Minted in AD 69, the “exceedingly rare” quarter shekel is estimated to be worth over $1 million, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which hosted a repatriation ceremony in New York on Monday.
An image of the coin released by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Credit: Miri Bar/Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The kingdom of Judaea fell under Roman control in AD 6, though resistance to imperial rule led to a series of revolts known as Jewish-Roman Wars. The coin dates to the fourth year of the First Jewish Revolt, also known as the Great Jewish Revolt, which began in AD 66.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said the coin had been “looted and smuggled through several countries and sold with false provenance to unwitting buyers.” Credit: AP
The Romans had allowed certain local coins to be minted and circulated in parts of their empire, including Judaea. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said rebel leaders struck “Jewish motifs” over imperial coins, thus covering the emperor’s face. An IAA press release described this act as “a declaration of independence by the Jews in the land of Israel, a statement against the mighty empire that stood before them.”
The IAA said it is only aware of one other similar quarter shekel — a coin acquired by the British Museum in the 1930s. It believes there are “about three” others circulating on the black market.
The coin’s repatriation ceremony was attended by several senior Israeli officials, including the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan. In a statement, IAA director Eli Eskosido described the item’s return as “the beginning of a very positive and important trend for the restoration of cultural heritage assets.”