A collection of ancient coins dating back to 500 B.C. are being returned to Greece after the New York prosecution of a prominent collector from Rhode Island.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and Greek officials scheduled a ceremony today in New York marking the repatriation of the coins.
The coins were part of a case against noted Rhode Island hand surgeon and coin aficionado Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss, whose January 2012 arrest during a coin auction at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel roiled the numismatic world.
An orthopedics professor at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School and author of a hand-surgery textbook, Weiss also had been on a coin collector and investor for 35 years and had served as on the board of the American Numismatic Society.
He later pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of stolen property. Those charges involved three coins he thought were fourth century B.C. Greek pieces that had been illegally taken from Italy, but were actually forgeries, prosecutors said.
Weiss was aiming to sell one of them for about $350,000 and two others for about $1.2 million apiece, prosecutors said.
Weiss also forfeited his interest in about 20 other coins as part of his plea agreement, which also required him to do 70 hours of community service and write an article about the problem of trading in coins of uncertain origin.
His prosecution furthered a series of court cases and disputes over collecting and trading in objects that Italy and other countries consider looted pieces of their cultural patrimony.
Institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles have agreed to return various items to Italy.
A former Getty assistant curator was criminally prosecuted in Rome, but the trial ended in 2010 with a judge saying the statute of limitations had expired.
Other countries, including Turkey and Greece, also have taken action in recent years to reclaim antiquities.
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