"Treasure of the Century"
History of Elmalı Coins
After the invasion of Greece by the Persians in the 5th century BC, a union consisting of the cities around the Mediterranean was established under the leadership of Athens City-State (the Atik-Delos Naval Unit). The union had a headquarters and a budget. Every country was contributing to it in proportion to its power with the silver coins that it issued.
Elmalı Coins, the treasure of the century, that were revealed in Elmalı Town of Antalya in 1984 as a result of unlawful excavations, included the currencies of all the city-states that existed in that region. Over one thousand of about 1900 coins were the currencies of the city states at the Lykia region and included the coins of the 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. While normally the currency unit of drachma was maximum 4 drachmas, coins of 10 drachmas were issued as memorial (coin of 10 drachmas = Decadrachma).
These coins were issued at a very restricted amount and until 1984, only 13 of them were known to exist all around the world. There were 14 of them in the Elmalı Treasure.
An important unknown part of human history was illuminated by the revealing of the Elmalı Treasure and the number of Decadrachmas known to exist all around the world doubled.
Bringing Elmalı Coins Back to Anatolia
Approximately 1900 silver coins were revealed as a result of the unlawful excavations made in the Bayındır Village of Antalya/Elmalı Town on 18 April 1984. As the unlawful excavation had been reported, the persons who made the excavation and attempted to trade the coins were followed and arrested by the Financial Police and sentenced to various penalties.
However, there is a decree of arrest in default for Fuat Üzülmez, Edip Telliağaoğlu and Nevzat Telliağaoğlu who fled abroad and traded the treasure to the auction companies and private collections in Europe and the USA. Edip Telliağaoğlu, searched with INTERPOL Red Bulletin was also denaturalized from Turkish citizenship. Fuat Aydıner was arrested in Istanbul in February 1989.
10 of Elmalı Coins were published in the catalogue issued by "Numismatic Fine Arts", an ancient coin auction company in Los Angeles, on 10 March 1988. The coins were presented as "revealed in 1984 in Southern Anatolia" in the catalogue.
Turkish Government interfered in the said auction and terminated the sales of the coins. Upon the notification of the company owner by our counsels that the said 10 coins were smuggled from our country, the coins were returned to our country without any payment and litigation.
On 26 May 1988, 3 Elmalı Coins were put up for sale by "Bank Leu", an auction company, in Zurich this time. 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 also in Zurich, put up 3 coins for auction, these were also returned through the same initiatives.
It was determined that approximately 1800 of the coins revealed at Bayındır Village through unlawful excavation were purchased by OKS Partners Co., which included American businessman and collector William Koch.
This collector was requested to return the coins; however, as no positive result was reached, a lawsuit was brought at the USA Massachusetts State Court in 1989.
New York Consulate General was authorized to have Herrick Feinstein Counselling Company, which prosecuted "Lydia Works" case in USA, 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 counselling companies.
It was understood that 1661 of 1900 coins smuggled abroad through unlawful means were kept by the defendant and the others were sold or given as gifts to other persons by the defendant or other persons.
All the information and developments about Elmalı Coins were negotiated in the meeting of the Council of Ministers held on 16 February 1998 and the Ministry of Culture was authorized to exert the attempts required for taking Elmalı Coins back through compromise.
As a result of the 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 as of 1 February 1999.
The interests of our state were protected at maximum level in the contract prepared by the counselling company that prosecuted the case on our behalf for taking the coins back through compromise and signed by the parties.
The American businessman William I. Koch, who returned the coins to our state under good condition as a result of the agreement, was presented a badge in a ceremony held at our Embassy at USA/Washington on 4 March 1998 for this good conduct.
Elmalı Coins were taken by Mr. İstemihan TALAY, the Minister of Culture, on 28 April 1999 to be brought to our country and were brought to Ankara on 29 April 1999.
In the ceremony held at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in order to introduce the coins to the public, İstemihan TALAY, the Minister of Culture, presented one acknowledgment plate each to Journalist-Author Özgen ACAR for his contributions to the attempts of our Ministry in the return process of the works and to Başak Sigorta insurance agency, who insured the works while they were brought to our country.
A very intense legal combat was carried out for bringing these valuable works, which were taken abroad through unlawful means in 1984, back to our country and it was demonstrated to the whole world through the determined attitude that the matter would be pursued and all kinds of cultural heritages of our country would be absolutely claimed.
We are honoured on behalf of the humanity that these coins, defined as the treasure of the century, are gained to Turkey at the outset of the 21st century.