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SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE EID MAR AUREUS…


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March 21 2023

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., announced today the return of 29 looted antiquities to the People of Greece. Among the pieces, which are collectively valued at over $20 million, is the extraordinarily rare Eid Mar Coin, which commemorates the murder of Julius Caesar. All were seized pursuant to multiple criminal investigations into high-profile traffickers and smugglers. The antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Greek Consulate attended by Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni, Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, and Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations, New York. 

I am proud that under my administration this office has now repatriated 950 antiquities to 17 countries,” said District Attorney Bragg. “I thank our outstanding team of analysts, investigators and attorneys, along with our law enforcement partners, for their excellent work finding and returning these historical marvels.”

https://manhattanda.org/d-a-bragg-returns-29-antiquities-to-greece/

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First, let’s go back in the past:

In June 2006, the Greek authorities repatriated a rare specimen of a Eid Mar denarius which was confiscated in England: it was owned by the London office of CNG since June 2005. Why ? « evidence suggests that the Greeks went after it because of the people involved. The man who sold it to CNG turned out to be a Greek national with a criminal record for trafficking in stolen antiquities, and the transaction was arranged by a Munich coin dealer who once worked for a notorious European trafficker, a member of a Munich cartel whose looted treasures found their way to studios, museums and auction houses around the world. A CNG executive said his company had no idea ».

My first question is quite simple: What proves that the coin had indeed been discovered in Greece? Answer in the newspaper article: « How the Greek government determined — and proved to the British High Court — that this one emanated from Macedonia is unclear. »

    Asked that question at the press conference following the coin's recovery, Voulgarakis said simply, "Look, it would have been handled differently in Greece if it were not certain that it emanated from us." (His words are translated from the original Greek.) He indicated that the Munich dealer and his associate — both apparently Greek citizens — had been arrested, but he refused further comment ». All Greece would have to do under the European Union directive "is show by a preponderance of the evidence that a cultural object has been illegally exported. If you want to argue against them, you have to come up with some contrary evidence."

In the same article, please notice an interesting commentary made: « According to the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, only four EID-MAR coins have an established Greek origin: two that were found near the northern Greek city of Florina and now reside in the Archaeological Museum of Pella (Greece); and two others, one silver and one gold, in private European collections ». And one gold 

https://scvhistory.com/scvhistory/signal/coins/worden-coinage1106b.htm

 

Currently, there are only three known and authentic examples of an Eid Mar aureus. Which of the three was the Greek government referring to ? Let's do a brief summary of the three pieces in question as well as their historical provenance.

 

1-THE HOLED COIN

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1932 The British Museum was first shown the coin but couldn't afford to buy it.

 

1952 Dr. Leo Biaggi de Blasys privately purchased it from Cahn.

 

1953  Cahn first published an account at the Actes du Congrès Internationale de Numismatique, Paris.

 

2004 NUMISMATICA ARS CLASSICA NAC AG, AUCTION 27, LOT 282 (bought by Barry Feirstein)

 

2008 NUMISMATICA ARS CLASSICA NAC AG, AUCTION 45, LOT 42 (bought by Michael  Winckless)

 

2010-2021 on display at the British Museum in London 

 

2022 NUMISMATICA ARS CLASSICA NAC AG, AUCTION 132, LOT 474

 

2-THE DEUTSCHE  BUNDESBANK COIN

 

1989 Published by Cahn (recently acquired by a California collector)

 

1990 Numismatic Fine Arts  XXV, 306

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(Thanks to @panzerman [John] for the pictures)

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1993 Sotheby’s Zurich, 1993, 87

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Today In the numismatic collection of the Deutsche Bundesbank.

 

Question: Isn’t weird that this coin (of an extreme rarity) suddenly appeared on the market without any previous provenance ?

 

3-THE ROMA COIN

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2015  According to the court documents, Beale also admitted that in 2015 he entered into an agreement with an Italian coin dealer to sell the Eid Mar coin, which was minted in 42BC to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.

The two men travelled to Munich and paid €450,000 ($490,000; £385,000) in cash for the coin, despite it having no provenance paperwork or any other form of documentation.

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(Cointalk post by R.Beale in 2022)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-66594076

 

2015 (?) Beale had tried to sell it at the New York International Numismatics Convention.

 

2016  The coin first surfaced on the international art market, where it was offered for sale in Munich with no provenance. 

 

2020  it was sold at auction for $4.2 million in October to a U.S.-based buyer.

 

2023  The EID MAR was seized in February from an undisclosed location.

 

I want to share an interesting comment by the lawyer Peter K. Tompa:  « The lot received considerable presale publicity. One would think if the Greek government had solid evidence that the coin was stolen from a Greek archaeological site, Greek authorities could have requested Scotland Yard to halt the auction so that the matter could be investigated. Instead, years later, the Manhattan DA's Antiquities Trafficking Unit engineered the repatriation to Greece after arresting Beale on fraud and stolen property charges based almost entirely on detailed allegations that Beale and Vecchi faked the provenance of the Brutus Aureus and another ancient silver coin from Naxos. (…)

So what was the basis for the decision to deprive that individual of his valuable purchase so it could be sent to Greece? According to a New York Times article which appears to be sourced to information provided by the Manhattan DA's office, the decision hinged on the statement that "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." If repatriating a coin worth $4.2 million was indeed solely based on the speculation of unnamed experts, that should concern everyone. After all, Roman coins circulated from Britain to Sri Lanka, and scholars even disagree where Brutus minted his coins. So, absent additional evidence to support this contention, it would appear that any such "expert opinion" was concocted solely to justify the return, with some confidence that mainstream media wouldn't ask too many hard questions that might call into question the Manhattan DA's narrative. »

https://coinsweekly.com/a-lawyers-assessment-of-the-return-of-the-brutus-aureus/

 

My last question: the Greek authorities had known about the existence of the Roma specimen since at least 2006, so why did they wait until 2023 to make a request for confiscation and repatriation ? So many questions and so few answers... and unfortunately, I am convinced that the trial of R. Beale and I.Vecchi will not provide us with more information... Please share your comments or thoughts!

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53 minutes ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

My last question: the Greek authorities had known about the existence of the Roma specimen since at least 2006, so why did they wait until 2023 to make a request for confiscation and repatriation ? So many questions and so few answers... and unfortunately, I am convinced that the trial of R. Beale and I.Vecchi will not provide us with more information... Please share your comments or thoughts!

Oh that's easy. Somebody with a lot of money and political clout in Greece who collects coins suddenly wanted it for their own collection.

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I don't know if it matters that much. If the coin had a provenance of any sort, the Greek claim could be disproved (or proved). But it doesn't. Which can only mean it was looted and would be repatriated somewhere else if not Greece. Even the British authorities would prosecute you and confiscate the coin if you found an Eid Mar and didn't report it.

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Posted (edited)

It mainly depend WHEN the coins were discovered. In the past,  the Greek authorities demanded often difficult to obtain documentation te prove such coins were exported from Greece before the MOU's 2011 effective date. When the importer was unable to provide that information, the coins were seized for repatriation to the « country of origin ».

Edited by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix
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If I had purchased such a thing and knew it was about to be seized by the Manhattan's DA office, I would be strongly tempted to quickly engrave "COPY" on the obverse.

 

 

(And no, I neither have the funds to purchase such a thing, nor the will to so deface history. Nonetheless, I would be tempted!)

Edited by Bonshaw
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3 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

I am convinced that the trial of R. Beale and I.Vecchi will not provide us with more information.

Re the future tense here, the R.Beale trial is (as far as I know) long over and Beale is awaiting his fate. Has something else happened?

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I believe reports at the time stated that the circumstances of the looting had been revealed by an informant. Rumor has it that photographs exist of the coin in situ at the time of its discovery. As far as the Beale case goes, Mr. Bragg has bigger fish to fry at the moment...

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19 minutes ago, DLTcoins said:

I believe reports at the time stated that the circumstances of the looting had been revealed by an informant. Rumor has it that photographs exist of the coin in situ at the time of its discovery. As far as the Beale case goes, Mr. Bragg has bigger fish to fry at the moment...

If he doesn't end up in the frying pan himself.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Deinomenid said:

Indeed. The trial is long over. That's why I asked about the future tense - maybe more  information can come out at sentencing?

There was no trial. Beale pled guilty. I'm sure he made some sort of deal with the DA's office to provide information concerning other "malefactors" in exchange for an unknown degree of leniency. Whether he will have to serve any prison time remains to be seen. Considering that he was arraigned and pled guilty in August 2023, but his next court appearance will not take place until December 2024 (no doubt with all parties' consent), I have a feeling that he may able to escape incarceration if he sings comprehensively enough to satisfy the prosecutor.

Edited by DonnaML
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13 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

My last question: the Greek authorities had known about the existence of the Roma specimen since at least 2006, so why did they wait until 2023 to make a request for confiscation and repatriation ? So many questions and so few answers... and unfortunately, I am convinced that the trial of R. Beale and I.Vecchi will not provide us with more information... Please share your comments or thoughts!

Wasn't it the CNG specimen that was known since 2006, not the Roma one? At least the only other mention of 2006 in your post was about the CNG coin that was already repatriated.

As for the Greek origin, aside from the rumours about the in-situ photo, there's also appears to have been a long investigation by Greek authorities into looting syndicates where some of the coins could be traced directly to Roma. So it doesn't seem out of the question that they may have similar evidence for the Eid Mar.

https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/562335169/archaiokapilia-to-thriler-me-to-chryso-nomisma-toy-vroytoy/

"According to the case file, there is also a reference to the specific coin and its auction in a telephone conversation with a Greek defendant which has been recorded"

The coin in question: https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=3349496

A related article that discusses how the coins are "washed" by being sold at auction and possible auction manipulation by the middle-men: https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/562294195/oi-archaiokapiloi-poy-den-vrethikan-sto-edolio/

This type of washing/laundering of looted coins may seem incredibly basic but it is often enough for other auction houses to sell coins of suspicious origin. I recall Nomos, in reply to the reporters of the BBC documentary about the Alexander dekadrachms, said something along the lines of "by principle we wouldn't accept a coin like this one if it didn't appear in another auction". The coin had gone unsold at Hess Divo earlier.

"As a central figure in the case appears an old man, who was called "grandfather" or "ambassador". The "searchers", farmers and hunters turned to him after clandestine excavations to assess their finds and make them available on the international market. Although the case file describes in detail the role of international houses, no prosecution was brought against eight persons, owners, members of management and representatives who are named in the will. It was held that there was insufficient evidence of guilt for them." [translated by Google]

I can think of one old man related to Roma who might fit the bill. Though you wonder whether that person would really be that closely involved with the "searchers".

Ultimately, I agree with @John Conduitt that it matters little. The coin was clearly looted, it was either going to end up in Italy or Greece and which one probably makes no difference for most of us.

Edited by Kaleun96
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Posted · Supporter
25 minutes ago, Kaleun96 said:

The coin was clearly looted, it was either going to end up in Italy or Greece and which one probably makes no difference for most of us.

If it was NOT looted and available for sale, it would probably still make no difference for most of us. 

The justice system will find the rightful owner and return the coin to them. 

What matters to others is the circumstance and location of the find... unless this information is a secret also covered by the international agreement.

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1 minute ago, Rand said:

If it was NOT looted and available for sale, it would probably still make no difference for most of us. 

The justice system will find the rightful owner and return the coin to them. 

What matters to others is the circumstance and location of the find... unless this information is a secret also covered by the international agreement.

I'm replying to comments like those of Peter Tompa who seem to be more concerned about the fact that it was seized and repatriated rather than where the actual find spot was, which may be useful for numismatic purposes.

The coin was looted so I don't care about "the basis for the decision to deprive that individual of his valuable purchase". It was going to be repatriated either way and they could've chosen Greece at the flip of a coin for all I care. Where the coin was actually found is interesting but that's a different matter.

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11 hours ago, DonnaML said:

Beale pled guilty.

Thank you but this is why I don't  understand where the new information is supposed to  come from as per original post. What is the opportunity to spill beans? And would  it be  public?  This isn't  just a morbid  interest for me - he sold me various coins with a specific provenance that has since been removed when coins  he sold others with the same provenance came  up for resale with him again. (Or the coins went  unsold but either way...)

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Fascinating coin type. I wonder if the confiscated coin is real and not a (very good no doubt) fake? With this criminal background this seems a legitimate question.

Another topic is the ridiculous taboo amongst archeologists for using metal detectors in excavations in the South of Europe. As an archeologist myself, I find it almost criminal to the history of human kind for not using these excellent prospecting devices that are more than a half of a century in use. As a result, this just keeps attracting looters to excavation sites, like a bank with open vaults. This is realy disturbing and a loss to our numismatic knowledge of the past, because of the loss of find spots and context information.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Coinmaster said:

Fascinating coin type. I wonder if the confiscated coin is real and not a (very good no doubt) fake? With this criminal background this seems a legitimate question.

Barry Murphy at NGC spent literally days examining this coin before it was certified. There's no legitimate basis for questioning its authenticity, regardless of the circumstances surrounding its sale.

Edited by Phil Davis
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