ANTIQUITIES and other cultural property claimed by Italy as part of its heritage may soon be barred from entering the United States unless accompanied by Italian export permits. This could have a significant effect on the trade and transport of classical coins, for which the US is one of the largest markets.

The decision whether to go ahead with the move could come as soon as early next month when the Cultural Property Advisory Committee meets to debate the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with Italy.

The law will affect only coins without a provenance after that date. But most classical coins do not have a provenance and so it cannot be shown when they left Italy.

Ancient coins have been exempted twice before, but this time Italy and some members of the archaeological community are expected to push for them to be included among restricted items.

The International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) have been battling this threat for years. Now The Classical Numismatic Group (CNG) who have offices in the US and London, have issued an urgent warning to the trade and collectors.

Those who wish to add their voice to the debate only have until April 22 to make their views known by logging onto

A major argument for excluding coins from the restrictions is that most Roman coins were struck outside the modern and ancient borders of Italy.

Many coins, even those struck in Italy, left that country in ancient times and in the course of legitimate trade. Classical coins have been collected legitimately since the early Renaissance.

Petrarch (d.1374) collected ancient coins and some, those struck in Italy, left that country centuries ago and well before there were antiquity regulations.

There are also fears that to include them could overwhelm the US Customs authorities and so hinder their ability to cope with greater evils.

Certainly the cost of the bureaucracy involved in enforcing the measures could well be more than the value of the coins they are concerned with in many cases.

By Richard Falkiner