Numismatic and History Discussions > Ancient Coin Forum

The earthquake.

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Pawel K:
Of course it's only an article and nobody has been convicted, but in fact charges are more than heavy.
I'm shocked and confused (especially about Italo Vecci accusations)...

Curtis JJ:
Thank you for sharing that article. I follow ArtNews but hadn't seen that one...

As someone with a particular interest in ancient coin provenance, and having studied and taught criminology/criminal justice, I have many thoughts on this case. (I never taught antiquities crime, but I pay special attention to legislation, treaties, and criminal and civil cases involving ancient coins, in the U.S. and abroad.)

I won’t say much about the current arrestee/defendant, since the case isn’t resolved and I don’t know if there are discussion board rules specific to this kind of scenario. (The linked ArtNews articles suggests a quick resolution may be in the works.)

First, this is not a surprising case for the New York County District Attorney’s Office. One of their Assistant District Attorneys, Matthew Bogdanos, has been an enthusiastic prosecutor of antiquities dealers and collectors, and museums, for the past 10-12 years. (He first made a name for himself investigating and recovering objects from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad after it was completely sacked when the government fell. He wrote a famous book about it.) He’s had many high-profile cases and prosecuted many other collectors and dealers whose names we would recognize.

(I'm actually surprised NYINC is even still held in New York for that reason, instead of say, Philadelphia or Boston or Washington DC... Or LA or San Francisco. Personally, I'd vote for Chicago.)

My only question had been whether this would continue under the new Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg, Jr. He was elected in Nov. 2021, replacing Cyrus Vance, Jr. as the DA last year. As Bogdanos’ boss, Vance was equally enthusiastic about high profile antiquities arrests and prosecutions. (See, e.g.: This case was probably being prepared/investigated since Vance’s term. Still unclear how aggressively Bragg will pursue coin dealers, antiquities collectors, and museums.

Second, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was immediately reminded of a similar incident 11 years ago – right down to the major arrest at NYINC. In that case, I think it’s okay to say the person’s name, since he pled guilty and wrote an article about it (part of his plea deal) for the ANS Magazine: “Caveat Emptor: A Guide to Responsible Coin Collecting,” by Arnold-Peter Weiss, in ANS Magazine 11 (33): Pp 32ff. (Issue downloadable here, and probably elsewhere: It's worth reading. I'd recommend it to everyone, if only for historical significance.)

He was the principal at Nomos AG and a Trustee of the American Numismatic Society. He had a relationship with CNG as well. A few coins seized at NYINC 2012 (between 2 and 4 coins, I need to fact-check) were to be sold in Triton XV Session 3, “Selections from Cabinet W,” which would’ve achieved the highest-average hammer prices of any auction since the 1974 Kunstfreundes sale, and presumably exceeded it. The remaining 15 coins were sold and netted almost $5 million ( The rest of the Triton XV sale took place, including Sessions 1 & 2, now known as BCD Thessaly II (from which I own three coins).

The 2012 NYINC arrest and seizure of “Cabinet W” surely wasn’t great for the ancient coin world, but as far I can tell, it passed without doing catastrophic damage. No doubt it helped accelerate the expansion of MOU’s to new countries (treaty agreements to prevent the import of undocumented cultural objects). It seems the convicted collector-dealer in that case has either largely disappeared from numismatics or is now much lower-profile. (He’s still highly prolific in other domains.) Hopefully (from my perspective), people began paying a bit more attention to provenance and doing a better job of documenting it wherever possible. In my notes, though, I’ve recorded many other high-profile arrests in the numismatic community since then. Many of those people are still "household names" in the coin world; however you feel about it, this is something that happens.

Will the current incident be as easily forgotten? The political climate now is different. In recent years, the general public has become much more familiar with the concepts of antiquities laws, repatriation, and provenance (false or otherwise). The British Museum is now considered a persona non grata in some quarters. I could see things going either way…

Pawel K:
Curtis your knowledge about the case is incredible. And thanks fot the ANS article.

Topic is growing up. We know now that this coin is from Greece.

lawrence c:
I wasn't sure about the etiquette of bringing this case up on the boards, but I've certainly been tracking it, largely because I've done business with that particular auction house. A rather messy situation. Now of course, I've really been wondering about the identity of the unnamed billionaire who returned the Eid Mar coin to Greece. I would assume that some pressure was applied to him or her, but that would be a painful decision to make. I would guess that we'll be seeing some fresh legal crackdowns on importation of coins and antiquities.

Kevin D:

--- Quote from: Curtis JJ on March 12, 2023, 08:24:55 pm ---
The 2012 NYINC arrest and seizure of “Cabinet W” surely wasn’t great for the ancient coin world, but as far I can tell, it passed without doing catastrophic damage. No doubt it helped accelerate the expansion of MOU’s to new countries (treaty agreements to prevent the import of undocumented cultural objects).

--- End quote ---

Some of those 'Cabinet W' coins were thought to be fake, while others were genuine. There was considerable disagreement on this, though, as the authorities had one of the coins condemned by someone using a scanning electron microscope, while the same coin was judged to be genuine by many top experts that the authorities had shown it to. At the time, I remember collectors being alarmed by the possibility that modern fakes had gotten so good they could fool anyone who did not have a scanning electron microscope and the expertise to use it.


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