Time running out for EU-based collectors

Friday 7th July 2023 at 15:02:00
In just over two years time enforcement is due for the European Union’s new import licensing regulation 2019/880 which affects cultural property, especially antiquities. An electronic licensing system, known as ICG (Import of Cultural Goods), to be used by EU Customs, is due to be implemented by 28 June 2025. When this is in place, anyone wishing to import cultural goods originating from outside the EU into the EU must follow new rules, specifically by applying for an import licence or by issuing an importer statement. The new regulations will not only cover antiquities, but also native and tribal art from the Americas, African and Asian art from China, Japan, India, Cambodia and Thailand, and also including Oceanic art from the Pacific, and Middle Eastern and North African artefacts. There will be no value threshold, so even the most humble artefacts must be subjected to this process. The import procedure will require submission of extensive documentation proving legal export from the country of origin and is likely to be a lengthy process, possibly extending several months.

How zombie statistics and bogus data distort the facts

Tuesday 2nd May 2023 at 12:54:00
Those who would denigrate antiquities collecting and the associated trade frequently quote wildly inflated figures for the value of the market in illicit antiquities. Quotes as high as $6 billion to as low as $300 million are commonly quoted. However, investigation as to where these figures come from show they have little basis in fact and are largely hearsay. Journalists frequently just repeat what they have read elsewhere without checking what the figures used are based on, or whether they have any factual basis at all.

Do you ship to the USA?

Thursday 12th May 2022 at 12:49:00
Do you ship to the USA? is a question we are often asked. However the USA has some of the strictest controls on the import of antiquities in the western world. A powerful archaeological advocacy lobby and a policy which sees the repatriation of privately owned antiquities as a form of soft power to curry favour with source countries has seen the USA establish a series of Cultural Property Memorandums of Understanding or MOUs with foreign governments. Although originally intended to help protect the cultural heritage of poor source countries, these MOUs have morphed into a comprehensive program to repatriate almost everything and anything made in a given country from prehistory to the early 20th Century. Hence widely collected items that are perfectly legal to own and trade in many western countries are at risk of seizure if imported into the USA. Indeed US authorities have seized and repatriated more than 12,000 objects since 2007.

Collecting Ancient Egyptian ushabtis

Tuesday 3rd May 2022 at 08:56:00
Perhaps the most popular collectables from Ancient Egypt are small tomb figures known as shabtis or ushabtis, or more archaically as shawabtis. Typically between 5-30 cm in height, these funerary figures accompanied the deceased into the afterlife where they would perform the manual tasks expected of him or her after death. They are usually made of blue or green faience, but can be made of stone, pottery or wood. The quality of these figures varies tremendously according to the period and budget of the providers, and small simple examples can be acquired from a few tens of pounds upwards. Often shabtis are inscribed with the name of the deceased, and sometimes his/her titles and the name of his/her mother, while more elaborate examples are inscribed with the shabti spell from Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead - the ‘Spell for making an ushabti work (for a man) in the God’s Land.’ Thus shabtis often provide an emotive and tangible link to an actual person who died a very long time ago.

How do you find a reputable dealer?

Monday 8th November 2021 at 20:32:00
The advent of the Internet has been a mixed blessing for collectors of antiquities. The upside is that collectors can buy from the comfort of their homes, but the ease of listing items for sale, particularly on online auction sites, and the cheapness of building and maintaining good-looking websites has led to a massive increase in fake and even looted antiquities available online. So how can you find a reputable dealer?

The problem of orphan antiquities

Thursday 27th May 2021 at 16:24:00
Prior to 2010, few dealer or auction catalogues recorded provenance or ownership histories unless the item had belonged to a well-known person, provenance was simply not considered important at the time. Provenance is now quite rightly regarded as important in establishing the legitimacy of an object. However, there are millions of antiquities circulating that have no recorded provenance. This does not mean they are looted and illegitimate, as trade detractors often claim, but simply that the provenance information has been lost during the many years, even decades, that an object has been circulating on the market. Such antiquities are often described as 'orphan'. Recently, the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, the University of Geneva and UNIDROIT hosted an international conference on the theme of Orphan Works

UK not adopting new EU antiquities import rules

Friday 5th February 2021 at 14:43:00
There are many practical issues concerning the UK’s art trade with EU countries post BREXIT. Most art is not subject to high tariffs, so increased duties are less likely to be a concern compared to other sectors. However, there will be less freedom of movement of art and antiquities, less access to European markets, especially through art fairs and other venues. Import of antiquities into EU member states will also be harder due to new EU import regulations.

Excellent reference on Egyptian antiquities trade - free!

Sunday 8th November 2020 at 21:03:00
An excellent account of the licenced and legal trade in antiquities in Egypt during the 'golden age' of collecting from 1880-1930 is now available as a free download.

RAND Corporation report debunks widespread looting myths

Friday 9th October 2020 at 12:58:00
A major report by the RAND Corporation, one of the most respected research organisations in the USA, shows the illicit trade in antiquities is much smaller than academics have suggested. It concludes looting is opportunistic rather than organised and more widely dispersed than previously thought.

Heritage trafficking a tiny percentage of illegal trade

Monday 5th October 2020 at 19:08:00
The latest World Customs Organisation annual report on transnational crime shows heritage crime (which includes illicit antiquities trafficking) is so minor compared with other risk categories globally that it barely registers on Customs’ radar. In fact cultural property crime accounted for only 0.22% of cases and 0.2% of customs seizures reported by the Customs Enforcement Network for 2019,