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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Ten Leading Topics of 2010

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #33

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

This is my last column of the year 2010. It seems appropriate to list the ten leading topics of the year, starting with number ten.

Please note that I am referring to news relating to rare U.S. coins, not to coins actually minted in 2010 or to coins minted in recent years. In addition to often discussing rarities, I have written, and will write more, about classic coins that are not rare. Please see my two part series on why 1933/34 is the clear dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins (part 1part 2), and my column on advice for beginning and intermediate collectors. I have recently written about modern coins as well. (As always, clickable links are in blue.)

X. The Fate of 1933 $20 gold coins

For decades, the U.S. Treasury Department has maintained that it is not legal for individuals to possess 1933 Double Eagles. Indeed, the Federal Government has allocated considerable funds to chase and seize 1933 Double Eagles ($20 gold coins).

In 2002, Stephen Fenton, who owned a 1933 Double Eagle, and the U.S. Treasury reached a settlement that stipulated that the Fenton 1933 Double Eagle be sold at auction and the proceeds, after the auction house’s commission, be split between Fenton and the U.S. Treasury Department, which granted title to the successful bidder. Sotheby’s, in partnership with Stack’s, auctioned the Fenton 1933 Double Eagle for $7.59 million on July 30, 2002. This result remains the auction record for a coin.

The Switt-Langbord family acknowledges inheriting ten 1933 Double Eagles. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Langbord family are currently involved in litigation over the title to these ten 1933 Double Eagles.

Although the Langbord case could have been more of a non-story than a story in 2010, as not much happened in Federal Court, it was discussed at length by innumerable collectors and received much attention in the media. Importantly, researcher Roger Burdette announced in 2010 that he unearthed government documents that demonstrate that the “first 1933 Double Eagles were struck March 2nd, during the Hoover administration.” Before Burdette’s recent find, the “assumed date was March 15 or shortly before, since that was the initial delivery date.” Moreover, Burdette discovered that the Mint Cashier was provided with forty-three 1933 Double Eagles on March 4 and these “balanced” the accounting of the production of 1932 Double Eagles as some 1932 Double Eagles were earlier found to be defective.

So, in my (this writer’s) view, some or all of these 1933 Double Eagles that were counted, for bookkeeping purposes, as 1932 Double Eagles could certainly have been traded to collectors and dealers. Documents discovered by Burdette support the argument that collectors may have legally traded earlier dated Double Eagles for 1933 Double Eagles before President Roosevelt ordered the Treasury Department to stop ‘paying out’ gold coins. (more…)