World Coins

Over 400 Celtic gold coins stolen from German museum

A hoard of 483 Celtic gold coins was on display at a museum in Germany before being stolen Nov. 22.

Images courtesy of the Bavarian State Police.

A hoard of Celtic gold coins was stolen from a museum in Germany, officials announced Nov. 23.

The hoard represented 483 gold coins, making it the largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century, according to museum officials.

The hoard was stolen from the Celtic Roman Museum in Manching, a branch of the nation’s Archaeological State Collection.

According to officials, the criminals gained access to the building around 1:26 a.m. and deliberately broke open a showcase with a gold treasure consisting of the coins and a gold piece.

In addition, three coins were stolen from another display case, bringing the total theft to 486 coins and a piece of gold.

The act was discovered by museum staff at around 9:45 a.m. and reported to the police headquarters in Upper Bavaria.

“The museum’s automated alarm system went off,” according to the announcement from local police. “However, this was not transmitted to the security center of the security company due to the failure of the telephone and internet supply. The data carriers of the video recordings in the museum were secured and will be evaluated afterwards.”

The criminals apparently disrupted the fiber optic telephone and internet lines at 1:17 a.m. immediately before the theft.

Hoard background

The hoard was found in 1999 during excavations south of the ancient port of the Celtic city of Manching, which dates back to around 100 B.C.

These Celtic staters each weigh approximately 7.2 grams. The hoard also contained a gold chunk weighing 217 grams, which equals the weight of 30 examples of the coins. This brings the hoard to a total weight of about 3.7 kilograms.

Three bronze rings found with the hoard were likely used to help secure the fabric or leather container in which the coins were held (and which later decayed).

The gold coins were minted in the settlement area of the Celtic Boii in today’s Czech Republic and probably reached Manching via trade contacts.

It is unknown why the treasure was buried and later not recovered by its owner, but it seems unlikely that it was meant as a religious sacrifice, according to professor Rupert Gebhard, chief collection director of the Archaeological State Collection, in a statement.

It is entirely plausible that the coins were hidden at a time when Manching was beginning to decline, thanks to military incursions by Germanic tribes, Gebhard said. In this situation, the source of the hoard intended to recover it later during safer times, but died without sharing knowledge of the hoard location.

The theft of the Celtic gold treasure from Manching not only threatens the permanent loss of an absolute highlight of the Celtic Roman Museum, but also one of the largest and most important gold treasures of the Celtic period, according to Gebhard.

“The cultural and scientific damage is enormous and irreplaceable,” he said.

Police ask for help

The Bavarian State Criminal Police Office has asked for help from the public, asking if anyone noticed suspicious people in the area of the Celtic Roman Museum that night, or anything that could have been related to the burglary.

“Who else can provide relevant information about the crime, the perpetrators or the stolen gold coins?” officials asked.

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