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Next stop for the famed Double Eagles: SCOTUS

One of the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle gold coins from the Longbord Hoard confiscated by the U.S. Mint

One of the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle gold coins from the Longbord Hoard confiscated by the U.S. Mint

Earlier this months the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the procedural appeal that the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins did not have to be returned to the Langbord family.

This is a case that has been ongoing for ten years following the “discovery” of ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 gold Double Eagle coins by Joan Langbord, the daughter of Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt. Following the auction in 2002 of the only legal Double Eagle for a single coin record of $7,590,020 (since broken), Langbord claims that she found ten 1933 Double Eagles in a safe deposit box where Switt stored the coins.

Langbord reported the find to the Mint to “attempt to reach an amicable resolution of any issues that might be raised.” When Langbord gave the coins to the Mint to be authenticated, the Mint confiscated the coins. Langbord retained Barry H. Berke, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the case that resulted in the sale of the King Farouk coin.

After adding her sons Roy and David as plaintiffs to protect the property since Joan is elderly, the case is finally heard in July 2011. The court handed down an unanimous decision against the Langbords. The coins are moved to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Langbords appeal the trail to the Third Circuit where a three-judge panel vacated the forfeiture and order the government to return the coins.

The government appeals and asks that the return order be vacated in order to appeal the decision. Rather, the Chief Judge of the Third Circuit will stay the order and ruled that the appeal will be en banc, meaning that the appeal will be heard before the entire bench of judges.

In this round the government did not file in the proper time-frame and the Longboards appealed all rulings. The Third Circuit order the return of the coins but the government appealed the ruling again.

On August 1, 2016, in a 9-3 vote, a full Third Circuit panel of judges ruled that they agreed with the government who argued that forfeiture laws were not applicable because the coins were already U.S. property and could only be surrendered. The majority also ruled against granting a new trial noting that the errors of the 2011 trial were harmless even though a previous three-judge panel ruled differently.

In writing the dissenting opinion, Judge Majorie Rendell said that the majority based its opinion “mainly on its buy-in to the Government’s audacity—the Government’s say—so that it owned the 1933 Double Eagles and had no intention of forfeiting them.” She noted that the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act was designed to prevent the government from forcefully seizing civilian property and that the ruling sets an “incorrect and dangerous precedent.”

A part of the government’s argument that is disturbing is that the they claim the Langbords are “the family of a thief” and should not benefit. Switt was never charged or convicted of a crime. While there is significant circumstantial evidence that Switt was the private seller of the coins and probably worked with the Mint’s cashier, his role has not been legally proven in any of the cases regarding any of the Double Eagle coins. Although this sounds like a legal arm-twist, it is important not only for this case but for any possible case the government can levy against any citizen. It is not right, fair, or legal and a violation of rights.

Berk told Reuters, “The Langbord family fully intends to seek review by the Supreme Court of the important issue of the unbridled power of the government to take and keep a citizen’s property.”

It is likely that the case will be filed to the U.S. Supreme Court for hearing in its next session beginning in October. Hopefully by then a ninth justice will be seated before hearing this case.

Image courtesy of U.S. Mint

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PCGS ups the bounty

Artist's conception of a 1964-D Peace dollar.

Artist’s conception of a 1964-D Peace dollar.

Catching up with the numismatic news from the last few weeks, I saw a note that Professional Coin Grading Service is offering a bounty of $10,000 each to view and grade five of the very rarest coins. PCGS will grade the coins and return them to their owner along with the $10,000 reward.

It started with the 1964-D Peace Dollar, a coin that was struck but never put into circulation and allegedly destroyed. PCGS, along with many others, believes that not every 1964-D Peace dollar was destroyed. The reward was offered in hopes that it would give someone the incentive to bring the coin out of hiding. However, given the current status of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles and the recent confiscation of the 1974-D Aluminum Lincoln cent, $10,000 is not a big enough incentive to risk losing this coin.

Earlier this month, PCGS announced the addition of four coins to their reward list. These four coins are as follows:

  • 1873-S Seated Dollar: It was reported that 700 were minted but none have ever been seen. Some think these coins were melted as a result of the Mint Act of February 12, 1873 which ended the series in favor of the Trade Dollar.
  • 1894-S Barber Dime: The U.S. Mint reported that only 24 were struck by only 13 have been discovered. One was found in circulation. This leaves 11 chances to claim a reward, if they still exist.
  • 1841-O $5 Half Eagle: This was one of those coins where the U.S. Mint reported one thing and did another—or they were partying too much in New Orleans. Although they reported striking 8,350 of these coins in 1841, research shows that 8,300 of the coins were dated 1840. Could the other 50 be out there somewhere?
  • 1849 Templeton Reid $25: Only one was ever known and was once part of the U.S. Mint Cabinet Collection. It was stolen in August 1858. Was it melted, as experts believe, or hiding in some unknown treasure trove?

I wonder if there are any other coins that could be added to this list? Comment below if you have a thought.

Credits

  • Seated Dollar and Half Eagle images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
  • Barber dime and Templeton Reid images courtesy of PCGS.

Will you help?

MrsJanasDonorsChooseThere are no bigger heroes in daily society than teachers.

Teachers are entrusted with our children to teach them while working through the societal, social, and political issues to ensure that our future is educated. In the face of attack by people who think they know better and politicians who want them to do more with less, most teachers are dedicated individuals who are teaching for love. They cannot be doing it for the money because we misguidedly shortchange teachers who will use part of their meager salaries to buy supplies.

With the start of a new school year approaching, I would like to ask Coin Collectors Blog readers to help support a teacher in Philadelphia who is trying to raise money to take a field trip to the U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve.

Mrs. Janas, a teacher at Juaniata Park Academy in Philadelphia, is trying to raise money to lease school busses to transport her students on these field trips. Her fundraiser says that her “students would love to expand their knowledge and be able to identify with the real world today and visit places around the area.” Visiting the Philadelphia Mint would be a great field trip!

The fundraiser is being hosted on a website called DonorsChoose.org. Those not familiar with the site, it was started in 2000 by a public school teacher without the resources to purchase books for his students. He built DonorChoose.org to bring together those who want to help with public school teachers who are trying to do their job with the little resources.

DonorsChoose.org is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation making all donation tax deductible to the maximum extent of the law. As part of the service, DonorsChoose.org has staff that vets every request and can work with the vendors to bring down prices. With some charities you worry about how much money is going to the project versus how much is being used in other fees. Not with DonorsChoose.org. On every project page they show you exactly where the money is spent. They are very transparent with their operations!

I learned about DonorsChoose.org several years ago and have tried to donate to at least one project every year.

Mrs. Janas is asking for $400 to lease the busses for the trips. Along with the other fees and a suggested 15-percent donation to DonorsChoose.org, the project can be funded for $512.92. However, donations to this project are being matched by Dottie Lutz, an advocate for education in the Philadelphia area. This project can be funded for a total of $256.46!

Aside that these children are the promise of our future, maybe a few would become interested in numismatics. Seeing the exhibits and learning how money is made can inspire these children to become collectors. And as inner-city students in a minority community, adding this diversity to the hobby is one of the best gifts we can give the hobby.

MY CHALLENGE

It will take at least nine readers of the Coin Collectors Blog with donations of $25.00 to fund this project after I make my donation. If my readers fund this project, I will contact Mrs. Janas and offer to travel to Philadelphia to give a presentation about numismatics in daily life to her students. Of course I will bring a few nicer items but the concentration will be on the convergence between numismatics, math, and economics.

UPDATE: I made my donation! I left a message on the page pointing to this post.

Will you please join me?

Image courtesy of DonorsChoose.org

Proof was in the change

2009-S James K. Polk Dollar PROOF found in change

2009-S James K. Polk Dollar PROOF found in change

Sometimes I am amazed at what other people find in their daily change. While I tend to pick up a few foreign coins or some old wheat cents, I have never picked up anything really interesting until the other day.

During a visit to a numerically named convenience store for a cold beverage, I noticed that there were a few “golden dollars” in the register. The cashier hesitated to give them to me but I told her I was a collector and was interested especially since the one on top was very shiny. After trading three paper notes for the coins my suspicion was correct. The coin is a 2009-S James K. Polk Presidential dollar.

While the coin can be used for one dollar in trade, whomever purchased it paid more and could have sold it for at least $5 rather than placing it in circulation. While we do not know the conditions that caused this coin to be in the cash register at the time I stopped in the store, it has been rescued from circulation and will find its way into a collection. I will probably add it to my coin club’s charity auction this December.

BNote sings new praises for Baltimore

Last April, the Baltimore Green Currency Association, sponsor of the BNote, initiated an Indiegogo campaign to fund their next issue that would feature significant women in Baltimore history. Although the campaign fell a little short, an anonymous donor funded more than $10,000 of the balance to print the currency.

Notes are a local currency that can be used at participating businesses in and around Baltimore. Currently, there are over 230 businesses accepting the BNote for goods and services. Consumers can receive BNotes as change for a transaction or may visit one of the official cambios (money exchange locations) to exchange dollars for BNotes. For every $10 that is exchanged for BNotes, you will receive a 10-percent bonus, which means if you exchange $10 you will receive BN11. You can also exchange BNotes for dollars at a reverse rate (receive $10 for every BN11 in BNotes).

The first BNotes were issued in April 2011 featuring the designs of Fredrick Douglas on the BN1 note and Edgar Allan Poe on the BN5 note. The reverse of the notes features a Baltimore oriole (the bird, not a ball player) on the $1 BNote and a raven on the reverse of the $5 BNote. For this new issue, Douglass and Poe remain on the note but the design changed to incorporate the vertical bars of the Calvert coat of arms that is incorporated in the Maryland flag.

The new BN10 and BN20 notes are similar in design with new colors on the background. Bea Gaddy is featured on the front of the BN10 and the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, the official Maryland State Insect, on the reverse. Lillie May Carroll Jackson appears on the front of the BN20 note and a Blue Crab, the official Maryland State Crustacean, on the reverse.

Bea Gaddy was known as the Mother Teresa of Baltimore. A single mother of five who ended up in baltimore in 1964, she was discovered by a Baltimore attorney who encouraged her to go to college. Gaddy earned her bachelor’s degree in human services from Antioch University in 1977.

Gaddy saw the need to help others and joined the East Baltimore Children’s fund where she used her own home as a distribution point for clothing and food for the poor. She founded a homeless shelter which eventually became the Bea Gaddy Family Center, which is still in operation today.

In 1981, using the $290 she won on a 50-cents lottery ticket, she bought enough food to feed 39 neighbors and eventually opened a community kitchen for the needy. From Thanksgiving dinners to opening furniture bank refurbishing used furniture and rehabbing abandoned row houses, Gaddy was a catalyst to help the poor in Baltimore. Eventually, she became an ordained minister to perform marriages and hold funerals at no cost to the families.

Gaddy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. With the cancer in remission, Gaddy ran for Baltimore City Council in 1999 and won. Unfortunately, the cancer returned and she died in October 2001 at the age of 68. Even though Bea Gaddy is gone, her family and friends continue to help the poor in Baltimore using the same love and compassion Bea showed throughout her life.

Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was born in Baltimore in 1889 and is consider the mother of the civil rights movement. From 1935 through 1970, Jackson was the president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP and at the forefront of nearly every fight to end Maryland’s Jim Crow laws. Through her leadership, the Baltimore NAACP sued to remove the color barrier from admissions to the University of Maryland Law School, won cases to force Baltimore public schools to grant equal pay to white and black teachers, and was fundamental to having Baltimore to be the first school system south of the Mason-Dixon line to integrate their schools following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Jackson fought for equal pay and fair employment practices even though Maryland Governor Theodore McKeldin (R) was once quoted as saying, “I’d rather have the devil after me than Mrs. Jackson. Give her what she wants.” In the end, Jackson won most of the fights.

She is also credited with playing critical roles in the passage of federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Jackson died from a heard attack in 1975. After she died, her will called for her Baltimore home to be turned into a civil rights museum. The museum opened in 1978 with memorabilia from Jackson’s life and documents chronicling her life’s work. It was the only museum named after a woman and the only civil rights museum in Maryland. The museum closed in the 1990s because it was too difficult to maintain as a private facility. The museum was transferred to Morgan University who refurbished the building and reopened it on June 11, 2016.

As part of the Indigogo campaign, I selected the option to receive the a full set of the second series BNotes with matching serial numbers. The notes I received, which feels like they were printed on heavy stock paper, a type of paper my wife said was “resumé” paper. All four notes feature serial number BN00055. For all you liar’s poker players, I call a full house.

What do you mean I can’t call a full house?!

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