Friday, June 17, 2022

Coins stolen from the Naples museum in 1977 are still missing

On the night of 20-21 February, 1977 at least 6000 ancient coins were stolen from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy.

Not all of the coins had been photographed, but the best 10% were. The International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) published these in a special bulletin. That publication, Coins Stolen from the National Archaeological Museum, by Jean-Paul Divo (1937-2014), is rare.

A brief UPI story (no byline) from December 1980 says that authorities recovered US$40,000,000 of “ancient Roman coins, jewelry and artifacts” including a rare coin of Augustus worth $1.3 million alone.

It's unclear how many coins were recovered. The recovery included the Naples museum coins as well as coins stolen from the Antiquarium Museum at Pompeii in 1975. The UPI brief mentions 71 recovered coins.

Although the UPI claimed a single recovered coin of Augustus was worth US$1,300,000, I am uncertain what that coin could be. Only one Roman Imperial coin has sold for over a million dollars. The coin was a sestertius of Hadrian engraved by the Alphaeus Master that sold for $2.5 millionin 2008. A million-dollar Roman coin value in 1980 seems unlikely.

(A brief AP story on the Pompeii robbery (also no byline) says that robbery included “a large number of gold and silver jewels and coins”.)

UPI said in 1980 that five men had been arrested, including one who once worked as a watchman in the museum. The accused were not named and I could not find a follow-up story on any conviction or sentencing.

Jean-Paul Divo's catalog of the stolen coins is very rare today. I've only seen it offered twice; once in a group lot in Rick Witschonke's library sale, and another copy was sold on VCoins by ANE for $75.

If anyone knows what happened to the five suspects please let me know.

I hope that one day Divo's catalog will be reprinted, or that the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, IAPN, or Divo estate make a list of the missing coins available online. A single coin that matched one of the stolen pieces could provide valuable clues as to where the rest of the loot ended up.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Digital Numismatics roundtable next week at FLAME conference

Next weekend, Friday-Sunday, is the FLAME Conference at Princeton university. The conference is both in-person and virtual. Sunday will feature a panel on "digital numismatics" with Ethan Gruber (ANS), Dr. David Wigg-Wolf (German Archaeological Institute), Mark Pyzyk (Princeton University), and Pavle Jovanov (FLAME freelancer at Princeton). For more infor on FLAME see

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Index to

Sunday, January 02, 2022

rNumis digital library expands has been steadily adding digital auction catalogs for several years. As of January 2, they have a database of 4565 catalogs, 1579 of which include links to digital versions of the catalog.

The site also includes a proof-of-concept provenance research tool for Greek coins of Italy and Sicily. There is no full-text search but the coins of each Greek city can be filtered by weight and metal. Best: if a coin has multiple auction apperances, such as this Akragas tetradrachm, the full auction chain is displayed.

As always, the site contines to offer numismatic literature for sale.

This site is an important resource to numismatic researchers. Merely by curating links to online coin catalogs on file sharing sites such as and research library archives such as HEIDI the site saves time by making it easy to learn if a particular catalog is online.

Even when I own a physical copy of a catalog, I find it easier to use digitized ones. My physical libary is mostly either mis-filed or in boxes in my attic! Digital copies save a very dusty trip.

The provenance tool is an interesting start. I have not used it much. The tool includes photos and metadata about 4926 ancient Greek coins of Italy and Sicily, scraped from public-domain auction catalogs. The concept is similar to the the important but sadly obscure photo-file of the American Numismatic Society. The ANS effort, which took decades of work, covers 268,000 coins. rNumis currently has only 2% of that scope. Yet that is 2% is online and growing.

I have been building a library of numismatic auction catalogs covering my areas of interest for many years. Due to limited shelf space I don't acquire catalogs that are already online in At this point rNumis is good enough that I will no longer be buying catalogs if rNumis can reveal a digital copy.

I encourage numismatic researchers to check out the site. The operator is friendly and seems to be open to suggestions. Don't miss the catalog sale section for enlarging your own literature collection.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Ancient coin NFTs

D.F. Grotjohann, who has a VCoins store until about 2010, is now selling ancient coin NFTs at

He has 13 ancient coins listed as well as two samurai cartoons. One of the coins is a nice looking Alexander Octodrachm. The price is 3.5. The currency of that price is Ethereum, which works out to US$15,532.

The buyer receives the ancient coin in addition to the digital rights.

Press release on here.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Currency Counterfeiting in Peru

National Geographic gives a detailed look at how currency counterfeiting is done in the underworld of Lima, Peru. Mariana van Zeller interviews a convicted printer, visits a currently operating printer and as well as a finisher. A money mule explains how to sneaks cash into the US.

You can watch the complete 47 minute episode on or on Hulu.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Miracle headache cure

Here are two auction sales. (Not eBay.)

The upper coin sold for about $300+fees. The lower coin sold for about $600+fees. I do not have access to the coins, I merely stumbled across the photos online.

My first impression was that I was looking at two different coins. At least one of the coins is a modern cast forgery.

Several people suggested that it was more likely that both pictures show the same coin, before and after a 'repair'.

I am curious what my readers think. In the comments, tell me if you think these are one or two coins, genuine or fake, repaired or not. I can tell you that the reported weights are within 0.3%.