lavacoins

Interpol poster

Time to check your pockets and spare change jars.

International authorities are warning antique dealers and collectors to be on the lookout for ancient Roman coins looted from a French undersea heritage site.

Some 450 rare Lava coins recently popped up in U.S. and European markets (apparently antique markets, not Wal-Mart cash registers). In December, Interpol issued an alert, asking collectors to check suspicious coins against its stolen art database.

The Lava coins aren’t actually molten rock. Made of gold and minted around 300 A.D., the coins get their name from the Gulf of Lava off the Corsican coast where they were found. Their resurfacing in the antiquities market is just the latest chapter in an odd tale that goes back about 25 years.

In the 1980s, a group of Corsicans discovered the trove while diving for sea urchins. They sold the coins, claiming they received them as part of an inheritance, according to a Reuters news piece.

The French government claimed the treasure (the island of Corsica is a French “region” in the Mediterranean half way to Italy), and it wasn’t interested in paying a finders fee, probably because the divers had already raked in a small fortune selling the treasure.


France has been working to recover the artifacts, finding some $3 million worth, including a gold plate seized during an alleged transaction in Belgium last year, Reuters reported. Eight people were prosecuted in connection with the coins.

Here is a PDF file that you can use to make your own Lava Coin poster, suitable for framing. Read it and check your change to keep Interpol off your back.

For more in missing art, check out Interpol’s website