In a methodically planned heist, thieves stole a large trove of ancient Celtic coins from a museum in southern Germany. The 483 coins are worth approximately $1.7 million.
“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a disaster,” Markus Blume, Bavaria’s minister of science and arts, tells Deutsche Presse-Agentur, per the Associated Press (AP). “As a testament to our history, the gold coins are irreplaceable.”
The coins were discovered in 1999 during excavations of a settlement located near present day Manching in Bavaria, according to the AP’s Frank Jordans. They date back to approximately 100 B.C.E. and were on display at the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching.
“The trove is still considered the biggest cache of ancient Celtic gold discovered in the 20th century, and it remains a mystery why so much gold was stored in one spot and how it ended up at the site,” writes the New York Times’ Christopher F. Schuetze.
The heist took place on Tuesday morning. First, the thieves dismantled a cable in a telecommunications facility, cutting off more than 1,000 local connections, reports the Times. But police sent patrol cards to nearby banks, believing they were the target.
“It’s clear that you don’t simply march into a museum and take this treasure with you,” Blume tells public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, per the AP. “It’s highly secured and as such there’s a suspicion that we’re rather dealing with a case of organized crime.”
The theft of the Celtic coins is not the only organized heist to rock Germany in recent years.
In 2017, robbers stole one of the world’s largest gold coins from Berlin’s Bode Museum. The Canadian coin, known as the “Big Maple Leaf,” weighs almost 221 pounds and is made of 99.999 percent pure gold. In 2020, three men were sentenced to prison for orchestrating the heist, and a fourth man was acquitted. The coin has not been seen since. Authorities believe it was melted down and sold.
Two years later, thieves orchestrated what has been dubbed “one of the biggest jewel thefts in history” when they stole more than $100 million worth of jewelry from Dresden’s Green Vault in late 2019. In 2021, German prosecutors charged six men in relation to the heist. The jewels have not been recovered, and authorities believe they were recut and sold. Just days after the Green Vault robbery in 2019, robbers broke into Berlin’s Stasi Museum and made off with various artifacts and jewels.
Nobody has been charged with stealing the Celtic coins, and the artifacts have not been recovered.