On February 8, 2008, a report from the Moscow News reverberated in both the numismatic press and found its way into some mainstream media outlets said that a couple in Egypt found a 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagle. The forbidden coin, which there is only one legal tender specimen, could be the most valuable coin if it is real.
Online forums have parsed the words of this short article noting that the line “Specialists believe that the double eagle found in Egypt could be part of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1933 collection of coins redesigned by famed American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and given to King Farouk of Egypt as a present,” contain significant factual errors. For instance, Roosevelt did not collect coins, but did commission Saint-Gaudens to design the coin and owned a high-relief coin. Even if Roosevelt did collect coins, he died in 1919 and would have never collected this coin. Saint-Gaudens died in 1907.
Further, evidence discovered by David Tripp and published in his book Illegal Tender suggests that the Farouk coin was sold to an emissary by a dealer.
After parsing the words, you have to realize that this is a story by a Russian news organization quoting a Qatar news organization reporting an event in Egypt. Aside from translation being an issue, even some collectors are confused by the provenance of these coins. So the mistakes could be understandable. But is it a real coin?
The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coin sold in 2002 for $7.6 million was assumed to the be the Farouk coin based on the assumptions of its travels until its confiscatio But part of the evidence was that a 1933 Double Eagle coin was removed from the 1954 auction of King Farouk’s coin collection. Although a coin was confiscated from British dealer Stephen Fenton who testified that it was the Farouk specimen, no evidence exists to prove the claim.
Since the sale of the only legal tender 1933 Double Eagle, ten coins found by the family of the late jeweler and coin dealer Israel Switt where authenticated as genuine by the US Mint and subsequently confiscated them. While the family is suing the government for the coins’ return, it was though that this may be the last of the escaped Double Eagles… until now.
If the coin is real, the US government considers the coin government property and illegal to own since it was never released into circulation. Although the US Secret Service has not commented on this story, history suggests that the coin will be confiscated should it return to the United States.
If the coin is real, the $15 million estimate in the Russian article may be possible, but could be too expensive. Should the coin be accurately linked to King Farouk with convincing evidence, $15 million may be a low estimate. However, it would have to be sold overseas to prevent its confiscation by the US Secret Service.
This may not be the last we hear of this coin. But I still want to know how the grandfather of this tailor came to own this coin. Even in 1954, the coin was known to be very rare, so how did it end up in a box in the bottom of a closet? It will make an interesting story!