Sunday, February 26, 2006

Databases of stolen coins

I'm still upset about the 11,000 coins stolen from the Veliko Tarnovo museum. I don't want to accidently buy one of these coins!

I did a web search for information on protecting myself against the purchase of stolen coins.

Collectors can verify they aren't buying reported stolen goods by checking against databases of stolen art. Unfortunately, it seems difficult to use these database.

The most famous theft database is the Art Lost Register.

To search Art Loss's 120,000 item database requires registration (free) and $75 *per search*. The search takes one business day, and the searcher gets a certificate to prove the search was tried. (The certificate proves a buyer did "due diligence" if the item ends up in court).

The $75 fee might be a bargain if purchasing a $20,000 painting.

I signed up for an Art Loss Register account and clicked the box to be notified of coin thefts. I'm curious to know how many of the 120,000 stolen works in the database are coins.

There are other stolen art lists. The FBI's Art Theft Program [ ] keeps a database, the National Stolen Art File, which lists stolen artworks with value $2,000 or more. Coins are included in the file, but I don't know how many. Searches can only be done as part of the investigation of a crime. The web site directs visitors to their local FBI field office.

Interpol keeps their own database. This database is part of the UNIDROIT convention! It lists 28,000 items. The most recent 306 are available online. Of the 306, six stolen items are ancient coins and another 13 are Islamic coins. The ancient coins are:

The full database is not viewable online. A CD ROM is available for 80 euros or 480 euros for a year's subscription. The General Secretariat of Interpol must approve the order.

The Veliko Tarnovo theft isn't yet listed on Interpol's web site. The most recent report there is a week older, the successful recovery of Cellini's "Salt Cellar".

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

11,000 ancient coins stolen from Bulgarian museum

The Veliko Tarnovo museum was robbed Thursday, February 2nd. 11,000 ancient coins were stolen, including 230 gold coins.

The best report comes from

"The brazen robbery took place on Thursday night,
police sources announced. The thieves acted like
in a crime thriller -- they eliminated three alarm
systems and unlocked two doors before breaking
into the museum safety-vault.

"The most valuable archaeological collections are
kept there. Two safes, size of a wardrobe, were
broken open and robbed. For now, only one thing is
clear -- fortunately the thieves haven't touched
the gold treasures of Hotnitsa and Golemany. 'The
ring of Tsar Kaloyan is not among the stolen items,
too,' director of the museum Hristo Haritonov said.
Experts are counting the ancient gold coins one by
one to find out what's missing. Yesterday, all the
collections dating back from the Middle Ages and the
period of Bulgarian Revival were checked up.
Obviously the thieves were not interested in them. said the coins include 75 Philip and Alexander tetradrachms, 4000 Roman denarii, and 17th century jewelry from Arbanasi. The weight of the stolen jewelry is estimated at 100kg. "Police official commented that the robbery was very well planned and that insiders might have helped the robbers."

Perhaps the coins will show up on eBay or at coin shows? quoted museum officials promising a list of the missing artifacts ready on Monday Feb 6th, but if this list was prepared it hasn't been posted on the Internet.

The museum's web site is