Previously, we covered how jeweler and coin dealer Israel Switt hid away 10, 1933 Double Eagles that were discovered by his family after his death. For some, the find was not too surprising. Allegedly, Switt had switched older-issue Double Eagles at the Philadelphia mint for the 1933 ones just before they were melted down. Because the original 1933 coins and Switt’s decoys were destroyed all at once, there was no way to know just how many double eagles Switt really took.
Since a single 1933 Double Eagle earned the record for the world’s most valuable coin, surely 10 of them must hold astronomical value – if they were authentic. And who would know better, and pay higher, than the US government?
As part of the legal settlement between the US government and Stephen Fenton (the last owner of the Double Eagle before it went on display at the Fed), it was agreed that the coin was to be auctioned off, with the proceeds split evenly between the defendant and plaintiff. Switt’s descendants assumed they could get the same deal. So, they sent all 10 newly discovered coins to US Treasury Department to be authenticated. However, the government kept the coins and provided the Switts with no compensation whatsoever. Naturally, the Switts sued.
During the resulting trial in July 2011, the court found that, because the coins were stolen from the government in 1933, the Switts were not the rightful owners and were owed no compensation. The decision was upheld in August 2012, but the Switts appealed. But in April 2015, the government made a huge error: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said the government had failed to file the paperwork for a forfeiture action on time, and in doing so, had waived its right to keep the coins. However, this order was reversed in July that same year. To date, the ownership of these valuable double eagle coins is still under legal review.
The 1933 minting of the gold Double Eagle coin was a landmark event for the United States, although the people at the time didn’t realize it. The Gold Reserve Act issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt prevented these newly minted coins from being circulated. But before the batch of 455,500 coins could be melted down, several of them went missing, and one became the center of a decades-long tale of crime, mystery, and intrigue before eventually being auctioned for the record-setting price of $7,590,020. It’s now on display at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (you can read our three-part series about how the coin wound up there). The 1933 Double Eagle has been surrounded by legal controversy over the years, and it all began with a jeweler and coin dealer named Israel Switt.
Switt, who had connections at the Philadelphia Mint, managed to obtain at least one of the several 1933 Double Eagles that went missing from the mint. However, the coins were illegal to own since they were never circulated, and thus, still property of the United States government. The US Secret Service hunted down all of the Double Eagles with extreme prejudice. However, Switt sold one to King Farouk I of Egypt, putting it out of US jurisdiction. This coin eluded the Secret Service for more than 40 years, but eventually became the famous coin on display at the Federal Reserve Bank in 2002.
By 2005, Israel Switt had long since passed away. His jewelry shop was boarded up and gathering dust. His daughter, Joan Langdon Switt and her grandchildren, were cleaning up the old shop and preparing to close it for good. But, they stumbled upon an old safe deposit box. Inside were 10, 1933 Double Eagles. A find potentially worth more than $70 million.
But unfortunately, trouble followed these 10 coins just as it did for the previous coin. Look forward to more in our next blog post.
To show our support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, MGS is hosting a month-long charity raffle benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Every Friday this month, we will draw a winning ticket to receive a lavish gift basket. On the final Friday (October 28), we’ll have our grand prize drawing: a gift basket containing $500 worth of scratch off lottery tickets!
Entries are $20 each, with all proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. There are two ways to enter: in-person at our storefront in the Diamond District, or online at our BCRF Fundraising page. If you do not wish to enter the raffle, but would still like to donate to the cause, you may use the “anonymous donation” option online – or visit us in-store.
October 28 is fast approaching, so don’t forget to enter the raffle while you still can! If you have any questions about the prizes or donations, call us at (212)398-1454 for more info.