In some previous blog posts, we discussed the ill-fated minting of the 1933 Double Eagle and how one of them escaped the mint and eluded authorities for more than 40 years before finally surfacing again near Manhattan.
After King Farouk I of Egypt was overthrown in a coup d’état, his 1933 Double Eagle mysteriously disappeared from his collection just before it was set to be auctioned off. The US Secret Service – which is responsible for protecting the nation’s currency – worked feverishly to recover the other Double Eagles that were stolen from the 1933 batch. However, Farouk’s coin eluded them for nearly 40 years until they finally got a lead about a sale set to occur at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City.
The Secret Service set up a sting operation where they arrested a British coin dealer named Stephen Fenton attempting to sell a 1933 Double Eagle. Fenton claimed that the coin was the one that previously belonged to King Farouk. Fenton was charged with “conspiring to convert to his own use and attempt to sell property of the United States.” However, these charges were dropped and a five-year legal battle over the coin ensued. Eventually, it was agreed that the coin would be auctioned and the proceeds would be split evenly between Fenton and the US government.
The Double Eagle has a face value of $20. However, it sold at auction to an anonymous bidder for $7,590,020 ($20 of which was used to officially monetize and legalize the coin) – the highest price paid for a coin to date, which makes the 1933 Double Eagle one of the most valuable pieces of gold ever. The coin never went home with the mystery bidder – it was lent to the American Numismatic Society, which has displayed the coin at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in lower Manhattan ever since.
And so concludes the dramatic tale of how Manhattan ended up with one of the most valuable pieces of gold in the world!