The fate of the 10 Langbord 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double
eagles came closer to finality in a brief Nov. 10 hearing in
Philadelphia where Judge Legrome D. Davis agreed with a jury’s
decision that awarded the coins to the government.
On July 20, a 10-member jury found that the government owns 10
1933 double eagles that were allegedly found in 2003 by Joan Langbord
in a safe deposit box that belonged to the Langbord family. While the
government claims that her father, Israel Switt, effectively stole the
coins from the Mint, the Langbord family has argued that there was a
short window of opportunity when gold for gold trades occurred at the
Mint, and that 1933 double eagles could have been legally paid out
from the Mint Cashier’s window.
On Nov. 10, Judge Davis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania held a hearing to allow the government and
the Langbord family to present additional evidence and oral arguments
on the pending declaratory judgment claim. Judge Davis could grant a
motion for judgment as a matter of law if he decided after viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the government that the
evidence was insufficient for the jury to reasonably reach its conclusion.
The Langbord family has contended that the government failed to
prove that the coins were taken from the Mint with specific criminal
intent, and that the jury had insufficient evidence to reasonably
decide on whether the coins were paid out legally.
Judge Davis noted at the hearing that he could not make any
findings that were inconsistent with the jury, and that he did not
intend to do so. In describing the trial, Judge Davis organized the
testimony into two groups. The first dealt with the circumstances at
the Mint and its accounting practices around 1933, and the second was
about the evidence and information regarding the circumstances of
Switt’s possession and knowledge of the coins.
Judge Davis went on to state, “I find as a fact that the records
are complete,” finding that the records as presented by the government
at trial fully accounted for the movement of the 1933 double eagles
and that they conclusively established that none of the coins were
paid out by the Mint’s Cashier. Judge Davis concluded, based on the
evidence, that with every coin accounted for, legal title could not
have passed to anyone other than the government.
Regarding the Langbord’s witnesses, Judge Davis stated that he
found Joan Langbord’s testimony unconvincing and that it was both
“self-serving” and not believable because of the number of trips that
she had made to the safe deposit box prior to the coin’s alleged discovery.
At the trial, records were presented showing that Mrs. Langbord
made numerous trips to the safe deposit box that contained the 1933
double eagles, although in those trips she allegedly only examined
jewelry and was not aware that the coins were in the box. Judge Davis
said that her testimony — and the discovery of the coins only after
the example allegedly owned by Egypt’s King Farouk sold at a Sotheby’s
auction for $7.59 million — “did not ring true.”
While Judge Davis ruled in favor of the government on its motion
for declaratory judgment, he concluded the hearing by complimenting
the lawyers on both sides, telling them that the case was well-tried
and that it had been a pleasure to work with them. ■