Golden Grail

Few U.S. coins are rarer than the never circulated 1933 double eagle, melted down after the nation dropped the gold standard

President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the double eagle in 1905. He later pronounced the gold piece to be “the best coin that has been struck for 2,000 years.” (Tom Mulvaney / NMAH, SI)
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In the mid-1990s, a 1933 double eagle—in all likelihood Farouk's—turned up in the hands of British coin dealer Roger Fenton. After a convoluted legal battle, it was auctioned at Sotheby's for $7.59 million in 2002. (Fenton and the U.S. government split the proceeds.)

At the time, this coin and the Smithsonian's pair were thought to be the only 1933 double eagles. But then, in August 2005, says Doty, "ten more surfaced." The owner: none other than Philadelphia jeweler Izzy Switt's daughter. The federal government wants those coins back. Lawsuits are pending. "I've seen all ten at an exhibition in Denver," Doty says. "For collectors, it was a religious experience."

Owen Edwards is a freelance writer and author of the book Elegant Solutions.

About Owen Edwards
Owen Edwards

Owen Edwards is a freelance writer who previously wrote the "Object at Hand" column in Smithsonian magazine.

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