Blog Subscription via

May 12, 2024

When morality stops with one's own favourite coin(s).


Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus

"When collapse is imminent, the little rodents flee."
~ Pliny the Elder 

Unlike today, the ancient Romans didn’t simply number their calendar days in order from the first of the month to the last. Instead, they counted backward in relation to three days: the calends, nones, and ides.  The ides (from the Latin word īdūs) was the fifteenth day of March, May, July, and October, and the thirteenth day of the other months. 

But this post isn't about Roman calendars but rather how one rare coin, a Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus, known as the Eid Mar Coin saw the rise and fall of one of the UK's numismatic titans for their known handling of unprovenanced coins and for having created fictitious collecting histories. 

Word on the coin collecting street, in late April, was that Roma Numismatics Ltd's April 25th E-Sale would be their last.  This chatter was being fuelled in part by the London-based firm's puzzling habit of changing bank accounts for wires as well as for the larger than the norm sales of Athenian tetradrachms and various other coins sold in their last two auctions.  Likewise, three Roma Numismatics staffers, Gil Southwood, Joe Hazell, Svetlana Egorova resigned from the firm and took up new positions with Andreas Afeldt's The Coin Cabinet. Others remaining stated they were open for new opportunities. 

While some speculated that the firm was experiencing financial difficulties, their publicaly available amended 2022 Statement of Financial Position listed their total assets, less current liabilities as totalling £10,988,553.  Despite this, by the start of the month, the writing was on the proverbial wall.  Letters had gone out to Roma Numismatics consignors telling them to collect their coins by the 17th as the firm would cease trading on May 24th.  For the present, their website remains active, but their sales calendar stops with their last April auction (and also makes no mention of their pending demise).

For background, on 10 January 2023 the director of the firm, Richard Beale was arrested in New York after being named in a New York criminal complaint alongside Italian coin dealer Italo Vecchi.  Beale was charged with making false statements, punishable as a class A misdemeanor pursuant to section 210.45 of the Penal Law.  At the same  time Vecchi was listed as working with Roma Numismatics as a consultant specialist who frequently consigned coins for sale in the firm's auctions. 

By August 14, 2023, in a courtroom session at the New York Supreme Criminal Court, Richard Beale had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and three counts of criminal possession of stolen property.  In making his plea the company's owner also made two incriminating admissions.

Beale confessed and acknowledged his awareness that the provenances of the Alexander the Great decadrachms sold earlier by his firm were falsified at the time of their sale, with the intention of concealing their origins from the Gaza Hoard.  This despite the fact that he had been challenged by the producers of a BBC documentary regarding the false provenances listed on Roma Numismatics' auction site.

In total 19 of these, formerly very rare, Alexander decadrachms were sold - 11 of them via Roma Numismatics - with the provenance of the coins listed as either "from a private Canadian collection" or "ex-private European collection" many of which appear to have been traced to another problematic Roma Numismatics associate Salem Alshdaifat, a sometimes Canada based Jordanian. 

Alshdaifat, once based in Michigan has had his own run-in with the US authorities and was charged in U.S. v. Khouli et al. CR.11-340, (E.D.N.Y) .

Court records also indicated that Beale entered into a sales agreement with Vecchi in 2015, to purchase the extremely rare Eid Mar coin, minted in 42 BCE to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March and that the pair had traveled to Munich, where they exchanged €450,000 in cash for the rare coin despite its lack of provenance paperwork or any form of legitimising documentation.

More recently it seems, with the looming closing of this enterprise and Beale's plea agreement, some of his firm's clients who previously closed their eyes to the origins of some of their purchases are getting nervous.  Other complain that Roma Numismatics' once upon a time guarantee on the absolute authenticity of all Lots sold, stating "There is no expiration to this guarantee" are realising instead there is, in fact, an expiration date to the fanciful phrasing of the Bidder's Terms and Conditions. 

Where Beale himself will go after the firms closing is unclear. Perhaps he will pen a Bruce McNall-type autobiography. "Fun While It Lasted" was a great read. And despite being written 20 years ago, the book showed the hubris of tricksters who have, and apparently still do, profit largely from the laundering and sale of illicit material.

By Lynda Albertson