This New York Times story hit early in the week, so many of you may have seen this already. Thanks to Arthur Shippee for passing it along.
A rare and ancient gold coin that morbidly celebrates the stabbing death of Julius Caesar was returned this week to Greek officials by investigators in New York who had determined it was looted and fraudulently put up for sale at auction in 2020.
The coin, known as the
Eid Mar and valued at $4.2 million, features the face of Marcus Junius Brutus, the onetime friend and ally of Caesar who, along with other Roman senators, murdered him on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. According to historians and experts, Brutus had the coins minted in gold and silver to applaud Caesar's downfall and to pay his soldiers during the civil war that followed the killing.
The return Tuesday came at a ceremony attended by officials of the Manhattan district attorney's Antiquities Trafficking Unit and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, who cooperated on the case.
The coin, one of 29 artifacts returned to Greek officials, was given up earlier this year by an unidentified American billionaire who, investigators said, had bought it in good faith in 2020. The British dealer who helped to arrange the sale was arrested in January, and the coin itself was recovered in February, officials said.
Experts said the coin, minted two years after Caesar's death, is about the size of a nickel and weighs about 8 grams, and is one of only three known to be in circulation. A silver version of the coin was also minted and about 100 are known to exist. Those can sell for $200,000 to $400,000.
The Eid Mar is an undisputed masterpiece of ancient coinage, Mark Salzberg, the chairman of Numismatic Guaranty Corp., which verified the coin but does not research provenances, said in a statement in 2020.
Experts said they believe the coin was likely discovered more than a decade ago in an area of current-day Greece where Brutus and his civil war ally, Gaius Cassius Longinus, were encamped with their army.
According to investigators, the coin is first thought to have come to market between 2013 and 2014. Richard Beale, 38, director of the London-based auction house Roma Numismatics, put it up for sale on his company's website and over several years shopped it at coin shows in the United States and Europe before it was sold in October 2020. The $4.2 million was the most ever paid for an ancient coin, according to the Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
Mr. Beale is charged with grand larceny in the first degree and several other felonies and was released on his own recognizance. His lawyer, Henry E. Mazurek, declined to comment on the case.
In remarks at the ceremony, Konstantinos Konstantinou, Greece's consul general in New York, said his country has been hit hard by the illicit trading of antiquities and is seeking their return
in every possible way.
He praised investigators for
striking down the illegal international criminal networks whose activity distorts the identity of peoples, as it cuts off archaeological finds from their context and transforms them from evidence of people's history into mere works of art.
Outrage makes for good press and social media engagement, but cooler heads recognize that the best way to deter illegal trafficking is to create incentives that encourage the reporting and recording of finds. I couldn't agree more with IAPN President Dan Sedwick's remarks. The UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme is a model for the world.
"The IAPN unequivocally stands against misrepresentation of provenance, and we stress it is not a normal occurrence in the coin industry. A system like the UK's Treasure Act would go further to deter theft of cultural property by requiring the country of origin to pay a fair market price for any found item it deems important."
To read the complete article, see:
Rare Coin, Minted by Brutus to Mark Caesar's Death, Is Returned to Greece
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
GOLD IDES OF MARCH COIN REALISES $4M
RICHARD BEALE OF ROMA NUMISMATICS ARRESTED
IAPN STATEMENT ON FALSE PROVENANCES
Wayne Homren, Editor
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