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Government can keep 1933 $20s

A legal effort by the Langbord family to reclaim 10 1933 gold $20s from the federal government failed after a dozen years when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

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Announcement of this decision April 17 left in place an Aug. 1, 2016, 9-3 ruling in favor of the government’s position by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Through all the legal wrangling, the government maintained that these gold coins were never legally issued and they have always been the property of the federal government.

The family came into possession of the coins when Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt obtained them in the 1930s.

Switt’s daughter Joan Langbord said she found them in a safe deposit box.

The coins were sent to the U.S. Mint in 2004 for authentication. The coins were declared genuine by the Mint in 2005 but they were not returned.

Berry H. Berke, a New York lawyer was engaged by the family to take legal action.

Berke is the lawyer who successfully legalized one 1933 gold $20 that had been seized in 1996 from British coin dealer Stephen Fenton.

It was sold in 2002 in New York City auction for $7.59 million. The proceeds were split between Fenton and the government.

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Collectors had the opportunity to view the 10 Langbord gold 1933 $20 coins at the American Numismatic Association convention in 2008 in Denver.

However, the winning evidence in that case did not apply to the Langbord coins.

The Treasury had issued an export license for the now legal gold $20 in 1944 so legendary Egyptian collector King Farouk could acquire it.

It was the existence of this license that kept the coin from being returned to the government, which had maintained throughout that the 1933 gold $20s were never legally issued and were perhaps stolen by Mint cashier George McCann.

Berke proved to be a remarkably resourceful attorney. Despite several initial adverse rulings, he managed to achieve one court victory against the government in 2015 that was reversed by the 2016 decision.

The coins were displayed by the U.S. Mint in 2008 at the Denver American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money.

Now that the government has won, the worst thing that could happen is that these coins are destroyed, or locked away forever unseen in Fort Knox, Ky.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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