Thursday, 25 May 2017

Skipping the Issues: a Coin Dealer in Trouble with Some of his Business Partners

I sell to people who have a passion to collect,”
he says. “I sell stress relief. I sell escapism. I’m just as
appy selling someone a $2,000 coin as I am a $200,000 coin.

A recent text discusses the activities of Rob Freeman, a noted coin scholar, or numismatist, and the owner of Freeman and Sear, formerly one of the top five ancient-coin dealers in the country ('The downfall of Rob Freeman, an ancient coin dealer who allegedly defrauded customers of millions and lost a bronze head, LA Weekly  MAY 16, 2017 ) . The article opens with a cameo presentation of the denizens of a local copin fondling club as a bunch of anorakish weirdos before passing on to the subject of the text:
Freeman’s peers and customers [...] were so surprised when rumors about him began to circulate, citing missing coins, bounced checks, cheated customers, some sort of Ponzi scheme. Then there’s the mystery of what happened to the head of the Roman Lucius Aelius Verus, a larger-than-life bronze head depicting the adopted son of Emperor Hadrian and the father of Co-Emperor Lucius Verus. [...] “There are so many rumors going around, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction,” says Victor England Jr., co-owner of Classical Numismatic Group, one of the nation’s top coin dealerships. [Reportedly,] At least 20 lawsuits have been filed against Freeman in the last four years, alleging such acts as breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation, negligence and fraud. One such complaint, filed in January 2016 by Marie Rosales and Jack Luu, alleges the two plaintiffs were victims of a “Ponzi scheme,” and were “swindled out of more than $1 million by con men passing themselves off as legitimate dealers of ancient coins and antiques.” “I’ve known Rob for probably 25 years,” says Ira Goldberg, who with his cousin Larry owns an auction house. “I would say he just went bad. He was a fine numismatist, always honorable and hardworking. That all changed about three years ago.”
Freeman studied history at UCLA, and went ion to work in Numismatic Fine Arts, a prominent coin dealership owned by Bruce McNall.

In 1993, Freeman left to form Freeman and Sear, along with David R. Sear, perhaps the most noted coin scholar in the world, author of the book Roman Coins and Their Values, and someone who had also been at Numismatic Fine Arts. His time working for McNall had given Freeman contacts with ancient-coin dealers all over the world. In the eyes of any knowledgeable collector, Sear’s name gave the new business instant credibility. [...] Today, if you go to Sear’s personal website, a message in bold lettering at the top of the page reads: “I wish it to be known that David R. Sear has no connection with the company currently doing business as ‘Freeman and Sear,’ this association having been terminated in 2001.” The site makes no other mention of what happened to the partnership.
It seems that in recent years he began touting ancient coins as a form of investment (rather like the NFA business model) - many of the people suing him reportedly allege that they bought shares in pools of coins but never saw returns.
Marie Rosales and Jack Luu bought a percentage of a pool of coins for $1.25 million. They allege that Freeman promised a 30 percent profit in one year, which would have been a remarkable return. It was too good to be true. [...] The trouble began, according to Freeman, in 2007, when he started a new company, Helios, based in Munich, closer to where the majority of the world’s most valuable coins first hits the market. But Freeman lived in Los Angeles. Helios was run by a few employees in whom Freeman had placed great trust.
Then there were four silver Athenian decadrachms....

Basically the author of the text seems to believe that there are good coin dealers, but then he skips over totally the issue of where one actually gets four Athenian dekas and a head of Lucius Aelius Verus  from... that side of the dugup coin industry is skipped over.

1 comment:

David Knell said...

From the LA Weekly article:

“If you go back, there are no newspapers, no records, nothing in writing,” Kenneth Edlow, chairman of the Board of the American Numismatic Society, says. “The messages that the government wanted to get out were put on coins.”

And there you have the epitome of the ignorant, blinkered coin-centric world that so many coin collectors seem to inhabit. The Romans had no such thing as the Acta Diurna or other means of communication - such as inscribed monuments, tablets and graffiti or the published edicts, posters, political tracts, histories, plays and thousands of orders, documents and letters written on perishable materials. No, all the poor Romans had were tiny metal discs.

It sort of begs the question of which came first. Were some coin collectors braindead to begin with or does a total fixation with only one type of artefact make them that way?

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