A report by the US Homeland Security Investigations said the Brutus Eid Mar-type gold aureus which made £2.7m in London in 2020 was sold using a false provenance.
The HSI report said that Beale, who founded Roma Numismatics in 2009 to specialise in the sale of classical coins, was first offered the Eid Mar aureus in 2014. It was previously thought that the coins in the British Museum and the Deutsche Bundesbank collection were the only two surviving gold examples of this famous issue struck shortly after the murder of Julius Caesar.
The coin, supplied by Roma consultant Italo Vecchi, was allegedly offered for sale by private treaty at the 2015 edition of the New York International Numismatics Convention to an unnamed party referred to in the report as Informant 1. Beale had said the coin was from ‘an old Swiss collection’ and no deal was agreed.
The report then stated that Beale and Vecchi spent the next years attempting to falsify documents that would allow the coin to be sold at auction. Without provenance the coin could be subject to Italian cultural property laws.
When it appeared for sale in November 2020 with an estimate of £500,000, the coin came with authentication by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and a 19th century Swiss aristocratic provenance.
According to the catalogue, it had previously been owned by Bernard de Chambrier (1878-1963) and the antiquarian Baron Gustave Charles Ferdinand von Bonstetten (1816-92), whose collection formed the basis of the Bernisches Historisches Museum.
The report alleges that the documentation that came with the coins was falsified. An informant said they had been approached by Vecchi and Beale with an offer to sign fabricated provenance papers in return for €100,000 if they would. The informant refused the offer.
Beale has been charged with grand larceny in the first and second degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the first and second degree, conspiracy in the fourth degree, and scheme to defraud in the first degree. The investigation into Vecchi is ongoing and he has not yet been charged.
Both the Sicily Naxos coin and the Eid Mar coin have been seized, with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office expected to repatriate them to their home countries of Italy and Greece.
The International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) has released a statement, saying: “Given the New York District Attorney’s allegations, on March 3, 2023, the IAPN Executive Committee decided to suspend Mr Vecchi pending resolution of these charges.
“If proved to be true, these allegations would constitute a clear and very serious violation of the rules of the Association. Nevertheless, IAPN notes that both Messrs Beale and Vecchi remain entitled to a presumption of innocence until such time that the New York District Attorney substantiates these charges in a Court of Law.”
Richard Beale had not responded to a request for comment by the time ATG went to press.
Alleged false provenance
The coins at the centre of the Roma Numismatics investigation are two masterworks sold for record sums in London on October 29, 2020. Both were offered with a 19th century Swiss aristocratic provenance.
The Brutus Eid Mar-type gold aureus, struck shortly after the murder of Julius Caesar, took £2.7m – an auction high for any classical coin. The anonymous buyer paid more than five times the top estimate and around £3.25m with the 20% premium added.
One of the great masterpieces of ancient Greek numismatic art, the silver tetradrachm was struck in c.460 BC in commemoration of the refounding of the city of Naxos. Its citizens had been exiled to Leontinoi by the tyrant Hieron of Syracuse. The coin depicts Dionysos with a image of Silenos drunkenly gazing into his wine cup. Roma Numismatics sold it for £240,000.
Another rare classical coin, a silver Dionysus and Silenus tetradrachm minted around 430BC in the Greek colony of Naxos, carried the same provenance. It sold in the auction at £240,000.