Last month, the American Numismatic Society (ANS) welcomed Martin Hochleitner, director and CEO of Austria’s Salzburg Museum; Georg Heindl, consul general of the Austrian Consulate; and Peter Lecheuaŭer, an attorney representing the Salzburg Museum, to New York for the repatriation of a group of 94 coins stolen from the Salzburger Museum Carolino-Augusteum in 1945.
The coins were turned over to Hochleitner and Lechenauer by Kenneth Edlow, chair of the ANS board of trustees, and Ute Wartenberg, ANS executive director, on May 26.
“We are delighted that these interesting coins will be returned to the museum where they belong and where people will view and study them,” said Wartenberg. “I am also so grateful to the late Chet Krause for his extraordinary initiative in trying to preserve Austrian heritage. A case like this one illustrates that even today museums in the U.S. should be acting perhaps as safe havens for looted objects and be more proactive in acquiring looted objects with the specific purpose to eventually repatriate them.”
MORE THAN 20 YEARS IN THE MAKING
The coins came to the ANS in 1995, after the society’s late benefactor Chester L. Krause, of Iola, Wisc., brought them to the attention of the curators. He donated the funds necessary for the ANS to purchase the group of 94 coins, allowing them to someday be returned to their rightful owner rather than be dispersed on the market.
On June 3, 1963, Krause – a publisher – officially launched Volume 1 No. 1 of Canada Coin News, as it was then known.
“He was likely better known as the founder of Numismatic News and for his hobby publishing empire, Krause Publications; but without Krause’s efforts in creating CCN, who knows what state Canadian numismatics might be in today. For this reason, Canadian numismatists owe him a debt of gratitude,” wrote CCN columnist Jeff Fournier in an obituary published following Krause’s death on June 21, 2016.
In the last year of the Second World War, the coins from the Salzburger Museum Carolino-Augusteum were moved to underground storage for protection. After the end of the war, U.S. occupation officials took custody of the coins. When the coins were returned to the museum in 1946, more than 2,000 pieces were missing.
After the ANS acquired the group of 94 coins in 1995, curators began investigating whether they could have been among the coins stolen in 1945-46. According to their research, “a few coins” can be matched with earlier photographs, and many others, which have inventory numbers written in ink on the surface of the coin, with an “old card file in the Salzburg Museum bearing similar numbers.”
“This work has demonstrated that the group of coins can in fact be identified as a small but valuable portion of the coins stolen over 70 years ago,” reads a press release issued by the ANS last month.
IMPORTANT BODY OF MATERIAL
“These coins represent an important body of material for the study of the history of Salzburg and Austria.”
- a gold florin of Archbishop Pilgrim II of Salzburg (1365-1396);
- a silver pfennig of the same archbishop, a silver pfennig of Archbishop Hartwig of Salzburg (991-1023); and
- a Bohemian groschen of the years around 1400 that was counter-stamped for validation by three different cities, Nördlingen, Ulm, and Salzburg.
“The ANS is pleased to have assisted with their return home.”
For more information and photos of some of the coins, visit the ANS blog Pocket Change.