Bulgarian Customs finds coin hoard smuggled in routers

The Bulgarian Customs Agency discovered a hoard of 82 coins from the reign of King Philip II of Macedon smuggled inside three routers at Sofia International Airport. The coins were taped to the routers’ circuit boards. The routers were put in a box destined for the United States via courier, but officials from the Customs Intelligence and Investigation department at the Sofia Airport Customs House were able to seize the parcel just before it was smuggled out of the country.

The 82 silver tetradrachms date to the 4th century B.C. and experts believe they are all part of a single find. Minted between 359 and 336 B.C., some of the coins bear the idealized profile of King Philip on the obverse. Each of the 82 tetradrachms is considered of “extraordinary cultural, financial and scientific value” according to Bulgaria’s Law on Cultural Heritage.

It’s not clear whether the coins were unearthed in Bulgaria or whether they were just passing through Sofia. Sections of modern Bulgaria were part of the Macedonian Empire under Philip, and in any case there was extensive trade throughout the region so the coins could easily have been illegally excavated in Bulgaria. The country is plagued by looters who feed artifacts into organized crime networks that then sell the loot on the black market, finding infinitely creative ways to smuggle it out of the country, like inside routers, for example. Authorities estimate antiquities smuggling brings in 260 million euros ($293,000,000) a year, the second most lucrative endeavor for the Bulgarian mob after the traffic in drugs.

Little more information is forthcoming since Customs is continuing to investigate the case of the 82 silver tetradrachms. It seems to me they must have known to check that particular box, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were tipped off or if this was part of a larger investigation.


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5 Comments »

Comment by Lauriana
2015-06-18 15:50:12

Wow, what a strange find!
It’s good they found this, smuggling antiquities destroys the chance of learning about the country’s history. After all, the studies of history and archeology would have been able to learn so much more from these coins if they could have been studied where they were found…

 
Comment by Barry Murphy
2015-06-18 17:44:05

Very little to learn from this “hoard”. They are all modern forgeries. Someone will have egg on their face.

 
Comment by Annie Delyth
2015-06-22 16:11:43

Oh, *that* kind of router…

 
Comment by LS
2015-06-22 23:21:33

What is the basis for your claim of them being forgeries, Barry?

 
Comment by Barry Murphy
2015-06-22 23:46:46

I’ve seen and handled 100’s of authentic Philip II 1/5 tetradrachms over the last 25 years. They aren’t rare. These are not on proper flans for the issue, the reverse should be more concave then they are. The patina appears to be a common fake patina seen on forgeries from Bulgaria, it’s not a natural encrustation or dirt but an applied patina. The luster is wrong on the coins, they are too satiny in appearance for EF coins. These are almost certainly pressed forgeries, not struck.

There have been several small groups of fake Philip II’s that I’ve seen over the last few years and they were all similar in appearance to these. Probably all from the same manufacturer.

 
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