The “Alien” Coin

In October 2016, several British tabloids published a photograph of a silver coin of uncertain size with a Greek inscription. The coin portrait depicts a gaunt draped bust resembling a so-called “Grey alien”. Grey aliens are extraterrestrial humanoids associated with contemporary UFO mythology.

The source of the image is credited to the UFO web site mysteriousearth.net, where discovery of the coin is ascribed to a “group of people who worked on the renovation of a house in southern Egypt”

It is clearly a hoax. The lack of any attribution (weight, dimensions, date, image of the reverse, etc.) raises the level of suspicion to an astronomical level.

My first impression is that this was a real coin or medallion extensively tooled in order to turn the portrait of a ruler or deity into the likeness of an alien – like an elaborate “hobo nickel”[4]. Hobo nickels are American five-cent pieces that have been carved and tooled, often with great skill, into novel or startling forms. The craft became popular during the Great Depression (1929 – 1939) among “hobos”, (homeless itinerant workers who had a lot of time on their hands).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9nIzM9n5Bk

The Plot Thickens

Why would anyone create such a fantasy coin? My first thought was that the object was a deliberate forgery intended to deceive gullible collectors, but on reflection it became clear that no serious collector would be taken in by such an obviously tooled fake. Could it have been the creation of UFO enthusiasts, attempting to fabricate evidence for “Ancient Astronaut” theories?

A little research revealed that it’s not even a real artifact, but a heavily retouched (“photoshopped”) image of an actual Roman medallion in the famous collection of the Cabinet de Médailles in Paris. The hoax was uncovered by computer scientist Ralf Bülow[5], as credited by author Jason Colavito on his web site[6].


American Numismatic Society purchased the coins with aim of tracing original owner

Ninety-four coins stolen in 1945 will be returned to the Salzburg Museum at a ceremony in New York tomorrow (May 26), more than 70 years after they were hidden for safekeeping in an Austrian salt mine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s3yDWxbds4

The American Numismatic Society bought the coins in 1995 thanks to a donation from Chester L. Krause, a benefactor who suspected they were looted from Austria after the Second World War and wanted to save them from being dispersed on the market and lost.

After purchasing the coins, the ANS began making inquiries in Austria to trace the legitimate owner. Inventory numbers written in ink on the surface of the coins—a practise common in the 19th century—matched with an old card file in the Salzburg Museum.

“These coins were rather rare, which helped with the identification,” says Ute Wartenberg Kagan, the executive director of the American Numismatic Society. “We are delighted they will be returned to the museum where they belong.”

historic coins return to Salzburg Museum

historic coins return to Salzburg Museum

Towards the end of the Second World War, around 4,000 historic coins were removed from what was then called the Salzburger Museum Carolino-Augusteum, packed in a chest and stashed in a salt mine in nearby Hallein. In May 1945, in the chaotic aftermath of the war, rumours of plunder in Hallein circulated. In June 1945, US military authorities took custody of the coins.

But when the Monuments Men returned the coin hoard to the museum in 1946, around 2,600 pieces were missing. Some were recovered from private individuals including US military personnel in the years after the war, but in 1955, almost 2,500 had still not resurfaced.

The 94 coins to be returned to Salzburg tomorrow were in the possession of a man in the US who probably acquired them in Austria. He was unwilling to relinquish them without compensation, prompting Krause to offer to finance the ANS purchase.

Salzburg’s mint was one of the most important in medieval Europe and originated from a special dispensation to Archbishop Hartwig granted by the German Emperor Otto III in 996. One of the coins to be returned is a silver pfennig minted in the Archbishop’s reign. Another is a 14th-century gold florin of Archbishop Pilgrim II of Salzburg, the city’s first gold coin.

For Wartenberg Kagan, the case “illustrates that even today museums in the US should be acting as safe havens for looted objects. We think museums should go to auctions and acquire items to repatriate them,” she says.

The American Numismatic Society bought the coins in 1995 thanks to a donation from Chester L. Krause, a benefactor who suspected they were looted from Austria after the Second World War and wanted to save them from being dispersed on the market and lost.

After purchasing the coins, the ANS began making inquiries in Austria to trace the legitimate owner. Inventory numbers written in ink on the surface of the coins—a practise common in the 19th century—matched with an old card file in the Salzburg Museum.

“These coins were rather rare, which helped with the identification,” says Ute Wartenberg Kagan, the executive director of the American Numismatic Society. “We are delighted they will be returned to the museum where they belong.”

Towards the end of the Second World War, around 4,000 historic coins were removed from what was then called the Salzburger Museum Carolino-Augusteum, packed in a chest and stashed in a salt mine in nearby Hallein. In May 1945, in the chaotic aftermath of the war, rumours of plunder in Hallein circulated. In June 1945, US military authorities took custody of the coins.

But when the Monuments Men returned the coin hoard to the museum in 1946, around 2,600 pieces were missing. Some were recovered from private individuals including US military personnel in the years after the war, but in 1955, almost 2,500 had still not resurfaced.

The 94 coins to be returned to Salzburg tomorrow were in the possession of a man in the US who probably acquired them in Austria. He was unwilling to relinquish them without compensation, prompting Krause to offer to finance the ANS purchase.

Salzburg’s mint was one of the most important in medieval Europe and originated from a special dispensation to Archbishop Hartwig granted by the German Emperor Otto III in 996. One of the coins to be returned is a silver pfennig minted in the Archbishop’s reign. Another is a 14th-century gold florin of Archbishop Pilgrim II of Salzburg, the city’s first gold coin.

For Wartenberg Kagan, the case “illustrates that even today museums in the US should be acting as safe havens for looted objects. We think museums should go to auctions and acquire items to repatriate them,” she says.