photo of Greek coins on tiny easels. Courtesy HSI

 SAN FRANCISCO – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated 10 Greek coins to the Government of Greece, Tuesday, during a reception at the San Francisco Greek Consulate.

The 10 coins were allegedly smuggled out of various Aegean islands such as the Island of Samos. The island of Samos is not covered by modern structures and has a lot of open, unprotected fields. These unexcavated archaeological sites are subject to the illegal use of metal detectors by collectors who remove artifacts, such as coins, for unlawful sale and profit.

In late August 2016, HSI detained a FedEx package with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the FedEx facility in Memphis, Tennessee. The shipment originated from a Munich-based, online coin dealer with previous violations for selling suspicious antiquities. This shipment contained five coins.

According an analysis of data collected by the Customs and Border Protection Laboratory in San Francisco, the coins were determined to be authentic Ancient Greek artifacts.

In September 2016, Keller interviewed the buyer of the intercepted package. During this interview, the buyer informed Keller that he made a purchase from the same seller a few months earlier for five other coins. Subsequently, the previously purchased coins were also evaluated and found to be Greek artifacts.

All 10 coins are estimated to be dated as early as 600 BCE and were minted in various locations throughout the Aegean Islands.

According to Greek Cultural Heritage Law, artifacts in the ground within Greece are the property of the Government of Greece and are not allowed to be removed for reasons other than Archaeological study. The lack of provenance documents and the low price of the coins were facts that supported the assessment that the coins were smuggled out of Greece.

In July 2011, The U.S. and Greece entered in to a Bilateral Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with Greece to restrict the importation of carious cultural property from the Upper Paleolithic Period (approximately 2,000 B.C) through the 15th century A.D.

On May 10, 2019, the Office of International Trade-Regulations Rulings issued a decision to transfer the forfeited coins to HSI for the purpose of repatriation to the Government of Greece.