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Mike Klee

Legality of selling pre-1916 South African coins overseas

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Mike Klee

Here is an interesting thing I have discovered. The National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 - Regulations and Notices - Government Notice R1512 under TYPES OF HERITAGE OBJECTS covers:


· "Antiquities such as coins, utensils, pottery, jewellery, seals, weapons (including firearms) tools and inscriptions that have been in South Africa for more than 100 years"


Under the above Act and according to the definition of Heritage Objects, it would appear that anybody wishing to sell overseas a pre-1916 South African coin or coin which had been recovered from a shipwreck in South African waters would have to first obtain an export permit from SAHRA to do so. I would imagine that this legislation specifically included coins because of the famed "Dodington" (1755) case, where about 650 ounces of gold Portuguese coins were illegally salvaged from this shipwreck, smuggled out of the country and put up for auction in London: the court case was only resolved and settled in 1999 when one third of the coins were returned to the Port Elizabeth Museum.


Unless I am mistaken, the requirement of a SAHRA export permit for all such coins makes the commercial dealing overseas by South African numismatists of all ZAR coinage (1892-1902), Burgerponde (1874), ZAR/COGH/OFS/GQT pattern coins and the original GQT missionary coinage rather problematic. This is a massive thing. Without a SAHRA permit for each of these coins, sending such coins overseas for sale or even for grading is technically illegal.


Have I misunderstood this, or am I actually correct?

Edited by Mike Klee

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This act may potentially be a huge problem for people who send coins overseas for grading. I recently wrote a paper on who owns the rights to historic coins and also came across this. I quote part of the paper below as it gives a bit more information (the entire paper is 46 pages, so sent me a private message with your email if you want a copy):


“The National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999) refers to numismatic objects in Section 32 (1) (d). It regulates the export of these items if it is declared a heritage object by SAHRA (South African Heritage Resources Agency). Regarding this Act, a declaration of types of heritage objects appeared in the Government Gazette (No. 1512, 6 December 2002). A permit is required in terms of the said Act for export from the country. In terms of numismatic items requiring this permit it was defined in the declaration as:


“South African items of numismatic (medals and coins) and philatelic (stamps and cancellations) interest that have been in South Africa for more than 100 years.”


With the last coin of the ZAR minted in 1902 and therefore more than 100 years ago, it clearly implies that no coins from the ZAR may be exported from the country without a permit from SAHRA. Section 32 (24) nevertheless make it clear that:


“In considering an application to export any object of a type listed in Part (1) of the register of heritage objects permanently, an expert examiner and SAHRA must consider whether the object –

  1. is of an outstanding significance by reason of its close association with South African history or culture, its aesthetic qualities, or its value in the study of the arts or sciences; and
  2. is of such a degree of national importance that its loss to South Africa would significantly diminish the national heritage,

and if satisfied that the object fulfils both these criteria, may not recommend the issue of a permit, or issue a permit, as the case may be, to export the object permanently.”


Based on these criteria, very few ZAR coins will meet both criteria, however, and an export permit will probably be readily issued for most coins."


The problem with overseas grading is that the act prohibits “export” and it does not appear to make provision for temporary export without a permit. The relevant sections in the act states:


(19) No person may export or attempt to export from South Africa any heritage object without a permit issued by SAHRA.

(20) No heritage object may be removed from South Africa other than through a customs port of entry, and the relevant export permit issued under subsection (19) or certificate of exemption issued under subsection (32) must be produced to a custom officer before removal from South Africa is effected or allowed.


The horror of all of this is that it may imply that every time one sends a 100 year old coin for grading, a permit will have to be obtained.

Edited by Ni28

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On a similar note – but only of passing interest –(I am writing this purely from memory)


I contacted SAHRA a few years ago as editor of the South African Metal Detecting Fraternity’s newsletter Treasure Talk, asking them how the law works in terms of artifacts recovered/discovered from local soil or beaches.


If I remember correctly, the cutoff date was 50 years, so if one should find a 1966 1c today lying on the ground, you cannot pick it up but must leave it lying there, but if it is dated 1967 (49 years old) it is OK to keep it.


We all had a good laugh at this.


In England, where I have metal detected many times on Roman & Saxon fields and other medieval sites, the law is much more clearer and makes more sense


For those interested – see here



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Little Miss Muffet

I have bags and bags of 1961 to 1964 half and one cent pieces.At which museum can I drop them off ??:nuts:

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