The mystery that shrouds this gold US coin is something out of a mystery novel involving theft, the Secret Service and a king of Egypt.
It All Started at the Mint
In 1933, the US minted 445,500 Gold Double Eagles. Because of the Gold Reserve Act that passed (making gold illegal tender), all of them were ordered to be destroyed/melted. Two of them were kept and given to the National Numismatic Collection for preservation. However, little did they know that 20 more survived.
A Shady Dealer
At least 20 coins were stolen (probably by a US Mint cashier) and passed to Philadelphia coin dealer Israel Switt. Several were then sold to collectors. For years they circulated before the Secret Service got wind of their existence in 1944. When Switt was questioned, he admitted to selling several coins to collectors, but did not disclose where he got them. Seven coins were seized and destroyed in that first year of the investigation. Another coin was found in 1945. However, investigators suspected that there was one more coin that they had not recovered. This remained a mystery until investigators looked into a transaction between Switt and King Farouk of Egypt.
The King of Coins
King Farouk was known for being an avid collector of many expensive items, including coins. It was discovered that he purchased a Gold Double Eagle from Smitt and applied for an export license. Days before the Secret Service learned about the theft, the license was granted and Farouk got his coin. The US Treasury tried to get the coin back, but their efforts were slowed by the last days of World War II. It wasn’t until 1952 that several of the king’s possessions were put on auction, including the coin. The US asked for it back and were granted their request. However, the coin disappeared before it could be shipped back.
40 Years Later
Another Gold Double Eagle was found in 1996 at the home of British coin dealer Stephen Fenton. He claimed it came from King Farouk but there was no evidence to support his claim. Charges were eventually dropped against Fenton and his coin was seized and went into US possession. It was transferred to Fort Knox for safekeeping.
That coin went to auction in 2002, and was sold in nine minutes to an anonymous bidder for $7,590,020 (which included the $20 to make it legal tender.) This was the highest amount ever paid for a US coin.
In 2004, ten more coins were found in the possession of the family of Philadelphia dealer Switt. Joan Switt surrendered the coins. The family’s attorneys argued that Israel Switt could have legally obtained the coins by trading for bullion. However, in 2011, after going to trial, the conclusion was that they were illegally obtained and therefore belonged to the US government. They are now kept at Fort Knox, instead of being melted.
Wow. What a history! While we don’t have any 1933 Gold Double Eagles, we do have a large selection of coins. Come visit West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins today. You just might find a treasure for your collection.