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 nations, 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, as the MOU's allow foreign governments to 'claw back' artifacts even if imported from legitimate markets overseas. Indeed US authorities have seized and repatriated more than 12,000 objects since 2007. For many objects legally circulating on foreign markets, the detailed provenance information now required by US customs has often been lost and may no longer be available.
In an important article on the Cultural Property News website, Peter K. Tompa, a Washington, D.C. based attorney warns US residents of the dangers of falling foul of the US Cultural Property MOUs. While going 'antiquing in the Casbah in Marrakesh' or buying antiquities and coins on foreign websites might seem a good way for Americans to acquire new items for their collections, US cultural property regulations can soon spoil the fun. Until recently, enforcement has been patchy but US customs are increasing their expertise in this area and these import restrictions have already had a chilling effect on the legal trade in cultural goods between the US and Europe. For US residents - it really is 'Buyer - Beware'.
Details on the series of MOU's between the USA and source countries can be seen here.
In addition, the US has long-standing sanctions against Iran, which also covers artefacts of Iranian, Luristan or Persian origin. Such items will be seized with no compensation to the buyer or seller.
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(Photograph credit Wiki Commons)