About that 1933 double eagle that Mint officials know the location of
but weren’t seeking to recover? It’s already in the U.S. Mint’s possession.
It has been in Mint custody for some time.
T.V. Johnson, director of corporate communications for the Mint,
World May 22 that the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle that
Greg Weinman, senior legal counsel, alluded to during public
presentations May 10 and 11 in conjunction with the Pennsylvania
Association of Numismatists, has been secured at the Fort Knox
Bullion Depository in Kentucky for an undisclosed period, in company
with 10 other 1933 double eagles the Mint recovered in 2005.
Although Coin World has had the information since May 22,
Mint officials asked that the magazine delay publication until
officials at the Treasury Department could be consulted.
According to the Mint, the owner of the extant 1933 double eagle
turned the gold piece over to authorities because he didn’t want to be
caught with what federal courts determined was stolen government
property. The person who turned the 1933 double eagle over to
authorities wishes to remain anonymous.
Johnson told Coin World May 22 that U.S. Mint officials have
been instructed by the Department of Justice not to divulge the
specifics as to when the latest 1933 double eagle was turned over to
authorities, or how, nor how the person who surrendered the gold piece
came into possession of it. Johnson said the gold piece was
surrendered to Weinman by its owner through other government channels.
Johnson explains in a May 23 email to Coin World that the
surrendered specimen was authenticated by Dr. George Hunter, the same
former Mint official who authenticated the 10 specimens recovered from
the Langbord family.
“According to Dr. Hunter’s authentication report that concluded that
this was a genuine 1933 Double Eagle, he viewed the piece under
microscopic magnification from 4x to 40x, for details of metal flow
markings in the field of the coin, for lettering shapes and placement,
including the serifs on the letters and the stars and inscription on
the edge, for fill of the dies and split collar in various areas of
the faces and edges of the coin, and for any other anomalies which
might indicate that it was counterfeit,” explains Johnson. “He also
measured its weight, diameter and thickness and observed its overall
color and heft, subjective nondestructive measures of the alloy and
density of gold coins. His report does not address whether this piece
was struck from the same dies as the other 10 specimens.”
The Langbord 10 coins
In 2016, after 11 years of litigation and after the U.S. Supreme
Court refused to hear appeals from lower court rulings, the Mint was
awarded custody of 10 1933 double eagles declared stolen government property.
Joan Switt Langbord, the daughter of noted Philadelphia jeweler and
numismatist Israel Switt, said she found the 10 1933 double eagles in
a family safe deposit box at Sovereign Bank in Philadelphia in 2003.
The 10 gold pieces were turned over to the Mint through the Secret
Service in 2004, purportedly for the sole purpose, according to the
Langbord family, of having them authenticated.
Eleven months later, in 2005, Mint officials announced they had
recovered 10 1933 double eagles considered stolen government property
since none had been officially released at the time of their production.
The 10 1933 double eagles were determined to have been struck from
the same pair of coinage dies used to strike the two examples
presented by the Mint to the National Numismatic Collection in the
Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.
21 of 25
The most recently surrendered 1933 double eagle is the 21st example
from 25 that litigation determined Switt and Philadelphia Mint cashier
George McCann collaborated to remove from the production facility by
other than official means.
Mint officials say none of the 445,500 $20 gold pieces dated 1933
were officially monetized and released into circulation after their production.
Weinman indicated at his public presentations that another example
is purportedly in Europe, another is in an unknown location in the
United States, and that the whereabouts of the final two examples are
unknown to authorities.
Of the 25, only one is declared legal to own and monetized. That is
the example King Farouk I of Egypt was able to remove from American
soil in 1944 after being granted an export license by the U.S.
In 1954, two years after Farouk was deposed during a military coup,
the exported 1933 double eagle was scheduled for auction by Sotheby’s
as part of The Palace Collection. The piece was withdrawn from the
sale at the request of the U.S. State Department. The piece soon
disappeared and remained underground until resurfacing in 1995 the
hands of a dealer with connections to Gen. Abdul Nasser’s military
that overthrew Farouk.
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The Farouk piece was recovered by the Secret Service in 1996
following a sting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
The Mint and British dealer Stephen Fenton, who had imported the
Farouk piece, reached a settlement before trial in January 2001,
determining the piece would be sold at public auction.
The piece realized $7.59 million in a July 30, 2002, auction by
Sotheby’s, in conjunction with Stack’s, with the Mint and Fenton
splitting the net proceeds.
The unnamed buyer paid an additional $20 to allow the piece to
become the only example monetized and legal to own.
Another nine 1933 double eagles went to the melting pot in the 1940s
and 1950s after having been either seized by the Secret Service or
turned in by those who held them.
The nine relegated to the melting pot include the piece that
Tennessee collector L.G. Barnard sought to auction through Stack’s but
lost during litigation in a challenge by federal authorities.
The Secret Service still has on its books a directive to seize any
extant 1933 double eagles as stolen government property.