Bizarre Burglary in Belgium

The stolen objects are cancelled coins – just like these ones, which have been rendered unusable by means of rollers. Photo: Peter Kopitz, © Monea.
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Brussels, on the night between 20 and 21 February. Around 01:30 a.m., three young men entered a building on Boulevard Pacheco, the Royal Mint of Belgium. As they broke in, they set off the alarm. The police, called by a security guard, were able to arrest two of the robbers, however, a third one escaped with part of the loot. What did he steal? Is this another case of gold, precious stones, historic coins, medals? No. He robbed about 5 kilograms of scrap metal.


A Mint Without Coins

One might wonder what the thieves had hoped to gain from the break-in in the first place. Even though the Royal Mint of Belgium is of historical importance – after all it was founded in 1832 and is thus almost as old as the Kingdom of Belgium itself – nothing has been struck there since 1 January 2018: at that time, the Dutch Mint took over the production of Belgian euro coins. At the Belgian Mint, new coins are only being designed and ordered, furthermore, circulation coins that are no longer in good condition are withdrawn from circulation and “cancelled” there.

In most cases this is done by means of rollers that deform the coins and thus make them worthless. And the robbers stole coins that had been cancelled in such a way. The value of these cancelled coins is, as one might guess, about zero. In any case, you cannot use these pieces as legal tender – but even if you could: let’s assume all the stolen coins were 2 euro coins. 5 kilograms of these coins would be worth about 600 euro – not exactly something worth a prison sentence. There are collectors who are interested in such cancelled pieces; however, you shouldn’t expect to get more than 20 euros per coin on eBay.

Anyway, the two arrested thieves are already on trial, their accomplice is still on the run. By the way, on the same night there was a break-in at the Treasury of Brussels and some computers were stolen from the reception area, according to press releases, they didn’t contain any sensitive data. A coincidence?

Although the coins are worthless, this incident confirms the perceived accumulation of thefts in recent years. By the way, not only the mint industry is affected by this development: this week, for example, three important paintings of old masters were stolen in Oxford, including a painting by Anthonis van Dyck. You can read more about it on the BBC website.


In 2017, we reported that the Belgian Mint was to cease activities.