There are a myriad of federal laws which restrict the sale, possession, transfer, ownership, mailing, receiving, destroying, hiding, exchanging, damaging, etc. certain items of national archaeological interest.
Such items are certain pottery, baskets, bottles, weapons, projectiles, rock paintings, carvings, graves and skeletal materials.
Similarly, some like items are exempt from these acts including surface arrowheads and other rocks, bottles and the like of no archeological interest as well as paleontological items (life existing in prehistoric or geologic times) including fossils of plants, animals, and other organisms.
Here are the key federal laws which regulate this type of property:
- Archaeological Resources Protection Act: 16 USC 470
- Theft of Government Property: 18 USC 641
- Damage to Government Property: 18 USC 1361
- The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act: 25 USC 32
- Abandoned Shipwreck Act: 43 USC 39
- Antiquities Act: 16 USC 433
- National Stolen Property Act: 18 USC 2314
- Mail Fraud: 18 USC 1341
- Customs in rem (directed towards the property) civil forfeiture: 18 USC 545 and 18 USC 981
With this number of laws which address these types of items, it is imperative sellers and auctioneers review these laws as well as contact appropriate federal agencies to ensure compliance.
In some cases, these items can indeed be sold, but only with the proper permits. Selling without the proper authority can result in years of imprisonment as well as fines exceeding $250,000.
Want to secure a permit and/or secure more information? While is it often tempting to contact local or state agencies, chances are good the agency responsible is housed within the United States Department of the Interior.
Further information is provided by the United States Department of Justice (Executive Office for United States Attorneys): http://www.justice.gov/usao/briefing_room/ic/artifacts.html
Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.