Battle over Cypriot coins heads to U.S. courts
Wayne Sayles, a conservative Republican from Missouri who twice voted for President Bush, is none too pleased with the Bush administration...
WASHINGTON — Wayne Sayles, a conservative Republican from Missouri who twice voted for President Bush, is none too pleased with the Bush administration these days. In fact, he says it's trying to put him out of business.
Sayles has been collecting and selling ancient coins since 1967, and on Nov. 15, a group he heads sued the State Department, charging that its decision to restrict imports of ancient coins from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus is "a major offensive" against coin collectors that threatens his hobby.
"In a world where globalism is not just a trend but an irreversible fact of life, how can anyone justify turning America into an island of prohibition for something as innocuous as a common coin?" Sayles, the executive director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild in Gainesville, Mo., asked on his blog.
As Washington fights go, this one's a blip on the screen. But for the 64-year-old Sayles, it's a David vs. Goliath battle, "the Pearl Harbor of the Cultural Property War," as he calls it.
Coin collectors have been livid since July, when the State Department announced that it was imposing import restrictions on Cypriot coins that date from the end of the sixth century B.C. to 235. At a ceremony in Washington, Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said that the move "will help Cyprus to battle those who would plunder its heritage and seek to sell that heritage illegally."
Andreas Kakouris, the ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S., said that the island's cultural heritage is one of the oldest and richest in the world, dating back 10,000 years. He had a message for coin collectors: "It may be your hobby, but it's our heritage."
Sayles is also running into opposition from the Archaeological Institute of America, the oldest and largest archaeological group in the nation, with more than 8,500 members.
"The looting of coins from archaeological sites is a significant problem throughout the world, and especially on the island of Cyprus," C. Brian Rose, the group's president, wrote in a letter to the State Department.
The coin collectors' lawsuit urges the court to force the government to provide "meaningful information to the public about the unprecedented imposition of import restrictions on ancient coins of Cypriot types."
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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