Six gold ingots and a gold coin were returned to Monaco Rare Coin of Newport Beach, Calif., in late October a little more than a month after they had been very publicly seized by U.S. marshals at the Long Beach Coin Stamp and Collectibles Expo Sept. 14 under a rare maritime attachment writ.
An apology accompanied the gold items that had been recovered from the S.S. Central America, which sank in 1857, and were to have been displayed at the Long Beach Show
The U.S. Federal District Court in Los Angeles ordered the return of the historic artifacts.
The numismatic items were recovered from the court on Oct. 27 by Monaco?s Vice President Adam Crum when U.S. Marshals returned the sealed storage containers to Monaco.
The six gold ingots and an 1857 $20 gold piece have a combined value of $3.5 million. They were taken by U.S. Marshals from a $10 million exhibit of California Gold Rush-era numismatic items sponsored by Monaco.
?Aah, they?re home. It?s like having my babies returned to me,? Crum said. This is a win for all collectors and clearly demonstrates that rightful ownership will always prevail.
?Unpacking the gold bars and the coin was like greeting old friends. How ironic that these historic treasures were recovered in the 1980s and had to be recovered again in 2006,? Crum joked.
After waiting to be heard by the Los Angeles federal court, Monaco Rare Coin and its President, Michael Carabini, brought an action to vacate the attachment and seizure orders. They succeeded Oct. 18.
The coins had become pawns in a lawsuit that doesn?t even involve Monaco.
The seized items were originally recovered nearly two decades ago from the wreckage of the S.S. Central America, which was found by underwater explorer Tommy Thompson. The property now is owned by Monaco and its customers, but was seized without notice and without the opportunity to defend against purported claims by lawyers under attachment and seizure orders. Those orders were issued by the court under the premise and false representations that the items were still owned by Tommy Thompson?s recovery company.
In the Oct. 18 decision, on Carabini?s suggestion to end the ?madness? immediately, lawyers for the plaintiffs making legal claims against Tommy Thompson and the Columbus America Discovery Group, agreed that it was a good idea for them to dispel the notion and claim that the seized property nor any of Monaco?s property is owned in some way by Thompson and the Discovery Group companies. The plaintiffs claim they are still owed money by Thompson and his group for sonar work during the 1980s.
The key issue at hand results from one prerequisite of a Rule B attachment, which is, ?Is the asset owned by the debtor??
?Because the plaintiff's purported claims are against Discovery Group and not Monaco, the seizure was absolutely erroneous. I appreciated that the plaintiff?s lawyer gave us an apology,? said Carabini.
?This is a win for all collectors who have doubts associated with government or third-party seizures of their private wealth held in rare coins. There is no question in my mind that the United States of America courts will uphold the rights of a bona fide purchaser for value, called a BFP, and that a BFP will ultimately prevail.? said Carabini.
In fact, Carabini demanded that part of the court order, which was signed by Judge Jennifer T. Lum on Oct. 25, stipulate that plaintiffs and their counsel acknowledge that they ?are hereby precluded from asserting any claims against any bona fide purchasers of artifacts or numismatics recovered from the SS Central America.?
In order to speed up the return of the seized treasure to its customers and assist owners of any shipwreck treasure and numismatic items in general, Monaco said it agreed not to seek damages against the individual attorneys arising out of the attachment and seizure of property for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, wrongful seizure, wrongful attachment or Rule 11 sanctions.