A British coin dealer has been charged in New York over the fraudulent £3.2million sale of the ‘rarest and most valuable’ coin in the world.
Richard Beale, the owner of London-based auction house Roma Numismatics, allegedly falsified the ownership records of two ancient coins he sold, including the Eid Mar (Ides of March) gold coin.
Minted to celebrate the assassination of Julius Caesar, this 2000-year-old Roman coin was sold by Beale in October 2020 for a record-breaking $4.1 million – the highest price ever paid for an ancient coin at auction.
But it is now alleged that Beale, 38, falsified the coin’s ownership history documents, known as its ‘provenance’, to make it more valuable and allow him to fetch a higher price for it.
In January the coin dealer was charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree on top of eight other counts. If found guilty, he could be facing up to 25 years in jail.
Richard Beale, the owner of London-based auction house Roma Numismatics, allegedly falsified the ownership records of two ancient coins he sold
Minted to celebrate the assassination of Julius Caesar, this 2000-year-old Roman coin was sold by Beale in October 2020 for a record-breaking $4.1 million – the highest price ever paid for an ancient coin at auction
A Durham University graduate and former captain in the British Army, Beale enjoyed a rapid rise to success when he founded Roma Numismatics in 2008 despite seemingly having little previous connection to the world of coin dealing.
‘He was like a bolt of lightning,’ said Christopher Martin, the chairman of the British Numismatic Trade Association, speaking to ARTnews.
‘Within a year, he was selling coins worth millions of pounds. That doesn’t happen, but that’s what happened with him. Where did he come from? Nobody really knew.’
In 2014 Beale was allegedly given the coveted Eid Mar coin to sell by his ‘co-conspirator’ Italo Vecchi, an Italian coin dealer who was detained by US customs in 1992 for attempting to smuggle ancient Greek coins into the country, according to the complaint document.
A year later, Beale allegedly tried to sell the Eid Mar coin at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where he said it came from ‘an old Swiss collection’ – coded language within the antiquities trade indicating that its history cannot be verified.
Then in 2020 Beale listed online the Eid Mar coin for sale in an upcoming Roma Numismatics auction with a provenance that said it was ‘from the collection of the Baron Dominique de Chambrier’.
The professional coin dealer is also alleged to have falsified the provenance of the Sicily Naxos silver coin, minted around 430 BC, which Beale sold for $293,000 at the same auction as the Eid Mar
According to Special Agent Brenton Easter, the auction house owner ‘admitted to me that he paid for the provenance’ but said ‘this was the first and only time that [he] had ever paid for provenance’.
When an informant told Beale ahead of the auction that the coin’s provenance was false, Vecchi and Beale allegedly offered them 100,000 Swiss Francs (£88,000) to sign the provenance documents, which was refused.
The professional coin dealer is also alleged to have falsified the provenance of the Sicily Naxos silver coin, minted around 430 BC, which Beale sold for $293,000 at the same auction as the Eid Mar.
It is further alleged that Beale bought five coins in 2018 ‘from a convicted antiquities trafficker’ which came from the ‘Gaza Hoard’ – a cache of ancient coins looted in the Gaza Strip in 2017 before being ‘smuggled to Israel, and ultimately London’.
The complaint states that Beale ‘sold these freshly looted coins through Roma Numismatics with the false provenance “from a private Canadian collection”‘.
Accounts published last month show that Roma Numismatics had net assets worth just over £10million.
Beale is thought to be living back in the UK and is due to appear at the New York Criminal Court in May.
His lawyer and Roma Numismatics were both approached for comment.