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1933 double eagles waiting in the wings?

It could be argued that the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle, the world’s most valuable coin and one of the most mysterious coins, continues to raise questions as we wait to see what its next move will be.

It could be argued that the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle, the world’s most valuable coin and one of the most mysterious coins, continues to raise questions as we wait to see what its next move will be.

The story of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle gold coin was full of questions from the start. We know that its official mintage was placed at 445,500 pieces. That is perhaps the only official information that is not subject to challenge and debate.

We also know that the production of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle had begun by March 15 of that year. The months that followed are interesting, but sadly they are also a mystery. It is known that the coin had not been released in any numbers before the Gold Recall Order of 1933. The question is whether any had ever been issued prior to that order. It is the government’s contention that none were ever legally released.

Over the years, the question of whether there were any 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles has been one interesting game of cat and mouse between the government and owners with officials managing to seize one example after another. Of course, the fact that examples kept popping up caused some problem with the notion that they were never legally released. How so many managed to be released is just one of many fascinating parts of the 1933 story. However, the final verdict, at least from the government, was that there were two examples in the Smithsonian and one that had a license for export to become a part of the King Farouk collection that were the only examples legally held.

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Just how many there were in private hands and how many there still might be are extremely interesting questions. We cannot trace examples like we might normally do because of the circumstances. We know that F.C.C. Boyd displayed his at the 1939 American Numismatic Association convention. We know of a number of dealers who handled a 1933 back in the 1930s and 1940s, but we cannot really determine a precise number.

What we do know is that back in 1939 Boyd believed that there were four examples. Although the numbers of the 1933 were seen as being low, the most important dealer of the period, B. Max Mehl, around 1949 thought that both the 1924-S and 1926-D were tougher. At the time, Mehl felt that they had only three known examples. In later years, examples of both the 1924-S and 1926-D would emerge from European vaults while the only 1933 in Europe was the Farouk coin, which surfaced in London in the 1990s.

That Farouk coin also came close to the melting pot when dealer Steve Fenton brought it to the U.S. After a good deal of legal wrangling and negotiating, the coin was declared legal and offered for sale by Southeby’s/Stacks and sold on July 30, 2002, for $7,590,020. The bidder remains anonymous and that makes it rather hard to determine just what might happen with the one legal 1933 outside of the Smithsonian.

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There are a lot of interesting considerations in regards to the future of the $7.59 million 1933 or any other 1933 for that matter. In his book, A Guide Book of Double Eagle Gold Coins, Q. David Bowers points out that the two in the Smithsonian were transmitted routinely, which means there were no restrictions about trading them as the Smithsonian has done with coins in the past.

There is also the matter of other coins that are not currently known. Bowers cites offers from the 1980s, suggesting that there may be at least three others, as he puts it, “waiting in the wings should the Treasury Department have a change of heart and declare all 1933s legal to own.”

When you consider all the possibilities including the fact that others could be buried away with owners never telling anyone or attempting a sale, it is easy to understand why any mention of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle can produce a lot of interested listeners. The $7.59 million price simply adds to what is already a fascinating story about a great coin.

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