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Gold coin worth $4.5 million is stolen from Berlin museum

The 221-pound coin, called the Big Maple Leaf, had been kept behind bulletproof glass.MARCEL METTELSIEFEN/European Pressphoto Agency /FILE

BERLIN — You could never palm it, flip it, or plunk it into a vending machine, but apparently it can be pinched: The world’s largest gold coin, a 221-pound Canadian monster called the Big Maple Leaf, was stolen overnight from the Bode Museum in Berlin, police said Monday.

The coin is about 21 inches in diameter and more than 1 inch thick, with a head of Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a maple leaf on the other.

Its face value is 1 million Canadian dollars, but by weight of gold alone it is worth much more than that — as much as $4.5 million at current market prices.

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The Royal Canadian Mint struck one as a demonstration in 2007 — “because we can,” the mint says on its website — and then made a few more for well-heeled collectors to buy; five have been sold so far.

Berlin police said in a statement that burglars had apparently broken in through a window above the commuter railway tracks at the back of the museum. Officers found a ladder lying on the elevated railway’s roadbed.

Police declined to say whether there were security cameras monitoring that window, but they said the coin had been kept behind bulletproof glass.

The museum is near Hackescher Markt, a public square in Berlin that is home to a number of late-night bars and cafes. Police appealed for clues from anyone who had been in the area.

Given the coin’s weight, authorities said they suspect that more than one person must have been involved in the crime. A police team that specializes in art crimes has been called to investigate.

In addition to paintings, sculptures, and other works of art, the museum displays what it says is one of the largest collections of coins and medals in the world, with about 500,000 objects. The Big Maple Leaf appeared to be the only thing the thieves took.

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NEW YORK TIMES