The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 33, August 10, 2014, Article 23


Almost as big this week as the Gold Kennedy story was the return of some ancient coins to Greece this week. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal. -Editor

Five ancient coins were returned to the Greek government Monday after a prominent collector from Rhode Island was prosecuted in a New York case that roiled the numismatic world.

Dating as far back as 515 B.C., the silver coins will be displayed for public view and research at the Numismatic Museum of Athens, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and Greek announced at a ceremony marking the repatriation of coins dating to 500 B.C.

"The coins being returned to us by the New York County district attorney are exquisite ancient artifacts that reflect Greece's culture, history and enduring strength," said Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos. "Back home, where they belong, they will be displayed — with the gratitude of the Greek people to the DA — for all to admire, our citizens and visitors to Greece alike."

The pieces include two types of ancient Greek currency — staters and a didracham, or two-drachma coin — bearing images that include gods and other mythological figures.

They "will be of greater public benefit in an open place of study and scholarship than locked away in a safe," Vance said.

The coins were part of a case against hand surgeon and coin aficionado Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss, whose January 2012 arrest during a coin auction at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

An orthopedics professor at Brown University's Alpert Medical School and author of a hand-surgery textbook, Weiss also had been on a coin collector and investor for 35 years and had served as on the board of the American Numismatic Society.

He later pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of stolen property. Those charges involved three coins he thought were fourth century B.C. Greek pieces that had been illegally taken from Italy — but were actually forgeries, prosecutors said. Weiss was aiming to sell one of them for about $350,000 and two others for about $1.2 million apiece, prosecutors said.

As part of his plea agreement, Weiss also forfeited about 20 other coins, including the authentic pieces headed back to Greece. Two of the coins have been returned to a previous owner, and the rest are to be given to cultural and academic institutions, prosecutors said.

To read the complete article, see: US officials return ancient coins to Greeks (

Dick Hanscom and heather Schena forwarded this article from the Daily Mail: Ancient coins from 500 B.C. will be returned to Greece after being found during New York auction (

Pablo Hoffman forwarded a New York Times article. He writes:

I think the case is an important milestone, referencing both counterfeiting and looting. Referring to US dealers' expectations of legal impunity while often handling items with doubtful provenance, the quote from Ute Wartenberg, Executive Director of the ANS is cautionary: ". . . there was nothing particularly unusual about it."

Coins returned to greece Five ancient Greek coins that had nearly been sold at auction at the Waldorf-Astoria were returned on Monday to the Greek government, ending an unusual prosecution that roiled the coin-collecting world and led to the conviction of a prominent surgeon.

The coins were among 20 rare pieces from the ancient world that the surgeon, Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss, tried to sell at the Waldorf-Astoria on Jan. 3, 2012.

One of the buyers who approached Dr. Weiss was an informant, who caught him on tape saying he knew that one of the coins he was selling had been recently looted from Sicily.

“There’s no paperwork,” the doctor said, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. “I know this is a fresh coin; this was dug up a few years ago.”

The case never went to trial, but Dr. Weiss’s arrest sent chills through the numismatic world, where state charges for possession of stolen property are extremely rare. In years past, American dealers caught with ancient coins dug up in the modern era of strong patrimony laws in countries like Greece and Italy usually faced civil suits in federal court.

At worse, they risked being forced to forfeit the artifacts to the United States government, which in most cases returned them to the source countries without pursuing criminal charges, experts on cultural property law said. As a result, some dealers were willing to market coins with spotty paperwork and murky histories.

“You could almost call it a landmark case — he did something that was suddenly seen as criminal,” said Ute Wartenberg, the executive director of the American Numismatic Society. “This was like something that could have happened to a whole bunch of people; there was nothing particularly unusual about it.”

To read the complete article, see: Ancient Coins Returned to Greece, Ending U.S. Ordeal (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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