Behold the dark underbelly of numismatics.
August 29, 2005 12:18 PM   Subscribe

The most expensive $20 you’ll never see. (Unless you happen to be kickin’ it in Long Beach next month...) The 1933 “double eagle”, a one oz. gold coin minted by the United States just prior to dropping the gold standard, is now worth approximately $10,000,000 and is the stuff of coin collection legend. A collector by the name of Israel “Izzy” Switt acquired and held on to 10 of them—just after the last “double eagle” had officially been melted down by the government in 1937. (Timeline.) Now, decades later, the coins are the subject of an intense legal battle between the US government and Switt’s descendants. “It’s a hell of a story.”
posted by voltairemodern (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The should just monetize them like the previous one, sell them and split the profits just like they did it with the coin owned by a former Prince of Egypt.
posted by riffola at 12:23 PM on August 29, 2005

An earlier post about this coin.
posted by Vidiot at 3:17 PM on August 29, 2005

That is indeed a hell of a story, voltairemodern. The coins have so many interesting connections, including both Roosevelts, the original theives, King Farouk, a government coup, shady underworld dealers, even the World Trade Center and finally the fascinating legal cases. Switt's daughter, the one who turned the new-found coins over to the Mint, is probably still slapping her head.
posted by soiled cowboy at 3:57 PM on August 29, 2005

great post. :) thanks.
posted by bullitt 5 at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2005

Yeah, really cool post!
posted by snwod at 4:43 PM on August 29, 2005

That's one hell of a story!
posted by foot at 4:53 PM on August 29, 2005

Why does the government still care? I don't get it.

They need to get over themselves.
posted by delmoi at 6:04 PM on August 29, 2005

Why does the government still care? I don't get it.
I can give you about 10,000,000 reasons.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 PM on August 29, 2005

Give 'em back the coins ya dirty bastards!
*shakes fist at the heavens*
posted by Edible Energy at 6:57 PM on August 29, 2005

I coulda awore that not a week ago there was a story about another 6-8 pieces beind 'found and siezed' by the Dept of Treasury.
Somebody's grandson decided to take 'em in to see what they were worth. The dealer freaked out and called the Dept of Tres.

Alas, My google-fu only brings up stuff on coin lore, but not this recent story.
posted by Balisong at 7:12 PM on August 29, 2005

Balisong: here it is.
posted by purplemonkie at 7:31 PM on August 29, 2005

Mint officials asked to authenticate the coins, then confiscated them after doing so, Berke said.

For some reason this reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Fidel Castro scams Burns and Homer out of the 1 trillion dollar bill by asking if he can see it.

Great post.
posted by alphanerd at 7:47 PM on August 29, 2005

Yeah, that guy got screwed.
posted by Balisong at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2005

Oh that hurts. What does it feel like to lose millions?

Probably the same way it feels when I loaded up netscape for the first time, and thought to myself, "man, I should just drop out of grad school and get a job at this 'netscape' place and maybe get some sweet stock options!
posted by mecran01 at 9:14 PM on August 29, 2005

For some reason, when I read this fpp, the Super Mario Brothers coin noise started ringing in my ears. Aaaah, that takes me back. Thanks for that, Voltaire.
posted by HiveMind at 10:18 PM on August 29, 2005

had been taken from the Mint "in an unlawful manner" in the mid-1930's and now were "recovered."

I expect a summary (where they were subsequently spent) of the funds that these dollars were recovered from to be made immediately public.
posted by Balisong at 10:55 PM on August 29, 2005

The feds, steal personal property with no proven claim to it?

In this case, only if the coins are fake. If they're real, they aren't personal property, they're stolen property of the US, and problematic to the mint, since they represent unissued money in circulation.

The last time one of these coins was found, it was sold at auction. Part of the rules, though, was the winning bidder had to pay an extra $20 USD, cash, to the US Treasury, which then "issued" the coin as a replacement for that $20. Thus, that coin, currently, is the only US gold coin, and the only $20 coin, that is currently legal tender.

(Note that the US does sell bullion coins, which are also legal tender, but they aren't handled the same way as normal currency. For one thing, they're sold at a face-profit, unlike the double eagles, which were issued at face value.)

Of course, you'd be silly to spend it as $20.
posted by eriko at 5:25 AM on August 30, 2005

Great post. I wanted to say so yesterday, but the document had no data over and over again.
posted by OmieWise at 5:43 AM on August 30, 2005

It's the melting down of art work that saddens me.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:07 PM on August 30, 2005

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