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July 17, 2020

Greek Police arrest accountant for the possession of 5,533 ancient coins and other antiquities.

Image Credit:  Hellenic Police Services
On Wednesday, 15 July 2020 a 64-year-old accountant was taken into custody in Greece following a police operation involving Department of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities of the Security Directorate of Thessaloniki. The unnamed coin collector was from Dráma (Greek: Δράμα), a city in northeastern Greece in Macedonia, who is said to have amassed a substantial collection, which included 5,533 ancient coins dating to the Iron Age, the Archaic, Classical, Roman, Hellenistic, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods as well as 70 non-monetary artefacts dating as far back as the 3rd century BCE.  Articles in Greek refer to the collector's home as seemingly a private museum.  

Image Credit:  Hellenic Police Services
Now before the coin collecting folk start to say, he was simply protecting and preserving and should be allowed to collect...

The protection of cultural heritage has long been a State responsibility since the early days of the modern Greek State. According to the Constitution of Greece, “the protection of the natural and cultural environment constitutes a duty of the State and a right of every person” (Government Gazette, 85/A/18-4-2001, Art. 24).  The Greek government has a comprehensive and detailed system of protection regarding movable and immovable monuments and artefacts. 

Image Credit:  Hellenic Police Services
As such, the legal holder or owner of movable antiquities may be recognized as a collector, and issued a license, upon application through the Minister of Culture, after an opinion by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS).  This license can be granted according to the character and the importance of the collection and upon certain conditions being met by the applicant. 

Those include providing the necessary guarantees for the protection, safeguarding and preservation of the objects forming the collection and providing the necessary guarantees for compliance with the other duties of the collector.  One thing that will surely not get you a license in Greece, is if the person in question is an antiquities dealer, or an employee or partner of a natural or legal person with a similar business.

The fact that the Greek authorities took this man into custody, likely means he failed to meet the thresholds for the above. 


The bureaucratic requirements are so bureaucratic that it is no surprise collectors do not want to jump through all the hoops. Indeed, wealthy Greek collectors avoid the problem altogether by keeping their collections in other countries, like Germany. Given Greece’s severe problems caring for its many monuments, perhaps a better course would be to open up collecting and again allow widespread sales within the country. It could only benefit the Greek economy.

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