Sep 13, 2022
By Jeremy Logan
Nearly two decades after it was looted, smuggled, and auctioned in the United States, American authorities have returned a rare, 2,000-year-old Jewish coin to Israel.
The deal was announced on Tuesday by both Israel’s antiquities authority and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
The quarter shekel, struck in 1969, is one of only two known to exist.
It was minted during the fourth year of the First Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire.
The dime-sized relic, valued at around $1 million, appeared for sale at a coin show inside the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver in 2017.
According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the Israeli Antiquities Authority learned in 2002 that the shekel had been looted in the Ella Valley, a long, shallow swath of land outside Jerusalem thought to be the site of the famous David-versus-Goliath battle.
The shekel circulated in the illicit antiquities market for the next two decades, until it was smuggled from Israel to Jordan – and then to London, according to investigators.
Authorities said that in 2017, an unidentified person used false provenance papers to export the prized object to the United States, where it was auctioned off at Heritage Auctions’ World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction in Denver.
The artifact was presented to Israeli officials in a ceremony in New York before being flown to Israel.