The island of Yap has coins that are so big that it takes 20 men to carry one. In 2004, Austria released a €100,000 coin, consisting of 31.103 kg (68.6 lbs) of gold. Not to be outdone, Canada came forward with the most audacious coin ever minted: the Big Maple Leaf. If you happen to find one of these laying on the sidewalk, it is definitely worth the trouble to stop and pick it up. You might need some assistance, and you’ll certainly need a bigger pocket. This coin is 100 kg (220.5 lbs), and 50 cm (20 inches) across. Don’t worry if you have to hire someone to assist you. That single coin has a face value of $1 million CAD ($718,442 USD).
The Big Maple Leaf was produced by the Canadian Mint in 2007. The coin is 2.8 cm (1.1 inches) thick and is 999.99/1000 pure gold. The front bears the image of Queen Elizabeth II. The back shows a stylized maple leaf. Although the face value of the coin is $1 million, the market value, as of 2017, was $5.56 million CAD ($4 million USD).
After producing the first Big Maple Leaf, which remains under tight security in Ottawa, the Mint manufactured five duplicates. Each was sold to private collectors. One of these collectors was Boris Fuchsmann, who, in 2010, lent his prize coin to Germany’s Bode Museum. There it went on display as the most impressive of the museum’s assortment of the more than 500,000 rare coins.
The coin remained on display until the early morning hours of March 27, 2017. On that fateful date, three men climbed through a malfunctioning window. They hurriedly removed the coin from its glass encasement, lifted it through the window using a rope before wheelbarrowing “Big Maple” to their getaway car.
Police sent investigators throughout the city. Soon, their attention focused on a family known for its association with organized crime. Police raided the homes of cousins Ahmed and Wissam Remmo. Finding gold dust on the clothing and in the car of the suspects, police believed they had found their men.
Prosecutors brought charges against the cousins and their childhood friend, Denis W., who worked as a security guard at the museum. He was the one who tipped the thieves off to the malfunctioning window.
The trial lasted 41 days in court over the span of a year. In February 2020, Ahmed and Wissam were found guilty and sentenced to four-and-a-half-year prison sentences. Because they were, respectively, 18 and 20 years old when the crime occurred, under German law they were sentenced as juveniles. Denis W. received a sentence of three years and four months. A fourth defendant was acquitted.
As for the Big Maple Leaf? It is still missing. Investigators doubt they will ever locate it. The fact that gold dust was found on the thieves suggests that the coin was melted down and sold piecemeal.
Of course, it is entirely possible that the coin still exists. For that reason, it would not be a bad idea to put your phone away as you walk the city streets, and watch carefully. The next 200-pound coin you see might very well be the elusive Big Maple Leaf.
Read more fun facts about money.
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Read about interesting museum displays.