“Beware the Ides of March”
This famous line from the William Shakespeare play Julius Caesar was an ominous warning from a soothsayer to the play’s leading character and has since become cemented in popular culture. After the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE, Eid Mar, or Ides of March, coins were struck and circulated in the Roman Empire to commemorate the historic event. Marcus Junius Brutus was among the conspirators who fatally stabbed Caesar during a Senate gathering, which is why Brutus’s likeness is featured on the Eid Mar’s obverse. Following the assassination, Brutus departed Italy, and these coins were produced in the following months during his campaigning in the East. Silver and gold Brutus Eid Mar coins were struck and have become exceedingly rare, particularly the gold denarius coins.
Only a handful of gold Eid Mar coins exist today, and one is even at the center of a criminal case. In 2020, Roma Numismatics sold an MSH 5/5 – 3/5 Fine Style Eid Mar coin for $4.2 million. This price set the record for the most expensive numismatic coin obtained at auction.
The Sales of the Rare Brutus Denarius Insights Suspicion
In an unexpected twist, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations found that the Brutus Denarius coin was sold using false provenance. Provenance is the history of ownership of a valuable, which means that someone falsifies sale receipts, ownership marks, dealers’ records, and more.
Richard Beale, the owner and director of the London-based Roma Numismatics auction house, was arrested in January of 2023 in New York. Beale faces multiple charges, including criminal possession of stolen property, grand larceny, and conspiracy, for his role in organizing the scheme.
Beale entered the tight-knit world of coin dealers in 2009. Coin dealing is typically a family business passed down among generations, or it takes decades to build a reputation. Beale’s sudden entrance surprised community members. Roma Numismatics offered high-end catalogs and started trading equally high-end coins within a shockingly abbreviated time for the industry.
In an interview with ARTnews, Christopher Martin, the chairman of the British Numismatic Trade Association, said: “Within a year, he was selling coins worth millions of pounds. That doesn’t happen, but that’s what happened with him. Where did he come from? Nobody really knew.”
Beale and Vecchi Suspected of Falsifying Provenance
Beale is suspected of receiving help from esteemed Italian coin dealer Italo Vecchi, who supposedly brought the Eid Mar coin to him in 2013. Vecchi had a longstanding reputation in the ancient coin community from decades of working as an independent dealer and with some renowned coin trading companies. He even worked with the American company CNG in the 1990s but was caught trying to enter the United States with many undeclared Greek coins in 1992. This incident created trouble for him and may have revealed a shadier side to his coin dealing.
Vecchi was a consultant specialist for Roma Numismatics and allegedly brought the Eid Mar coin and other scarce Greek coins like the Sicily Naxos coin minted around 430 BC to Beale. After several failed attempts, it took years to finally sell the Eid Mar coin Beale had in his possession.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation, Beale first tried to sell the coin in 2015 straight to an anonymous party during the Annual New York International Numismatics Convention. Beale claimed the coin was from “an old Swiss collection,” according to the DHS’s informant, which is code for an object with questionable provenance. After not selling the coin to any buyers at the convention, Beale and Vecchi got to work on falsifying a paper trail for the Greek coin.
They could have paid for falsified documents saying that the coin came from Baron Dominique de Chambrier’s collection. The coin was sent to the NGC coin grading service and was decided to be authentic.
The Eid Mar coin sold for $4.2 million in November 2020, and it appeared that Beale had gotten away with it until this scheme was uncovered following a shady attempted sale of looted Gaza coins in 2022. Upon Beale’s arrest in January 2023, the Eid Mar and Sicily Naxos coins were seized and repatriated to Greece and Italy. There is an ongoing investigation into Vecchi, but no charges have been filed.
Beale has been charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, and conspiracy for his role in orchestrating the scheme. At the time of this writing, it is unknown when and if he will go to trial.
About The Eid Mar Coin
The obverse features a profile portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus, identified by the legend BRVT IMP (Brutus Imperator). The inscription on the left of the portrait, L PLAET CEST, refers to the moneyer of Brutus’ mobile mint, Lucius Plaetorius Cestianus, who had the coins struck.
The reverse depicts a pileus—a cap that freed slaves traditionally wore—flanked by two daggers, referencing the two leaders of the conspiracy: Brutus and Cassius. The hat symbolized the idea of liberty and was often used as a symbol of the Roman Republic. The inscription “EID MAR” (standing for the Latin phrase Eidibus Martiis) appears on the reverse side, which stands for “Ides of March.” Brutus had the coins minted in two editions, a silver edition to be used as currency and a gold edition as a token for Roman officials.
Overall, the image is meant to celebrate the murder as an act that liberated Rome from Caesar’s tyranny. According to experts, Brutus minted these coins to celebrate their achievement and pay his soldiers in the following civil war.
Today, the Ides of March coin is considered a valuable and rare artifact of historic Roman coins, with only around 100 silver and three gold coins known today. The coin’s historical significance and unique design have fascinated many numismatists and collectors in the centuries since it was first struck.
Where are the Remaining Known Eid Mar Gold Coins?
With only three Eid Mar coins known today, these coins are exceedingly rare and valuable. The coin discussed in this article is now held in Greece, but that begs the question: where are the other two?
One of these historic coins will be auctioned at the end of May 2023 through the Numismatica Ars Classica auction house. This coin is the only known good example. It was on loan to the British Museum. The auction will be held in Zurich, Switzerland and is expected to sell for up to $2 million.
The third gold Eid Mar coin remains in the Deutsche Bundesbank collection, but its authenticity is not fully agreed upon.