society was not even allowed to attend the oral hearing of the draft bill on April 22, 2015. The key arguments of the German Coin Dealer Associations fizzle out because, after three months, there is still no publication of the minutes of the hearing from April 22, 2015, in sight so that the Ministers who will vote on the draft in the near future have no idea about where the representatives of the trade stand on this. This is all the more disappointing because Dr Günter Winands, Deputy of the Commissioner of the Federal Government for Culture and Media, has stated expressively in the mentioned hearing that coins will be regarded separately.
The German collectors thus intend to light a beacon that hundreds of thousands of coin collectors in this country do not want a law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage that makes the bureaucratic due diligence procedures impossible to follow, to the effect that any collecting will be rendered impossible. The new legislation must not have the effect that objects, whose provenance cannot be ascertained for the past 20 years, diminish in value significantly and sometimes cannot even be traded anymore.
Affected are not only ancient coins, with items worth 100 euros and more requiring special due diligence procedures, but all coins above a value limit of 2,500 euros.
The wording of the petition reads as follows:
For preserving the right to privately collect
The stipulations of the amendment of the law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage threaten the collecting of cultural objects by private individuals. This law will effect everybody specialized in traditional collecting fields, such as books, stamps, furniture, ceramics, coins, classic cars and paintings. Retroactively, this new law will impose due diligence guidelines that are impossible to follow even for the most meticulous collector. When it comes to a dispute, the law will require, by reversing the burden of proof, the owner of a “cultural good” with a value of at least 2,500 euros to provide proof as to the item’s provenance for the previous 20 years; this affects “archaeological cultural goods” with a value as low as 100 euros.
This is an unrealistic demand which misrepresents most of the objects that are currently traded on the domestic and the international art market in full accordance with the law as being illegal, and will result in a considerable decline in value of the objects in question.
We therefore demand a law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage that observes the following principles:
- No retroactive effect of the law
- No reversal of the burden of proof
- A clear definition of the term “national cultural heritage” and a limit to claims by the state to “national cultural heritage” only
- Free movement, unimpaired by bureaucratic obstacles, of cultural goods which are not classified as “natural cultural heritage”, EU-wide, according to the free movement of goods
- An appropriate participation by the parties representing collectors and dealers in the law-making process
For centuries collectors have protected cultural heritage. Private collecting adds to national efforts and promotes the tradition’s preservation in all its variety, in a way museums alone could never accomplish. Collecting is an immaterial cultural heritage that is currently threatened by the latest drafts of the new German law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.
It is important that the German government notes that this petition is appreciated abroad. Add your name to the online petition the matter of which we explicitly support. It will only take you a few minutes. You can sign either by name or anonymously.
So please support your fellow collectors by signing, too, and distributing the link as widely as possible.
Actively participating in this petition and informing as many collectors as possible is the only chance for us of getting a hearing from the politicians. It is high time that the collectors gain the government’s attention again, not just some fanatic archaeologists.