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March 18, 2005

1933 Double Eagle: The most valuable U.S. coin is now back in public view


It was purchased at Sotheby's auction on July 30, 2002 by a mysterious, still-unknown buyer for $7.59 million after fierce bidding by eight prospective owners.

It was then put on display in the lobby of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at 33 Liberty Street, having been loaned by its owner to the Fed for public exhibition.

Of course, that also guarantees free security by the federal government, which protects the coin with all available resources.

The double eagle was removed from public display last August on the occasion of a sudden "Orange Alert" from the Department of Homeland Security.

At that time it was taken to the bank's Level E subbasement, where it was locked in a compartment at bedrock, 80 feet below Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan.

There, it was surrounded by $90 billion worth of gold bars – some 550,000 of them – from 60 foreign institutions.

That is more gold than is in Fort Knox, and indeed, more than in any other repository on Earth.

The coin has a Maltese Falcon-esque history.

When the U.S. came off the gold standard in 1933, all 455,500 double eagles minted that year were ordered melted down, save for two reserved for the Smithsonian Institution.

However, 10 escaped into private hands.

During the 1940s and 50s nine of them surfaced; they were seized and destroyed by the U.S. Secret Service.

One, however, ended up in the legendary collection of King Farouk of Egypt.

It surfaced in Cairo in 1954, on the occasion of the auction of the collection of the deposed King Farouk.

The U.S. Treasury successfully requested that the coin be withdrawn from sale.

Subsequently, the coin effectively disappeared from view, and all manner of intrigue occurred until finally, in 2002, it - or yet another 1933 double eagle - was placed on the auction block.

It's the only 1933 double eagle which may be legally owned, though there may be others that have never come to light.

[via Glenn Collins and the New York Times]

March 18, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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