British auctioneer faces 25 years in US jail after being charged with fraudulent sale of 'world's most expensive coin'

21 March 2023, 19:49

Richard Beale has been charged with the fraudulent sale of the world's most expensive coin
Richard Beale has been charged with the fraudulent sale of the world's most expensive coin. Picture: LinkedIn/Roma Numismatics

By Kit Heren

A British auction house boss has been charged with the fraudulent sale of the world's most expensive coin.

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Richard Beale, who owns Roma Numismatics, is accused of falsifying the ownership records of two antique coins, including a 2,000-year-old coin minted to celebrate the murder of Julius Caesar.

The Eid Mar (Ides of March) coin sold for $4.1 million in New York in October 2020, the highest price ever paid for a coin at an auction.

But now Beale has been arrested in the US on suspicion of falsifying the provenance of the coins to make them more valuable.

He has been charged with grand larceny in the first degree and criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree, as well as eight other counts. He could get 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Richard Beale
Richard Beale. Picture: LinkedIn

Beale, a former army officer, set up Roma Numismatics in 2010, according to his LinkedIn account.

He enjoyed a meteoric rise in the profession, despite seemingly not having much of an existing connection to the coin-dealing world.

Christopher Martin, chairman of the British Numismatic Trade Association described him as "like a bolt of lightning".

Speaking to ARTnews, Mr Martin added: "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."

The Eid Mar coin
The Eid Mar coin. Picture: Roma Numismatics

Beale was allegedly given the Eid Mar coin in 2014 by Italo Vecchi, an Italian coin dealer who was arrested in 1992 for trying to smuggle Greek coins into the US.

He allegedly tried to sell the coin in 2015, saying that it came from "an old Swiss collection", a coin-dealing saying that suggests its provenance cannot be confirmed.

He tried again to sell the coin in 2020, saying that it came "from the collection of the Baron Dominique de Chambrier."

Beale later admitted to falsifying the ownership history that time, according to US security services' special agent Brent Easter. But he claimed that this was the only instance, the agent said.

The Sicily Naxos coin
The Sicily Naxos coin. Picture: Roma Numismatics

Beale and Vecchi also allegedly tried to pay off someone who told them that their coins' provenance was incorrect.

As well as Eid Mar, the British dealer is accused of falsifying the ancient Sicily Naxos coin, which he sold at the same auction for $293,000 (£234,000).

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Prosecutors also claim that Beale bought five coins in 2018 from a "convicted antiquities trafficker". The coins had originally come from the 'Gaza Hoard' of ancient coins looted from the Gaza Strip in 2017 and smuggled to Israel then London.

He is alleged to have "sold these freshly looted coins through Roma Numismatics with the false provenance from a private Canadian collection.

Beale is due to appear in court in New York in May.

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