Judge Legrome D. Davis has confirmed a jury’s 2011 decision that
the Langbord family’s 10 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagles are the
property of the government.
On Aug. 29 in Philadelphia’s U.S. District Court, Judge Davis
ruled in favor of the government, stating that the 10 1933 double
eagles were not lawfully removed from the U.S. Mint and that as a
matter of law they remain the property of the government regardless of
how the coins came into the Langbord family’s possession.
The 2011 trial in Philadelphia
The civil trial took place in July 2011 where a jury unanimously
found that the government proved its position that the 10 coins should
be forfeited by the Langbord family.
After the jury decision, the Langbord family challenged the
verdict on several grounds. They contended that no reasonable jury
could have found that the coins were stolen or otherwise removed from
the Mint unlawfully and that the government failed to prove a
violation of the criminal statute underlying the forfeiture action.
Further, the family argued that the jury’s verdict made the
government’s declaratory judgment claim — where the government sought
further protections to maintain clear title to the coins — unnecessary.
Davis wrote that there was usefulness in granting the government’s
request for declaratory judgment, “because it quiets title to the
disputed Double Eagles to an extent the jury’s verdict did not.” In
other words, a declaratory judgment further clarifies the legal
relationship between the government, the Langbord family and the
disputed double eagles.
The family’s motions were denied and the government was confirmed
“as the true owner of the stolen coins” in the recent ruling.
Reviewing the jury’s decision
The government argued at trial that a cashier at the Philadelphia
Mint was the probable source of all 1933 double eagles that made their
way to private hands and eventually Philadelphia coin dealer Israel
Switt, citing a 1940s Secret Service investigation that named Switt as
the source of other confiscated 1933 double eagles.
Joan Langbord, Switt’s daughter, testified at the trial that she
did not know of the coins until 2003. Bank records showed that she
visited her safe deposit box on July 29, 2002 — the day before a
different 1933 double eagle was sold at auction for $7,590,020 — and
discovered the 10 coins a year later after she visited the box again.
Regarding her testimony, Davis wrote, “The jury was not
impressed.” He added, “While Joan Langbord maintained that she knew
nothing about the ‘33 Double Eagles before discovering them at the
bottom of her safe deposit box in 2003, a jury could reasonably
In absence of testimony from anyone who worked at the Mint in the
1930s, the trial testimony focused on the Philadelphia Mint cashier
and his records. Despite this absence of live testimony, Davis found
that the jury could reasonably find that the coins were taken with the
requisite criminal intent and that the government presented
substantial evidence “from which the jury could — and did — properly
infer criminal intent.”
While the Langbord family disputed the reliability of the Mint’s
records, the government’s numismatic expert, David Enders Tripp, used
contemporary documents to trace the journey of all 1933 double eagles
produced from January 1933 to November 1934, concluding that no 1933
double eagles could have been obtained by the public through
The Aug. 29 ruling stated unequivocally that “Tripp accounted for
each and every one of the 445,500 1933 Double Eagles and showed that
not a single ’33 Double Eagle was issued to the public.”
Davis added that the Langbord family’s argument that there was a
“window of opportunity” spanning March and April of 1933 when the
cashier could have dispensed these coins to the public was flawed
because, “as Tripp correctly noted, the Mint records reflect that no
1933 Double Eagles were part of these transactions.”
Davis wrote, “The jury saw no record of a legitimate ‘33 Double
Eagle release, and from this lack of documentation one may reasonably
infer that the responsible party appropriated the coins in secret,
knowing full well the wrongfulness and illegality of his actions.” In
summary he wrote, “Given the evidence, a reasonable jury could find
that the ‘33 Double Eagles were knowingly stolen or embezzled from the Mint.”
Plans to appeal
Barry H. Berke, the Langbords’ lead attorney, has stated that the
family plans to appeal the decision. He said that the case raises many
legal questions, “including the limits on the government’s power to
The coins have been kept at the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort
Knox, Ky., and the government has not yet made a statement about what
it will do with the coins. Deputy U.S. Mint Director Richard A.
Peterson has stated that the coins will not be melted. ■