In 2007, Cyprus fought to protect its coins. For the 2007 extension of the MOU between the U.S. and Cyprus, the question of whether coins should be included in the new agreement arose and the Committee sought public comment on the issue. The proposal was to include in the new bilateral agreement coins found in Cyprus that are more than 250 years old.
Cyprus asked that coins be included because it considers coins to have considerable archaeological significance when found in context, and, like other such materials, they are vulnerable to pillage and illegal export.
The reasons for the inclusion of coins are numerous. Coins found in excavations are not merely loose change. They are important archaeological documents that can tell the archaeologists much about the dating and context of a site. For example, if a coin is found under a sealed floor the floor obviously can be dated after the date of the coin. Sometimes hoards of coins are found, and are sometimes sealed in jugs — how? when? why? — important questions to which the archaeologists may offer an answer, but ONLY if found in situ.
An excellent example of the importance of coins in our understanding of the past is the case of the Elmali Hoard, looted in Turkey during the 1980’s and restituted to the Republic of Turkey in 1999. The Elmali Hoard contained more than 1,600 coins, including at least 14 Athenian decadrahms, which are among the rarest of ancient coins. But that is where the story ends — because this precious historical evidence was ripped out of its context.
SAFE launched a campaign urging everyone to send letters to CPAC supporting the inclusion of coins. Thankfully, when the bilateral agreement was extended on July 16, 2007, coins were included in the import restrictions.