Len Augsburger passed along this New York Times article about the return of a rare quarter-shekel piece to Israel. David Hendin and Sam Spiegel are quoted. Thanks also to Aaron Oppenheim and Pablo Hoffman for other links to the story.
American investigators returned a rare silver coin to Israel on Monday that they say was minted as a marker of independence during the Great Revolt against Roman oppression of A.D. 66-73 and centuries later was looted from an archaeological site in the Valley of Elah.
The coin was seized in 2017 when collectors tried to sell it at an auction in Denver, where it was listed as having an estimated value between $500,000 and $1 million. But it did not clear the legal hurdles to be returned to Israel until this summer.
Experts say the coin, a quarter-shekel piece featuring palm branches and a wreath and dated to A.D. 69, is among the rarest coins remaining from the bloody Jewish uprising against imperial Rome. The Roman response included the sacking and burning of the Temple Mount in A.D. 70 and, in A.D. 73, the demise of the last Jewish holdouts at Masada.
Ilan Hadad, a numismatics investigator and archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, called the coin
a national treasure that
has strong religious and political symbolism to Jews and Christians around the world.
Coins like this were a very in-your-face declaration of independence by the lands of Israel, he said.
They made them by scratching out the images of emperors on Roman silver coins and restamping them.
The recovery of the coin, which was said to have been illegally excavated in 2002, came after years of searches in multiple countries that began with a tip from an informant in the West Bank and led to inquiries in Jordan and England as investigators tracked its whereabouts, Mr. Hadad said. It was returned to the Israeli consul general in a ceremony in New York at the Manhattan district attorney's office.
The recovered coin was described as one of four known quarter-shekel coins minted in the fourth year of the revolt. A second has been in the British Museum since the 1930s. The recovered coin and two others surfaced only recently during what Israeli authorities described as looting that took place in the Elah Valley area, the biblical site of the battle between David and Goliath. The location of the two others is unknown, but they are believed to be in private collections.
The trail of the coin ultimately led investigators to Denver, where it was listed for sale by Heritage Auctions in 2017. Agents with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations seized the coin while the sale was underway, Mr. Hadad said, but it would be several years before investigators were able to produce clear evidence it had been stolen, officials said.
In an email, Sam Spiegel, director of International Numismatics at Heritage Auctions, said his company had relied on the representation of a client in London who said he had inherited the coin from his father. Mr. Spiegel said the client had signed an agreement affirming he had clear title to the coin and that the auction house had been granted a British export license that allowed the coin to be brought to the United States.
Shortly before the auction was to begin, Mr. Spiegel said,
Homeland Security contacted us about the coin, and we fully cooperated by turning it over and supplying them with all the requested information.
David Hendin, an honorary curator for the American Numismatic Society and expert on Judaic coins who authenticated the quarter shekel for investigators, said many of the coins from the revolt were imprinted with patriotic slogans emphasizing independence like
shekel of Israel or
Jerusalem the Holy. This quarter shekel, he noted, however, carries only a simple design of three palm branches on the front, known as the obverse, and the number four in Hebrew script surrounded by a wreath on the reverse, marking the fourth year of the revolt.
To read the complete articles, see:
U.S. Returns Rare Coin Minted by Jews During Rebellion From Rome
Rare, stolen 2,000-year-old silver coin returned to Israeli authorities in US
Wayne Homren, Editor
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