Thieves steal €1.6 million worth of gold coins from German museum in a daring nine-minute heist

Thieves have stolen €1.6 million worth of gold coins from a German museum
Thieves have stolen €1.6 million worth of gold coins from a German museum   -   Copyright  AFP
By Theo Farrant  & AP

A huge horde of ancient gold coins dating back to around 100 B.C. has been stolen from a museum in southern Germany. 

Bavarian state police said it was stolen early Tuesday from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Munich.

The 483 coins were discovered in 1999 during excavations of an ancient settlement in Manchning and are considered the biggest trove of Celtic gold found in the 20th century.

“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a disaster,” it quoted Bavaria's Minister of Science and Arts, Markus Blume, saying. “As a testament to our history, the gold coins are irreplaceable.”

Officials suspect organised crime was behind the theft of the coins, which have an estimated market value of €1.6 million ($1.66 million).

"There is definitely a market for such coins," explains Dr. Rupert Gebhard, Director of Archaeological State Collection.

"For these coins, that is €3000 to €4000 per piece, so that one comes to a total trade price of €1.6 million."

A nine-minute heist

Christof Stache/AFP
A broken window at the Celtic and Roman museum in Manching, southern GermanyChristof Stache/AFP
Christof Stache/AFP
Exterior view shows the Celtic and Roman museum in ManchingChristof Stache/AFP

It took thieves just nine-minutes to break into the museum and steal the ancient coins. 

Just before the break-in, nearby internet cables were cut causing widespread outages and it's suspected the thieves also sabotaged the museum's alarm system. It was only the next morning when the museum's employees discovered shattered glass and the coins stolen from their displays. 

German police have said they are examining links between this recent theft and other spectacular heists from the country's museums. 

"Of course, we are also in contact with our colleagues in Berlin and Dresden. You will have noticed that there are possible parallels to the art theft in the Green Vault - there the jewels - and also in the Bode Museum, the large gold coin the 'Big Maple Leaf'", said Guido Limmer, the Vice President of Swabia's police department. 

"We cannot say whether there are any connections. But we are in contact with our colleagues," he added. 

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

Video editor • Theo Farrant