Precious Metals

This Day in History: April 5

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued his Executive Order No. 6102 on April 5, 1933, making most forms of gold ownership in the United States illegal.

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued two executive orders on April 5, 1933, including one establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps.

While some CCC camps would issue tokens, most collectors are more familiar with a far more important executive order issued on that day: Executive Order 6102, forbidding “the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates” by U.S. citizens.

Executive Order 6102 required all persons to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, all but a small amount of gold coins, gold bullion and gold certificates owned by them to the Federal Reserve, in exchange for $20.67 per ounce.

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Violators could be subject to a fine of up $10,000 or up to 10 years in prison, or both, under the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, which had been amended by the Emergency Banking Act of March 9, 1933. 

Executive Order 6102 also played a large role in making the 1933 gold $20 double eagle extremely rare. 

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The order caused all gold coin production to cease and most 1933-minted gold coins to be destroyed, but some 1933 Indian Head gold $10 eagles were sold to collectors legally before the act took effect; the coin is very rare today. In addition, a number of 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles escaped destruction through questionable means. One 1933 double eagle was allowed to be legally exported to Egypt for the collection of King Farouk in 1944 (mistakenly), but the United States Secret Service chased after other examples in the years since.

In 2005, Joan Langbord and her family turned 10 examples of the 1933 double eagle over to the United States Mint for verification, claiming they had recently turned up among stored belongings from the estate of Israel Switt, her father. Switt had confirmed to Secret Service agents in 1944 that he had sold a number of the double eagles to other dealers and collectors.

After the Mint kept the coins, the Langbord family sued for their return, and the case continues in litigation.

One example surviving, said to be the Farouk coin, was made legal to own in 2002, when it was auctioned for $7.5 million, making it one of the most valuable coins in the world and among the most expensive United States coins. 

As Coin World Editor-at-Large Steve Roach recently wrote, “Do other examples remain in the shadows awaiting discovery, perhaps waiting for a friendlier legal climate into which they can emerge? The story of the 1933 double eagle is far from over.”

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