Celtic gold coins stolen from German museum in spectacular heist

On Tuesday, a huge hoard of ancient Celtic gold coins was stolen from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany, according to police in Bavaria. Authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed about 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), is more than $1 million.

“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a tragedy,” Markus Blume, Bavaria’s minister of science and arts, told the German news agency dpa. “As a testament to our history, the gold coins are irreplaceable.”

The 483 coins were first discovered 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 belief is also the subject of ongoing academic research into Celtic trade networks.

The largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century was found near Manching in 1999.

The largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century was found near Manching in 1999.
(Photo: 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. In order to prevent the alarm clock from working, the thieves cut telecommunication cables causing a power outage in Manching.

It is believed that the robbery lasted only 9 minutes.

“The museum is actually a place of safety. But all ties with the police were severed,” Herbert Nerb, the mayor of Manching, told the Bavarian newspaper. “There were professionals at work here.”

Police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen suspicious persons near the museum or have other information that could lead to the recovery of the treasure.

The Celtic and Roman Museum is photographed in the evening light, in Manching, Germany, on Tuesday, Nov.  22, 2022.

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

Rupert Gebhard, head of the Bavarian State Archeology Museum in Munich, estimated the value of the treasure at around 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million). “The archaeologists hope that the coins remain in their original condition and reappear at some point,” he said, adding that they were well documented and difficult to sell.

“The worst option, the melting, 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 theft is just the latest in a series of muggings that have plagued Germany in recent years.

In November 2019, thieves broke into the Green Vault in Dresden, one of the largest collections of artifacts in Europe. The estimated value of the jewelry stolen in the heist is north of $100 million. Six Germans accused of involvement in the robbery went on trial in January this year.

Prior to 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 have not been able to recover items stolen from either robbery.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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