Arnold-Peter Weiss case sends chills down the spines of collectors

By now we have heard the case of Arnold-Peter Weiss, the Brown University medical school professor who was arrested for trying to auction three rare ancient coins.  At issue is that under Italian law, such antiquities could not be removed from italy after 1909.  The three ancient decadrachms, potentially valued at millions of dollars, ended up being declared forgeries.  Weiss, however, was still being prosecuted because he believed he was breaking the antiquities law, even though he was not.

The case contains several disturbing facets:

  1. A conversation was recorded in which Weiss stated "I know this is a fresh coin.  This was dug a few years ago."  Is the government monitoring the phone calls of high end coin collectors?
  2. The coins were examined by Weiss ( a well known coin expert) and many professional coin auctioneers who all assumed the coins were authentic.  This means that the modern day forger has gotten so good that the experts can be fooled.  Because of the coins values (the cheapest was expected to bring in $350,000), it was subjected to extra scrutiny.  How many other "authentic" ancient coins are in fact, frauds?
  3. Can most ancient coins now be confiscated?  There are many ancient coins in the hands of United States collectors.  Most do not have evidence that they were exported from Italy before 1909 (even if they were).