Richard Beale, the director of a London-based auction house, was arrested in New York City in January on charges relating to his sale of multi-million dollar ancient coins. His arrest has not been previously reported.
Beale is the owner and managing director of Roma Numismatics Limited, which claims to be “one of the world’s foremost auction houses for rare and collectible coins,” according to its website.
Alongside Italo Vecchi, an Italian coin dealer who works at Roma Numismatics as a consultant specialist, Beale allegedly falsified the record of ownership for two coins which sold at auction in 2020, according to a complaint filed in New York criminal court. Vecchi and Beale could not be reached for comment.
Between 2013 and 2014, Vecchi allegedly sold two rare coins to Beale without provenance. One of these is known as an “Eid Mar” coin, referring to an ancient Roman gold coin minted in 42 B.C. to celebrate the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15 of 44 B.C., commonly referred to as the Ides of March. The other item, referred to as the “Sicily Naxos” coin, was created in 430 B.C. in the Greek colony of Naxos on Sicily, and is one of the “rarest and most prized ancient coins in the world,” according to the complaint.
A record-breaking auction
Beale allegedly paid for false ownership history documents for both coins, which stated the pieces came “from the collection of the Baron Dominique de Chambrier.” Both coins were listed with this provenance in auctions which took place in October and November 2020 in London. The Eid Mar coin sold for £3.2 million ($4.1 million), the highest price ever paid for an ancient coin at auction, while the Sicily Naxos coin sold for £240,000 ($291,000).
On two separate occasions in 2020, the Eid Mar coin, which is thought to have originated from Greece, was shipped to the U.S. and listed as originating from either Turkey or Italy on U.S. customs paperwork. Meanwhile, the Sicily Naxos coin comes from Italy, according to the criminal complaint. Beale and Vecchi “deceived potential buyers by creating false provenance for the Eid Mar Coin and the Sicily Naxos Coin so that both coins would be viewed as legitimate and ascribed a certain value,” reads the complaint
The auction house director is additionally accused of purchasing five other coins from a convicted antiquity trafficker which were looted from the Gaza Strip in 2017, which he allegedly sold through Roma Numismatics with falsified provenance. Beale, who arrested on Jan. 10, is charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, conspiracy and scheme to defraud. His next scheduled court appearance is in May.
In February, the Sicily Naxos coin was returned to Italy by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office alongside a number of other antiquities collectively valued at nearly $2.5 million. The coin first appeared on the art market in 2013 when a known trafficker offered it for sale, according to a press release. It was “among a group of coins seized at JFK airport as it was being smuggled into New York,” said the office, which added that at least one individual has been arrested in a related investigation, with more arrests expected.
Beale’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.