Roma Numismatics Director Exposed For Illegally Selling Rare Ancient Coins

Author: Connor Campbell - Bullion & Economics Editor

Published: 29 Aug 2023

Last Updated: 1 Sep 2023


Former Roma Numismatics Managing Director Richard Beale, with a background as a British Army Captain, faces prison for illegally selling valuable ancient coins, including the rare "Eid Mar" and "Sicily Naxos" coins. The BBC investigation revealed the illegal activities, leading to repatriation of coins to Greece and Italy. Beale's court appearance is imminent.

BBC Exposes Auctioneer

Key Takeaways

  • Richard Beale, a former graduate and British Army Captain, is facing up to 25 years in prison for illegal selling of rare ancient coins.
  • Beale was Managing Director at Roma Numismatics Limited, a company engaged in the sale of ancient coins.
  • Beale sold valuable coins with false provenances, including the "Eid Mar" and "Sicily Naxos" coins.
  • BBC's investigation highlighted Beale's involvement in illegal coin sales, leading to repatriation of coins to Greece and Italy, and Beale's upcoming court appearance in New York.

Who Is Richard Beale?

Richard Beale, a former graduate who earned a bachelor's degree in Business/Managerial Economics from Durham University, now faces the prospect of up to 25 years in prison nearly two decades after his graduation. Having previously served as a British Army Captain, during which he demonstrated his analytical and operations management skills, he transitioned to the role of Managing Director at Roma Numismatics Limited in 2008.

He continued in this position until the point of pleading guilty in a New York court to a series of charges related to the illegal selling of rare ancient coins. The charges include lying about the origin of the gold "Eid Mar", which was minted in 42 B.C.E to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar, and is one of only three known examples in gold. The coin became the most expensive coin ever auctioned after selling for $4.19 million (£3.29m). He also falsified the provenance of a silver Sicily Naxos coin, which sold for $292,000, and admitted to an Alexander the Great decadrachms real origin being from the "Gaza Hoard", meaning it was illegal to sell.

Who Are Roma Numismatics?

Roma Numismatics, alternatively recognised as Roma Numismatics Limited, was established in 2008. It was introduced with the statement "Dealers and auctioneers of fine and rare ancient and modern coins." Nevertheless, this declaration now faces uncertainty following the recent BBC revelation of Richard Beale, the managing director, engaging in the illicit sale of valuable ancient coins.

It is crucial to emphasise that Roma Numismatics conducts a minimum of two public auctions annually, taking place in both Spring and Autumn. Additionally, they organise fourteen electronic auctions throughout the year. Notably, 11 Alexander decadrachms were sold in these auctions, each with provenance attributed to either "a private Canadian collection" or an "ex-private European collection." It was exceptionally unusual, given that only 20 Alexander decadrachms were known in the world up until this point in time.

BBC News Visit to Roma Numismatics

In 2019, the BBC initially contacted Richard Beale at his London office, expressing suspicions that the Alexander decadrachm coins available for sale on Roma Numismatics' auction site might have originated from the "Gaza Hoard." This implication clearly signalled that the sale of these coins was undoubtedly illegal. The BBC also acknowledged that the Roma Numismatics catalogue had previously featured an advertised Alexander decadrachm coin, which had been sold for £100,000 in 2017.

Following BBC's meeting with Beale he issued a statement that detailed:

"We were satisfied that the consignor(s) were known to us, and had an established record of professionalism and trust. Furthermore, we were provided with information that the items had entered the UK from an origin country that raised no concern." - Richard Beale

Roma Numismatics persisted in their illegal selling of rare ancient coins, even after drawing suspicion due to the "Gaza Hoard" case. The BBC's focus on this issue was evident in their News Arabic documentary in 2020.

Treasure Hunters: The Last Coins of Alexander the Great

The investigation delved into the circumstances three years before, when fishermen in the Palestinian region uncovered dozens of coins dating back to the 4th Century BC. Following this discovery, the coins subsequently vanished. In the documentary, a local archaeologist named Fadel Alatol informed the BBC that the coins were probably sold. This documentary by BBC Arabic received the 'Digital Media Award' for its innovative use of a fully immersive 3D interactive experience, which enabled users to become more engaged with the narrative being presented.

Richard Beale Faces the New York Supreme Criminal Court

On August 14th, Beale acknowledged that the decadrachms were sold with inaccurate provenances at auction, concealing their true origin from the Gaza Hoard, a matter initially exposed by the BBC in 2019. He further admitted his ongoing involvement in selling the coins. Information from court documents additionally disclosed his collaboration with Italo Vecchi, an Italian coin dealer termed his 'co-conspirator,' in the sale of the Eid Mar coin. It's worth noting that Italo Vecchi has a history of legal issues, having been apprehended by US customs in 1992 for an attempted smuggling of ancient Greek coins into the country.

They would journey to Munich, Germany, where they paid $450,000 (£385,000) in fiat currency, foregoing any request for authentication documentation. Court proceedings revealed that in August 2020, Beale dispatched the coin to the United States for authentication, asserting its origin to be "Turkey" rather than Italy or Greece, which would potentially trigger confiscation due to authenticity verification by US customs for ancient coins.

Prior to committing the crime, Beale permitted the coin to be listed for sale by Roma Numismatics, attributing the collection to Baron Domonique de Chambrier. However, in October 2020, the baron insisted on removing the false origin of the coin. Contrary to his wishes, Roma Numismatics managed to locate an American buyer and successfully sold the coin for $4.19 million. Beale is scheduled to present himself before the New York Supreme Criminal Court in March 2024. Additionally, the Eid Mar and Sicily Naxos coins have been retrieved by U.S. authorities and repatriated to their respective countries of origin, namely Greece and Italy.

Why Choose Chards as Your Precious Metal Dealer?

Many collectors of old coins swear by selling their bullion and rare coinage at auction, whilst others use high-street auction houses and their online counterparts to purchase their haul in an effort to avoid high premiums, but are these truly the best ways to buy and sell collectible coins? 

At Chards, you can rest assured that we would never offer for sale any counterfeit coins. With nearly six decades of experience in precious metals since our establishment in 1964, we stand as one of the United Kingdom's largest online and retail bullion dealers. Presently, Chards boasts over 3,500 5-star reviews on Trustpilot, reflecting our commitment to our customers, and we provide an extensive selection of bullion, commemorative items, VAT-free silver, and ancient coins.

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