According to the Bavarian State Police, a huge hoard of ancient Celtic gold coins was stolen from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching on Tuesday. Authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed about 4 kilograms, to be over $1 million.
“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a catastrophe,” said Bavaria’s Science and Art Minister Markus Blume to the German news agency dpa. “As a testament to our history, the gold coins are irreplaceable.”
The 483 coins were first found in 1999 in the old Celtic settlement Oppidum of Manching. Archaeologists quickly realized how sensational the find was: the coins represent the largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century. The find is also the subject of ongoing scientific research on Celtic trade networks.
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The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the circumstances of the robbery were like something out of a Hollywood movie. To avoid raising an alarm, the thieves cut through telecommunications cables, causing internet and phone outages throughout Manching.
The raid reportedly lasted just 9 minutes.
“Actually, the museum is a high-security site. But all connections to the police were severed,” Manching’s Mayor Herbert Nerb told the Bayerische Zeitung. “Professionals were at work here.”
Police are looking for witnesses who may have seen suspicious people near the museum or have other information that could lead to the treasure’s recovery.
Rupert Gebhard, head of the Bavarian State Archaeological Collections in Munich, estimated the value of the treasure at around 1.6 million euros. “Archaeologists hope that the coins will remain in their original state and eventually turn up again,” he said, adding that they are well-documented and difficult to sell.
“The worst option, meltdown, would mean a total loss for us,” he explained, noting that the physical value of the gold, even at current market prices, would only be around €250,000.
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The Manching theft is just the latest in a series of museum robberies that have plagued Germany in recent years.
In November 2019, thieves raided the Dresden Green Vault, one of the largest treasure chambers in Europe. The estimated value of the jewels stolen in this heist is over $100 million. Six Germans accused of involvement in the attack were on trial in January this year.
Previously, in March 2017, the “Big Maple Leaf”, a gold coin that is considered the second largest in the world, was stolen from Berlin’s Bode Museum.
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Authorities were unable to recover items stolen in either raid.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.