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

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

The 483 coins were first found in 1999 at the ancient Celtic settlement known as the Oppidum of Manching. Archaeologists quickly realized just how sensational the find was: the coins represent the largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century. The hoard is also the subject of ongoing scholarly 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 avoid raising the alarm, the burglars cut telecommunications cables which caused internet and telephone outages throughout Manching.

The robbery reportedly lasted only 9 minutes.

“The museum is actually a high-security location. But all connections with the police have been severed,” Manching mayor Herbert Nerb explained to the Bavarian newspaper. “Pros were at work here.”

Police are looking for witnesses who may have seen suspicious people near 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, on Tuesday Nov. 22, 2022.

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

Rupert Gebhard, who heads the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, estimated the treasure’s value at about 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million). “Archaeologists are hoping the coins will remain in their original state and reappear again at some point,” he said, adding that they are well documented and would be difficult to sell.

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

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The Manching theft is just the latest in a string of museum thefts that have plagued Germany in recent years.

In November 2019, thieves broke into the Green Vault in Dresden, one of the largest collections of treasures in Europe. The estimated value of the jewels stolen during that robbery exceeds $100 million. Six Germans accused of involvement in the robbery went on trial in January this year.

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

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Authorities were unable to recover the stolen items from either robbery.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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