Bulgarian antiquesProbably you are wondering how you can trade with Bulgarian antiques? The answer is in the [BG] Cultural Heritage Act and it’s latest changes. The Act imposes special regime for treasure-hunting, trading, exporting (both sale and exhibitions) of Bulgarian cultural heritage artifacts.

Treasure-hunting for Bulgarian antiques

Treasure-hunting in Bulgaria is banned but you can see many people scavenging the areas round historic places. they carry metal detectors and other equipment and can be seen normally at dusk. If you are a treasure-hunter you need to know that if you are caught there are serious sanctions. However if you accidentally find some antique objects which could be of interest to the museum, you should mind that according to the Art. 90 of the Ownership Act:

Properties buried in the ground, walled in or hidden in another manner, the owner of which cannot be found, shall become the ownership of the state.
Therefore selling of such artifacts as your own is illegal. Art. 94 of the Cultural Heritage Act requires if a person finds such artifact to contact the nearest state or council museum and hand the found item to its director.
A commission of experts will be then appointed by the Museum to classify if the found object is a ‘cultural heritage’ or not. If it is classified as ‘cultural heritage’ the Ministry of Culture issues special identification documents to the antique item. If it is not classified as ‘cultural heritage’ the museum and the government will not be interested in it and you will be able to trade with it freely.
Before you apply for such classification procedure, you can roughly estimate if the antique falls under the definition of ‘cultural heritage’. Here is what the Act defines as ‘cultural heritage’ :
  • machine-minted coins and coin-like items that have no relevance for research and exhibition value, with the exception of especially rare and valuable specimens identified in accordance with this act as cultural values;
  • machine-produced items which do not bear a signature or mark of their authors or are produced in large quantities, do not have significant cultural, scientific or artistic value or are not linked to the historical figure or event;
  • works of art owned by Bulgarian or foreign authors, or those who are not older than 50 years;
  • antiques, artwork, limited which are not older than 100 years, with the exception of especially rare and valuable specimens identified in accordance with this act as cultural values;
  • residual material-waste substance, obtained from human activity, which has no functional or artistic purpose.
If you want to trade with antique items, described under the above 5 points – you can trade and export such antiques freely. The simplest test to see if you can trade with such antiques is to check their visible age and type. However if you are collector and owner/trader of cultural heritage antiques, there are special rules for trading set in Chapter V of the Act.

Trading with Bulgarian antiques, classified as ‘cultural heritage’

If you want to trade with Bulgarian antiques classified as ‘cultural heritage’, you have to register yourself with the Ministry of Culture. You are also obliged to keep a register of all items you own and the details for any sale you make, including buyer details, date of sale etc.You have to hold the antique items, classified as ‘cultural heritage’ in a separate premises and not mix them with other items you sell. Along with the normal sale, you are allowed to attend and organise antique auctions. There are special requirements for these auctions, so you need to get familiar with them before you start organising one. The auction organiser has to have a licence for antique auction trading, granted by the Ministry of Culture.

Export of antiques ‘cultural heritage’

If you are antique collector/trader and you want to export your antiques outside Bulgaria you need to obtain a certificate for export, issued by the Ministry of Culture. The rules for issuing such certificates are found in the Act and also in Council regulation № 116/2009

Read more solicitor advice here:

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