The world's most expensive ancient coin—one commemorating the murder of Julius Caesar, minted by the very Brutus who betrayed him—has been seized from its US buyer and repatriated to Greece. The "extraordinarily rare" coin, one of only three gold versions known to exist, and 28 other antiquities looted from Greece were seized in multiple criminal investigations into traffickers and smugglers, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which returned the items to Greek officials in a Tuesday ceremony. The haul was valued at $20 million, and the coin, about the size of a nickel, at $4.2 million, per the New York Times.
The Roman senator Marcus Junius Brutus had coins minted in gold and silver to pay his soldiers during the civil war that followed Caesar's death, but also to celebrate Caesar's downfall, per the Times. Minted in 42 BC, this particular coin includes the Latin inscription "EID MAR," referring to the Ides of March, or March 15, when Caesar was killed two years earlier in 44 BC. One side features Brutus' profile. The other shows two daggers pointing downward in a nod to Caesar's stabbing death. It is thought to have been looted more than a decade ago from a field where Brutus and ally Gaius Cassius Longinus camped with their army before suffering defeat at the Second Battle of Philippi.
British dealer Richard Beale, director of auction house Roma Numismatics, reportedly began offering it for sale between 2013 and 2014. It finally sold at auction for $4.2 million, the most ever paid for an ancient coin, in October 2020, per the Times. Beale was arrested on charges including grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property in January, per Art News. The coin was recovered from its buyer, an unidentified US billionaire, in February, according to officials. It was returned to Greece alongside an urn that once held human remains in a chamber tomb and a group of human and animal figurines up to 7,000 years old, which had been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art News reports. (Read more gold coins stories.)