The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 46, November 4, 2012, Article 30


The Telegraph and other publications had stories this week with more detail on the Qatari Sheikh whom coin dealers say has failed to pay invoices for coins won at auction. -Editor

Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani, who was once described as the world’s largest collector of antiques, is currently locked in a legal battle with three coin dealers, who claim he failed to pay up after successfully bidding over £12 million for a rare collection.

The dealers are demanding the sheikh, who is a cousin of the ruling emir of Qatar, has his assets frozen until he honours his auction debt. The 45-year-old collector is thought to have invested billions of pounds in antiques and works of art.

But at the High Court in London, Jeffrey Gruder QC, representing the coin dealers, described the sheikh as a “serial defaulter”, who had amassed a pile of unpaid debts to some of the world’s top auction houses.

Likening him to a gambling addict, Mr Gruder said: “He bids, wins and then doesn't pay. One can only conclude that this is a person acting dishonourably and disreputably and with mala fides.

The case was brought by three coin dealers, A.H. Baldwin and Sons Ltd, Dmitry Markov Coins and Medals and N&M Numismaritcs LLC, who claim they are still owed £12.2 million for coins that were sold at auction in New York.

Described as the “finest assortment of Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Greek coins ever assembled”, the collection attracted fierce bidding when it went under the hammer.

But the dealers said Sheikh Saud had offered “no explanation or excuse” for failing to pay for the lot once he had won the auction.

Mr Gruder alleged that Sheikh Saud had left a string of unpaid auction debts around the world including £4.3 million to Bonhams and £26 million to Sotheby’s.

However lawyers for the Sheikh vehemently denied the claims.

At one point the deadlock over payment became so entrenched that the UK ambassador to Qatar - and his opposite number in London - became involved.

Mr Rubin told the judge, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, that his client had been trying to pay for the coins for the past nine months. He said: “There are no doubt timing issues which go to why he cannot pay at the moment, but that's not a reason to make a freezing order against someone.”

It will be interesting to see how this turns out. It's already gotten ugly. How advisable is it to insult the biggest buyer in town? That won't exactly endear him to your clients in the future. Someday all the coins he bought will have to be sold again. Who's going to get the consignment? -Editor

To read the complete article, see: Royal art collector compared to 'inveterate gambler' (

The Daily Mail also had an article about this. The Sheikh has been buying more than just coins. -Editor

The sheikh rose to prominence after he spent £1billion on art between 1996 and 2004.

In 2000, he splashed out more than £9m on 136 vintage photographs including great works by Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz from the collection of Hamburg photographer Werner Bokelberg.

Other prominent purchases during this time include a £5m Fabergé egg bought at Christie's in New York in 2002, a £4.6m complete set of Audubon's Birds of America, and a £7.9m Roman marble statue, the Jenkins Venus.

In 2003 he beat London's V&A to purchase the £3m Clive of India flask. 'Sheikh Saud was a passionate art collector with a great eye,' said Georgina Adam, editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper.

In 2005 the Sheikh's spree came to a dramatic end when he was placed under house arrest in Qatar. He allegedly used a London dealer to fake invoices, misleading the Qatari government about the value of the items he was buying. He was sacked from the country's national culture council.

However, within a year he was spotted at auctions again. In 2008, he bought 90 per cent of the lots at a sale of Chinese art at Christie's. Last month, he was spotted at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht.

To read the complete article, see: Qatari sheikh who spent more than £1billion on his art collection is accused of leaving 'extraordinary trail' of unpaid debt around world's top auction houses (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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