Celtic gold coins stolen from German museum in stunning robbery

A huge horde of ancient Celtic gold coins was stolen from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany, on Tuesday, according to Bavarian state police. Authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed about 4 kilograms, at more than $1 million.

“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a disaster,” Bavarian Science and Art Minister Markus Blume told the German news agency dpa. “As proof of our history, the gold coins are irreplaceable.”

The 483 coins were first found in 1999 in the ancient Celtic settlement known as the Oppidum of Manching. Archaeologists quickly realized how sensational the discovery was: the coins represent the largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century. The treasure is also the subject of ongoing scientific research into Celtic trade networks.

The largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century was found near Manching in 1999.
(Photo by Frank Mächler/dpa via Getty Images)

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The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the circumstances of the robbery were straight out of a Hollywood movie. To prevent the alarm from going off, the thieves cut telecommunication cables, knocking out the internet and telephone throughout Manching.

The robbery reportedly lasted just 9 minutes.

“The museum is actually a highly secured location. But all connections with the police have been lost,” Manching’s mayor Herbert Nerb explained to the Bavarian newspaper. “There were professionals working here.”

The police are looking for witnesses who may have seen suspicious persons in the vicinity of the museum or have other information that could lead to the recovery of the treasure.

The Celtic and Roman Museum is pictured in the evening light, in Manching, Germany, Tuesday, November 22, 2022.

The Celtic and Roman Museum is pictured in the evening light, in Manching, Germany, Tuesday, November 22, 2022.
(Armin Weigel/dpa via AP)

Rupert Gebhard, head of the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, estimated the value of the treasure at about 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million). “The archaeologists hope that the coins will remain in their original state and reappear at some point,” he said, adding that they are well documented and will be difficult to sell.

“The worst option, melting it down, would be a total loss for us,” he explained, noting that the material value of the gold itself at current market prices would only be about $250,000.

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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 raided Dresden’s Green Vault, one of Europe’s largest collections of treasures. The estimated value of the jewels stolen during that robbery is over $100 million. Six Germans accused of involvement in the robbery faced trial in January this year.

Before that, in March 2017, the “Big Maple Leaf”, a gold coin considered to be the second largest in the world, was stolen from the Bode Museum in Berlin.

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Authorities were unable to recover any items from either robbery.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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