Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top 20 Sources of U.S. Archaeological, Historical, and Ethnological Imports

European nations accounted for ten of the top 20 sources of archaeological, historical, and ethnological material imported into the United States in 2012. Switzerland led the list overall, with the United Kingdom coming in second. That is according to data compiled from tariff and trade information supplied by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

In broad terms, the U.S. last year imported  $173,237,300 (customs valuation) worth of objects for consumption that were declared to be "collections and collectors' pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, anatomical, historical, archeological, paleontological, ethnographic or numismatic interest" under Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) 9705. HTS 9705 excludes "antiques" over 100 years old (e.g., silverware and furniture), classified elsewhere by HTS 9706.

Photo credit: Athewma
Among the total customs value of HTS 9705 goods imported into the U.S., objects specifically classified as archaeological, historical, or ethnological under HTS 9705.00.0070 accounted for $37,378,500. Imports received from Switzerland and the U.K. made up nearly 50% of this total, while Egypt and Italy together accounted for 25%.

(It is worth noting that non-gold numismatic collectors' coin imports, classified by HTS 9705.00.0060, amounted to $52,897,300, and that gold numismatic collectors' coins, classified by HTS 9705.00.0030, totaled $34,360,000. These tariff categories are ones typically expected to cover ancient coins.  See e.g., Customs Ruling N233501.)

The top 20 source countries for archaeological, historical, or ethnographic objects imported for consumption into the U.S. in 2012--as a percentage of the total customs value of all such imports--were:

1. Switzerland
     23.30%

2. United Kingdom
     19.92%

3. Egypt
     13.87%

4. Italy
     11.21%

5. Spain
     9.35%

6. Germany
     4.89%

7. France
     4.53%

8. Greece
     2.48%

9. Israel
     1.60%

10. Congo (ROC)
     1.39%

11. Turkey
     1.07%

12. Korea
     .54%

13. Canada
     .72%

14. Mali
     .68%

15. Morocco
     .49%

16. Ukraine
     .46%

17. New Zealand
     .45%

18. Austria
     .32%

19. Australia
     .27%

20. Sweden
     .22%

This list may prompt important cultural property discussions, including conversations about the definition of a "source nation" and whether traditional source countries such as Egypt and Italy should be characterized as "retentionist." The data certainly need to be studied in greater detail to gain more insight and understanding.


This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com