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Government wins 1933 gold $20s

The government has won again. It will not have to return 10 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 gold pieces to the Langbord family, which had asked the Mint to authenticate them after they were located in a safe deposit box of material inherited from Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt by his daughter Joan Langbord.

The full Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a decision filed Aug. 1, ruled for the government 9-3.

While collectors have sided with the Langbords and drooled at the possibility of the coins being eventually sold into the numismatic community, the court said the law sides with the government.

The legal back and forth that has gone on since the Mint refused to return the coins to the family in 2005, was not without its moments of hope for the Langbords.

Berry H. Berke, a New York lawyer who represents the family, has proven time and again to be legally resourceful in the battle with the government.

But the latest setback could be the end of the road for the family and for collectors who had hoped to see more than one 1933 gold $20 legally owned by numismatists.

The only currently legal example sold for $7.59 million 2002 in a New York auction. Berke had worked to legalize that coin after it had been seized in 1996.

However, the legal basis that allowed such an outcome for that specific coin was that the Treasury had issued an export license for it in 1944 so legendary Egyptian collector King Farouk could acquire it.

There are no Treasury export licenses for the Langbord coins to interfere with the government’s case that the coins were never legally issued and therefore are the property of the government.

What happens next?

Berke cannot be counted out.

Lesser individuals would never have begun the legal proceedings in the first place to get the coins back after the government’s decision not to return them.

Collectors would cheer any other legal rabbits Berke can pull out of his hat.

The question is, will he?

No matter, Berke has reached a status akin to a numismatic super hero.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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7 Responses to Government wins 1933 gold $20s

  1. shoebox911 says:

    Please don’t speak for all collectors, Mr. Harper. This one is cheering the decision passed down that will keep the coins in the hands of the American people, which you refer to as the federal government. We are the original and rightful owners of these coins, which the courts have determined are stolen property. Your bias toward the numismatic community is also quite apparent.

    • Dave Harper says:

      You got me. The credo of Numismatic News has been since its founding “by collectors for collectors.” I am definitely biased toward coin collectors and I have never claimed otherwise.

  2. n9jig says:

    While it would be great to have these available to collectors they were effectively stolen from the Mint by a dishonest employee. The government is well within its rights to retain them. The Farouk example was a mistake made 70 years prior in order to help secure the cooperation of a wartime ally.

    There are many coins like this that legally and morally should not be in the hands of the public such as the 74-D Aluminum Cent or all those silly “Dime on a Nail” things that are going for ridiculous prices these days. (Of course most of those have never seen the inside of a mint but that is for another rant!)

    My credo is that real collectors do not buy stolen coins.

  3. VKurtB says:

    David, you know me. Am I not equally a collector? Collector, Money Talker, writer, state government employee with my state legislature (same state as the case).

    The Third Circuit’s en banc decision is, to me, a source of great rejoice! A legal nonsense, the original 2-1 decision penned by Midge Rendell, is wiped away for all time as if it never existed. This is a GREAT day in numismatics, not something to be dismayed over.

    To me, Mr. Berke is merely an opportunistic shyster.

  4. VKurtB says:

    The only travesty would be if the government now destroyed these 10 magnificent artifacts.

  5. summerman1 says:

    These coins are genuine, made probably the same day, same place. The only difference, the government wants us to believe, is one has an export license that truly means nothing. So what? That means nothing. These coins are a symbol of American pride, American Glory. Here we are approx. 83 years later arguing the issue if these coins should be legal. Of course they are, it serves no purpose to argue they are not! They are real! There are those that say that these coins were stolen, where is your proof? Are you sure beyond a reasonable doubt that these coins weren’t made to be released and they were simply bought by the original owner. Where is your proof it wasn’t so. These coins are part of the American Heritage, as such they should be returned to their rightful owner. The Government has no right to keep these coins. They are as legal as the American Government itself.

  6. Jawbreaker says:

    The courts have determined that the coins were stolen and are the property of the United States government. I’d like to bring up the fact that the statute of limitations ran out on that a long time ago. The person who allegedly stole the coins is dead. The descendants of the alleged thief can’t be held accountable for what happened in the past. To be fair, I will concede that it was illegal to own the coins. I think the fair thing for the government to do would have been to pay a fair price to the family for the return of the coins. Quit all the posturing and do what’s right and fair. But we are talking about the Obama administration so it will be neither right nor fair.

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