On Tuesday, a huge horde of ancient Celtic gold coins was stolen from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany, according to the Bavarian State Police. Authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed about 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), exceeds $1 million.
“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a disaster,” Bavarian Minister of Science and Arts Markus Blume told the German news agency dpa. “As a testament to our history, gold coins are irreplaceable.”
The 483 coins were first found in 1999 at the ancient Celtic settlement known as the Oppidum of Manching. Archaeologists quickly realized just how sensational the discovery was: the coins represent the largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century. The hoard is also the subject of ongoing scholarly research into Celtic trade networks.
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The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the circumstances of the heist were like something out of a Hollywood movie. To prevent the alarm from going off, the thieves cut telecommunication cables, causing internet and telephone outages throughout Manching.
The heist reportedly lasted only 9 minutes.
“The museum is actually a high security place. But all connections with the police have been cut off,” Manching mayor Herbert Nerb told the Bavarian newspaper. “The professionals were working here.”
Police are asking for witnesses who may have seen suspicious people near the museum or have other information that could lead to the recovery of the treasure.
Rupert Gebhard, who heads the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, estimated the treasure’s value at about 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million). “Archaeologists hope that the coins will remain in their original state and will reappear at some point,” he said, adding that they are well documented and would be hard to sell.
“The worst option, the merger, would mean a total loss for us,” he explained, noting that the material value of the gold itself would only be around 250,000 euros at current market prices.
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The Manching robbery is just the latest in a series of museum robberies that have plagued Germany in recent years.
In November 2019, thieves broke into Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the largest treasure collections in Europe. The estimated value of the jewelry stolen during that heist is north of $100 million. Six Germans accused of taking part in the heist went on trial in January this year.
Before that, in March 2017, the “Great Maple Leaf”, a gold coin considered the second largest in the world, was stolen from the Bode Museum in Berlin.
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Authorities have been unable to recover items stolen from either heist.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.