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'Treasure of the century' returns to southern Turkey

ANTALYA - Doğan News Agency | 10/13/2009 12:00:00 AM |

The Elmalı Coins, which were brought back to Turkey in 1999 after a 15-year struggle, will be exhibited in the Antalya Museum.

The Elmalı Coins that were revealed in Antalya’s Elmalı district in 1984 as a result of unlawful excavations are set to be exhibited at the Antalya Archeology Museum.

The treasure had been smuggled to the United States in 1984 and has been on exhibit in the Ankara Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara since it was returned to Turkey in 1999. The process to get the coins back was hard and challenging, including major legal wars.

Sadık Badak, Antalya deputy for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, led the efforts to bring the Elmalı Coins to Antalya. “The Elmalı treasure will be back where it belongs,” Badak told the Doğan news agency. “We have been making efforts for a couple of years now. The coins should be kept in the region where they were produced and where they were once used.”

The exhibition hall in the Antalya Museum has already been prepared. Officials from Antalya were in Ankara on Wednesday to receive the coins. A cocktail party will be held Oct. 26 to celebrate the arrival of the treasure and to mark the opening of the exhibition.

The Elmalı Coins included the currencies of all the city-states that existed in the region. More than 1,000 of the total 1,900 coins were the currencies of the city-states in the Lycia region and included the coins of dynasties that were not known to date.

The most important reason for calling such coins “the treasure of the century” was that the Greeks issued a memorial coin for defeating the Persians.

These coins were issued at a very restricted amount and until 1984; only 13 of them were known to exist. There were 14 of them in the Elmalı treasure.

The Elmalı treasure illuminated an important unknown part of human history and the number of Decadrachmas, an ancient currency, known to exist doubled.

[HH] Bringing Elmalı Coins back to Anatolia

According to information on the Turkish Culture Ministry’s Web site, as the unlawful excavation had been reported, the persons who made the excavation and attempted to trade the coins were followed, arrested and sentenced to various penalties.

However, there is a decree of arrest in default for three people who fled abroad and traded the treasure to auction companies and private collectors in Europe and the United States.

Ten of the Elmalı Coins were published in the catalog issued by "Numismatic Fine Arts,” an ancient coin auction company in Los Angeles, on March 10, 1988. The coins were presented as "revealed in 1984 in southern Anatolia" in the catalog.

The Turkish government interfered in the auction and terminated the sale of the coins. After Turkish counsels notified the company owner that the 10 coins were smuggled from Turkey, the coins were returned to Turkey without any payment or litigation.

Then on May 26, 1988, three Elmalı Coins were put up for sale by "Bank Leu," an auction company in Zurich. The experience of dealing with the case in Los Angeles was repeated in Zurich and the coins were returned.

In May 1991, when "Thalec," another auction company in Zurich, put up three coins for auction, these were also returned through the same initiatives.

It was determined that approximately 1,800 coins from Bayındır Village were purchased by OKS Partners Co., which included American businessman and collector William Koch.

Koch was requested to return the coins; however, as no positive result was reached, a lawsuit was brought at the U.S. Massachusetts State Court in 1989.

The New York consulate general was authorized to have the Herrick Feinstein Counseling Company, which prosecuted the "Lydia Works" case in the United States, prosecute the above-mentioned case.

All legal struggles were successfully launched against OKS PARTNERS, who were striving not to return Elmalı Coins through four different counseling companies.

It was understood that the defendant kept 1,661 of 1,900 coins smuggled abroad through unlawful means and the others were sold or given as gifts to other persons.

All the information and developments about Elmalı Coins were negotiated in a Cabinet meeting held Feb. 16, 1998, and the Culture Ministry was authorized to attempt to take the Elmalı Coins back through compromise.

As a result of intense negotiations and attempts carried out throughout 1998, a point of agreement was reached with the parties withholding Elmalı Coins, and the agreement was signed by all the parties Feb. 1, 1999.

The interests of Turkey were well protected in the contract prepared by the counseling company that prosecuted the case on Turkey’s behalf for taking the coins back through compromise and signed by the parties.

The American businessman William I. Koch, who returned the coins to Turkey in good condition as a result of the agreement, was presented a badge in a ceremony held at the Turkish Embassy in Washington in 1998 for his good conduct.

The Elmalı Coins were taken by then Culture Minister İstemihan Talay on April 28, 1999 and were delivered to the Anatolian Civilizations museum the next day.

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