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Viewpoint: The 1933 double eagle solution

Over the last few years, we have seen a battle between the Langbord family and the U.S. government over the possession of 1933 double eagles. I have a very simple solution that neither party will like, or accept, but one that would save many wasted tax dollars being spent on a case that will not give the general public one bit of good. It will also keep that money out of the legal “profession’s” hands.

I call it the “scorched 1933 double eagle policy,” or, “if I can’t have it, no one can.” Keep in mind that this plan would include any specimens the government owns as well.

Here’s how it would work: The government claims that the 1933 double eagle was never legally issued, and no one is allowed to own it. The only exception being the one piece sold in 2002, and the two specimens in the Smithsonian Institute. That logic makes no sense whatsoever, as it should be an “all or nothing” policy.

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The court should rule that every known 1933 double eagle still in existence be destroyed, including the two pieces held by the Smithsonian Institute, as well as any other known specimens. Any “new” 1933 double eagles discovered in the future would be subject to destruction. The Langbord family would be reimbursed with 10 ounces of gold, approximately what they lost when the government seized their coins. The government would also reimburse everyone else, or their descendants, who had 1933 double eagles seized from them by the Secret Service, again, with one ounce of gold for each piece confiscated.

Excess prices that collectors paid for their 1933 double eagles will just have to be swallowed. That’s the cost of business done secretly, and without the proof of a paper trail. Like everything else in life, there are risks when one buys almost anything. At least the collector, or the heir, would get something back for the gold that was confiscated if reimbursement was offered.

As to the person who bought the Farouk specimen in 2002, he or she should be required to turn in that coin, and get a refund of what was paid. He or she will probably have lost money, because that $7.59 million paid nine years ago would have depreciated in value.

The court should order that the Langbord family, and descendants of deceased collectors who had 1933 double eagles confiscated be paid by the government, receive a 1-ounce gold American Eagle bullion coin, or cash at the spot gold price on the day the judgment is settled.

I think this is a fair settlement, although many readers would probably disagree with me. My reasoning for the reimbursement is that I do not believe, from what I have read about the case so far, that the coins were stolen, despite what the government claims. They must have been swapped by someone at the Mint and replaced with other dated double eagles.
The Mint never reported that there was a short count of double eagles.  Apparently, all 445,000 were accounted for and all but a few were melted. At the time, no one bothered to check to make sure that all 445,000 were dated 1933, and at that time why should they have bothered?

For some reason, Mr. Switt must have requested from new 1933 double eagles from the Mint, and he brought in older double eagles to swap for the 1933 coins. No one will ever know for sure, and I don’t see how it can be proved or disproved. The reimbursement money could easily be obtained from seigniorage of regular minted coins.

It’s high time the government stop wasting taxpayers’ money on idiotic issues and start to show some consistency. If 1933 double eagles are illegal, what about 1884 and 1885 trade dollars, 1913 liberty nickels, pattern coins, aluminum cents and other Mint products?

It would be a shame to see very rare coins be destroyed, but the fact is that rules and policies need to be consistent, and no one should be able to profit due to the favoritism of some old Mint employee letting these coins out of the government’s hands in the first place.

My guess is that when it’s all said and done, the Langbords are going to lose the case, and their coins with no reimbursement, and the government will remain inconsistent. They will do whatever they want, and I’d be shocked if the Langbords prevail. I’d like to see Numismatic News poll the readers and read about what they think about this case.

This Viewpoint was written by Stan Kijek, a hobbyist from Aurora, Ill.
To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to david.harper@fwmedia.com.

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