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On Germany’s New Cultural Property Law

August 18, 2016.  Germany’s new Cultural Property Protection Act effective on August 6, 2016, has been widely described as the most restrictive law affecting the transfer of art imposed in Europe, and its immediate consequences have included the removal of numerous privately-owned loaned artworks from German museums and relocation of important German auctions and galleries outside the country.

Germany’s Office for Culture and the Media recently issued a chart showing the value and age limits for export of art, ethnological and archeological materials from Germany. (CCP thanks Coins Weekly for supplying the English language version of this list.)

Export from EU Export within EU
Age Value Age Value
1. Archaeological items 100 0 100 0
2. Parts of artistic and architectural monuments 100 0 100 0
3. Pictures and paintings 50 150,000 75 300,000
4. Watercolors / gouaches / pastel pictures 50 30,000 75 100,000
5. Mosaics / drawings 50 15,000 75 50,000
6. Engravings / prints / lithographs / posters 50 15,000 75 50,000
7. Sculptures 50 50,000 75 100,000
8. Photographs / films / negatives 50 15,000 75 50,000
9. Manuscripts 50 0 75 50,000
10. Books 100 50,000 100 100,000
11. Maps 200 15,000 200 30,000
12. Archives 50 0 50 50,000
13. a) Collections of specimens from zoological, botanical, mineralogical or anatomical collections 0 50,000 0 100,000
13. b) Collections of historical paleontological, ethnographic or numismatic interest 0 50,000 0 100,000
14. Means of transport 75 50,000 150 100,000
15. a) Any other antique item 50-100 50,000 100 100,000
15. b) Any other antique item über 100 50,000 100 100,000

Coins are the only archaeological items not included in category #1. Coins may be exported from Germany if they are available in great quantities and “if their retention does not add to archaeological knowledge,” however that may be interpreted. Coins Weekly is currently engaged in preparing a guide for lawful collecting and trading in Germany which CCP will link to when it is complete.

Ursula Kampmann of Coins Weekly conducted an interview with Ansgar Heveling, Member of the German Federal Parliament and Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary faction of the Committee on Culture and Media Affairs.

Mr. Heveling was asked how laypersons were to understand the new law. It is 91 paragraphs long and its language is said to be impenetrable even to many lawyers. He responded that there was a Q&A with key points on the Ministry of Culture website, and said the law would be legally enforceable on that basis. A promised online portal documenting the national and international legislative basis for the law and establishing “legal certainty” has not yet been set up, although the law has been in force since July 8, 2016.

With regard to items of unknown origin, Mr. Heveling acknowledged that it would not be easy for a collector to evaluate where items commonly dispersed throughout the Roman world actually originated for the purpose of establishing whether the item was lawful to own or trade in Germany.

For example, Coins Weekly asked if it would be possible for a German collector to purchase a Roman Imperial portrait from a US dealer, and from which country documents of origin would need to be obtained. Heveling replied that it was first necessary to determine the country of origin and then see if the item was listed as cultural heritage in a country, and then the extensive documentation for import would have to be provided.

The new law has also raised concerns that specific private collections were being targeted for acquisition by German museums. Coins Weekly noted that during the legislative debate, some museum curators had asked that collections such as the former Preussag AG collection of lösers and mining thalers be put on the list of non-exportable items. Heveling said such decisions were possible but they would be made by one of the German Federal State-level committees. These committees have not yet been established.

Heveling also pointed out that the proposed law originally placed the burden of proof of lawful ownership on the owners of items in pre-existing German collections. He stated that “Originally, this was intended as burden of proof. Now we changed it to an inquisitorial system, which means that a court or state authority is obligated to examine the situation on their part. The burden of proof does not apply to the owner anymore.”

juliusImages: By Anonymous (Canosa di Puglia) (Ophelia2) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Julius of Brunswick-Lüneburg, creator of the Julius löser, an international currency suited for long-distance trading, http://www.coinweek.com/auctions-news/kunker-auctions-julius-losers-preussag-collection/.

 

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