Nearly everyone enjoys a good David and Goliath story. The idea that size and power that would usually overwhelm the little guy can be beaten inspires all the would be Davids of the world.
The news that a court in Pennsylvania will make the U.S. government prove its ownership of 10 1933 double eagles seized from the Langbord family by having to prove that the coins left the Philadelphia Mint illegally three-quarters of a century ago warms the heart of most collectors.
This ruling on July 28 doesn’t mean that the government won’t muster the proof and won’t eventually seize and then destroy the coins. But it raises the possibility that this will not be the outcome, that suddenly there might be 10 more 1933 double eagles available to collectors.
That might make the owner of the only legal example in private hands upset that he paid $7.59 million for it, but it would open the door to other collectors to add the coin to their Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece set.
Even though I knew I would never own a 1913 Liberty Head nickel, I have followed it since Aubrey Bebee bought one for $46,000 in 1967. The price has since escalated into the multi millions of dollars. Every collector who as ever looked at a hole in a Whitman album and wondered how it would ever be filled knows what it must be like to be one of those special buyers who can afford to finally acquire that missing key to their coin set.
Dreams are part of what motivates collectors. Individuals don’t know what they can do until they try to do it. Some Davids do win. Some difficult sets are eventually completed. Some numismatic Davids do get their names placed on auction catalogs.
Even if the 10 1933 gold $20s never leave government hands again, this court ruling has helped inspire further numismatic dreams.
Dreams do come true, whether it is through the luck of the lottery, or by hard work. Dreams that come true are the essence of being a collector.