After receiving a tip-off, police in Sparta southern Greece staged a 'sting' operation on Thursday to capture a Bulgarian who was reportedly attempting to sell ancient coins smuggled into the country. The man had offered six of these items for 60 000 Euros in cash. An undercover police officer pretended to be a buyer interested in purchasing the coins and a meeting was arranged. The would-be coin dealer turned up at the meeting with the coins and accompanied by two other Bulgarian nationals. The three men were arrested and the coins confiscated for examination by the Greek antiquity services. Preliminary reports indicate that far from the extremely valuable numismata which the three men claimed they possess, the six items seized were rather mundane in numismatic terms:
two made of copper dated back to the Byzantine era (approximately 4th century A.D.), two dated back to the Late Roman period (3rd century A.D.), a copper coin dated back to the Roman period and another copper one, possibly Turkish, dated back to 1600 A.D.).ANA/MPA, 'Antiquity smugglers arrested in Sparta', Athens News 16 Dec 2010.
There are two points of interest; firstly the six coins offered (pictured above from the Athens news article) are worth far, far less than 60 000 Euros. If the news reports have not confused the story of this transaction, it would seem that the seller here was grossly uninformed about what he was selling, or a coiney con-artist. Secondly many ancient artefacts are smuggled out of Bulgaria without the police receiving 'tip-offs'. Who informed the Greek police off about the activities of this man? Was the information received from a Greek or Bulgarian source? Were the activities of this amateurish group seen as damaging the business interests of an existing network of smugglers and dealers?
Photo: Coins seized (ANA-MPA Athens News)