The ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles confiscated by the government from Joan Lanbord, daughter of Israel Switt.
Without a lot of fanfare, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins found by Joan Langbord, daughter of Philadelphia jeweler Israel Switt.
Shortly after the sale of the Farouk-Fenton 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coin, currently the example that is legal to own, in 2002 for $7.59 million at auction ($10.23 million accounting for inflation), Joan Langbord, daughter of Israel Switt, was searching through her late father’s boxes and found ten of these coins. Langbord then sent the coins to the U.S. Mint to authenticate. After a period of time, the Langbords inquired about the coins. They were told the coins were genuine and would not return them, calling them stolen items.
Langbord and her son Roy Langbord hired Barry Berke to help retrieve the coins. Berke was the attorney for British coin dealer Stephen Fenton who was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service when trying to buy the coin at the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in 1996. Berke negotiated Fenton’s release from prison and the subsequent sale at the July 2002 auction.
After the U.S. Mint refused to return the coins, the Langbords sued the government in 2006. The case went to trial in 2011 with a jury verdict against the Langbords. After the ruling, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero, the government’s lead attorney in the case, came out with a courthouse statement, “People of the United States of America have been vindicated.” Do you feel vindicated?
The case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.
In a hearing in 2015, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell ruled that the government was too aggressive in its actions and that the lower court judge erred in evidence handling. A subsequent three-judge panel upheld Judge Rendell’s ruling and ordered the government to return the coins.
The government appealed the ruling and asked for a full-circuit hearing. Called a ruling en banc, in 2016, a full panel of 12 judges ruled 9-3 that they agreed the lower court made mistakes in the presentation of evidence but they did not feel that there was not enough evidence that could overturn the ruling. The Appellate Court overturned the appeals and reinstated the original verdict.
On April 17, the petition was denied. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the decision since he was not on the bench at the time the petition was filed.
Attempts to contact Burke have not been successful.
The inconsistency of how the government has handled the many different cases of coins that were not supposed to be in public hands is infuriating. Although the government has a history of confiscating the 1933 Double Eagles, the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels remain out of government control while the 1974-D Aluminum Cent was confiscated, while the 1974 Aluminum Cent pattern that was allegedly given to janitor by a member of congress was allowed to be sold at auction.
Patterns were never supposed to leave the U.S. Mint yet after the William Woodin served as Franklin Roosevelt’s first Secretary of the Treasury, the government has not tried to confiscate patterns. Woodin was a collector of patterns and trial coins who also had Roosevelt exempt “rare and unusual coin types” when writing the order to withdraw gold from private hands.
Even if the Third Circuit agreed that the evidence was not handled properly by the lower-court judge under the terms of the law, how can they tell whether a retrial would yield a different outcome? Why not return the case and retry the case?
While I love reading a good conspiracy theory, I find many difficult to understand how all of the moving parts can work in unison for or against anything. However, there are aspects of this story where a good conspiracy theorist could spin quite a tale.
Saying, “there ought to be a law” is usually not the real answer to many problems. However, maybe it is time to reconsider that feeling to force the government to act consistently. Considering how congress has turned dysfunction into fine art, I do not see this ever happening.
2017-W American Liberty Gold Coin to be issued in celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Mint
When the U.S. Mint made the announcement about the American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin, they mentioned that the coin will begin selling on April 6, 2017.
As a coin with one troy ounce of 24-karat gold, the coin will be at least the spot price of gold plus a premium to account for manufacturing costs and seigniorage (profit). Using the U.S. Mint’s pricing guidelines and their pricing chart, the price of the 24-karat Gold Buffalo Proof coin would be $1,540. However, given that this coin will require extra labor since it will be a high-relief coin and that the U.S. Mint will likely sell these coins in a fancy presentation box, the costs will likely to be higher. I would not be surprised to see these coins to sell at least $100 more than the gold Buffaloes.
What do you think? Will buy one of these coins?
Will you buy the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin?
No, I do not buy or cannot afford a gold coin. (48%, 32 Votes)
I'm not sure. (18%, 12 Votes)
Absolutely! It's gorgeous! (15%, 10 Votes)
I probably will. (10%, 7 Votes)
May be, it might be a good investment. (9%, 6 Votes)
The latest “controversy” surrounding the U.S. Mint is that the depiction of Lady Liberty on the new U.S. Mint 225th Anniversary 24-karat gold coin is depicted by an African-American woman.
This comes after 225 years of depicting Liberty as a white woman—or is it? (see below) What has caused even a bigger stir in some sectors was in the statement released by the U.S. Mint, they say that this “is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs which depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms-including designs representing Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Indian-Americans among others—to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.”
I saw one blog post ask, “How dare they do this?” Followed by asking, “What’s next, a Mexican?”
If these folks would stop fomenting and learn a bit about history, this is part of the evolution of how we have depicted Liberty since the discovery of the New World
One of the first uses of woman as allegorical figures at back to the goddess of ancient Greece and Rome. Both gods and goddesses were allegorical figures of the power they represented using an exaggerated version of the human forms they knew about. Using woman as strong, matronly-like figures guarding over a country’s sovereignty like a protective figure.
Prior to the discovery of North America, Britain had Britannia. Britannia was the allegorical figure as the protector of the British Empire. Named for the Greek and Roman term for the geographical region, Britannia is usually seated facing the water. Although most images has her seated on a shroud-covered seat, sometimes Britannia is depicted sitting on a horse. She is wearing a helmet, hold a trident and a shield emblazoned with the Union Jack to show she is the protector and ruler of the seas. It is not a coincidence that Christian Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design is similar to the design used for Britannia.
1672 Britannia copper coin
1854 Seated Liberty Quarter with rays and no arrows
When the first European settlers arrived, they used the image of an “Indian Queen, a voluptuous, but stern Native American woman dressed in little more than head feathers. Portrayed sitting astride a giant armadillo or sporting a tomahawk, the Indian Queen represented exoticism, danger and adventure: attributes that 16th- and 17th-century explorers most associated with their new land.”
As colonization grew and the native American tribes and the settlers were not getting along (you would also be angry if these outsiders were pushing you off your native lands), her looks were softened to look more Anglican in appearance trying to represent what was perceived as a less hostile look.
The look of Liberty has changed with the artist that have designed her image. The most famous image of Liberty is the statue by Frédéric Bartholdi titled “Liberty Enlightening the World,” or more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi, a French sculptor, reportedly used his mother as the model for the statue’s face. This makes the most famous depiction of Lady Liberty a French woman.
Two of the most famous and different depictions of Liberty were created by George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci. Morgan used actress Anna Willess Williams as the model for his design noting that her profiles was the most perfect he had ever seen. For the Peace dollar, de Francisci used the portrait of his wife, Teresa, as the model. With rays instead of a crown or a headdress departing from previous designs, using the image of Teresa de Francisci means that an Italian-born woman was depicted as Lady Liberty since she was born in Naples, Italy.
1879-S Morgan Dollar
1921-D Peace Dollar
Many references claim that Martin Van Buren was the first U.S. born president because he was born in 1782, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, the Treaty of Paris, which established the United States as a new country, was not signed until September 3, 1783. Although the colonies declared itself independent in 1776, the United States was legally not a country until the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
These are also not the first examples of someone not being born in the United States being depicted on U.S. coinage. In 1892 and 1893 the U.S. Mint produced the Columbian half dollars with the image of Italian-born Christopher Columbus. Although these coins were only struck as a commemorative, they were circulated and used in commerce. However, the first coin struck for circulation that included the image of a foreign-born person was the Washington quarter. George Washington was born in the British Colony of Virginia in 1732 as a British subject. In fact, the first nine presidents were born British subjects in the colonies. It was not until John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison as president in 1841 when a United States-born citizen became president. Tyler was born in 1790 in the State of Virginia.
Although there are many examples of African-Americans appearing on commemorative coins. In the Classical Commemorative Era, the U.S. Mint issued the 1946-1951 Booker T. Washington and 1951-1954 George Washington Carver/Booker T. Washington Commemorative half-dollars. Modern Era Commemoratives include the 1998 Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar featuring the portrait of Crispus Attucks, 1997 Jackie Robinson commemorative coins, and 2007 Little Rock Nine Silver Dollar featuring the legs of the Little Rock Nine being lead to class.
For circulating coins, the reverse of the 2002 Missouri State Quarter features William Clark’s slave York paddling the canoe with both Meriweather Lewis and Clark in the boat. The reverse of the 2009 District of Columbia quarter honors Duke Ellington.
Do not forget that Sacagawea is a non-Anglican being featured on a circulating coin, even though the coin really does not circulate.
But is this the first African-American Lady Liberty?
1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle (obverse)
Finally, there is a claim that the model used by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the design of $20 double-eagle gold coin was Harriette Eugenia “ Hettie” Anderson. Hettie Anderson was an African-American model from South Carolina considered an extraordinary beauty. Anderson was known to pose for Saint-Gaudens and many other artists with connections to Saint-Gaudens, such as Adolph Weinman.
Because of the treatment of blacks in America, Anderson’s part in Saint-Gaudens’ work was kept quiet. After his death, Homer, the artist’s son, edit Anderson out of his father’s unfinished autobiography. This information was later discovered by William E. Hagans. Hagen was researching the Swedish artist Anders Zorn, who worked with Saint-Gaudens. While reviewing Zorn’s work, he found a sketch Zorn made with Saint-Gaudens and a nude Hettie Anderson lying in the background. After further research, Hagen discovered that Anderson was modeling for Saint-Gaudens at the time he was designing the double-eagle. It was later that Homer Saint-Gaudens removed Anderson from the history of this coin’s design.
If this is true (see “Written out of History” on this page), then this is not the first time Lady Liberty was depicted as an African-American Woman!
Anders Zorn’s etching of Augustus Saint-Gaudens taken a break with a nude Hattie Anderson laying behind him.
Artist’s conception† of the common reverse for the 2019 Apollo 11 commemorative coin program.
Every year since coming into office, President Barack Obama and his family packs up and flies to Hawaii for an end of the year vacation. Obama was born in Hawaii and still has some family on Oahu. Before leaving Washington, he will sign whatever bills are sent to him by congress. According to the White House News Feed, President Obama signed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act on Friday, December 16, 2016!
Based on my posts from the last few weeks, I am sure you can tell I have a fascination with space. In fact, if there is such thing as reincarnation, I want to come back in the future to be able to travel around the universe in a manner similar to what we see in the movies. It is sad that there is no real enthusiasm for space exploration as there was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon!
In July 1969, my family lived in the Long Island suburbs of New York. The year before Apollo 11, my father bought a new, large RCA color television. Aside from learning that the beginning and end of Wizard of Oz was in black-and-white, I was able to watch the launches of the world’s largest Roman candle, the Saturn V rocket. Before Skylab and the Shuttle programs, it was a marvel of human achievement. I loved watching the liftoffs from Cape Kennedy and always wanted to go see one in person. I never did get to see a rocket launched, but I hope to some day.
This was a time when kids went outside to play, even in the summer evenings. We played a lot of baseball-related games including setting up a “field” in the street. Nobody was in the street. We were all home watching television and watching overhead shots of Mission Control in Houston. Even through the television, you could sense the tension until Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. TheEagle has landed.”
It wasn’t until years later when I learned more about the Cold War when I understood why it was more important for the United States to land and walk on the moon first. All I knew was it was very cool that an American was up there. It made Star Trek seem possible!
The moon walk was Monday night. Again, we were staring at the television watching the enactments as to what to expect. There were mockups of the Lunar Module and astronauts demonstrating what Armstrong was supposed to do. I remember the concentration on the “D-Ring,” the D-shaped handle that Armstrong had to pull on to open the door that had the camera. There was a question that the ring had to survive the landing and that the door could have jammed. We would have a historical moment without it being recorded on video!
“These are the first pictures ever broadcast from the moon,” was the words by whoever was on television. I remember the words but not who said them. Pulling on the D-ring worked and the world was watching. We watched as Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. After a brief stop to remove the cover on the plaque that was attached to the ladder, Armstrong put both feet on the footpad of the lunar module. After a quick bounce step from the footpad to the surface of the moon, Armstrong gave his famous like, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
There has been a “controversy” about whether Armstrong said “… one small step for man,” or “… one small step for a man.” Whatever is the correct version does not take away from the feat and the fact that Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite!
While NASA was the inspiration for many of the modern technologies we enjoy today, only Apollo 11 took it to the level of defining U.S. technology. While Skylab and the Shuttle programs were far more advanced, Apollo 11 stands as one of the 20th-century’s most amazing feats.
Needless to say, I am excited!
Commemorative program issued in 2019
Required design elements:
Convex in shape “to more closely resemble the faceplate of the astronaut’s helmet of the time”
“The Secretary shall hold a juried, compensated competition to determine the design of the common obverse of the coins minted under this Act, with such design being emblematic of the United States space program leading up to the first manned Moon landing.”
Winning designer to receive no less than $5,000 for their design.
Common reverse design “shall be a representation of a close-up of the famous ‘Buzz Aldrin on the Moon’ photograph taken July 20, 1969, showing just the visor and part of the helmet of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, in which the visor reflects the image of the United States flag, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the lunar lander.”
Coins that will be on sale are coins that were left over when the sale was closed earlier this year, orders that were not completed for many reasons including credit cards that could not be processed, and a few returns that are not “spoiled.” If you order, you will not receive coins that were damaged and return.
While we cannot tour or see inside the Bullion Repository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the U.S. Mint just released a B-Roll video of scenes inside the gold repository at the West Point Mint.
Gold stored at West Point is called “working stock.” This is the gold that the U.S. Mint uses for striking coins. Depending on the demand, the gold you will see in the video will not be there in a year. It will be used for American Gold Eagles, gold commemoratives, and gold medals cast for congress and the president.
West Point has been called “The Fort Knox of Silver” because it is where the U.S. silver reserve is located. It is also the location for the working stock of silver used by the U.S. Mint. All of the U.S. Mint facilities have working stock of silver used to strike silver coinage. However, since most gold production is struck out of West Point and Philadelphia, most of the working stock of gold is in those facilities.
West Point is the primary manufacturer of gold bullion coins.
In the video at the 50-second mark, someone is weighing a bar of gold. He says the manufacturer claim is that it weighs 400.100 (troy ounces) but actually weighs 400.096. A gold bar weighing 400.096 troy ounces is 12.444 kilograms or 27.435 pounds. With the price of gold currently $1,176.60 per troy ounce (as this is being written), the melt value of that gold bar, which is .9999 fine looking at the stamp on the bar, is $470,752.95.
As the weather turns colder and the fowl shudder for other reasons, we turn our thoughts to what to give as gifts. As numismatists, we can always find something based on the hobby that would be nice and maybe spark interest in collecting. Or we can find something fun that is somewhat related for those we know will never be converted.
We begin the weekend that starts with Black Friday and extends to Cyber Monday, terms that have little meaning these days except as marketing mechanism, if we are not going to fight the crowds at least we can plan.
My planning began two weeks ago when I wanted to do something different for my coin club’s December meeting. As the club greeter, I set up a table at the door to give away tickets for door prizes and sell raffle tickets. Door prizes are usually low-value foreign coins or an unusual U.S. coin, such as one with a minor error. Since I am responsible for selecting the door prizes, I try to follow a theme and include at least one coin containing silver. The raffle is usually a small gold coin or a silver crown-like coin, depending on what the club treasurer can find.
Our December meetings are special in that it is our annual charity auction. Members donate items to the auction and everyone in attendance bids for what they want. All proceeds are donated to a local charity. This has been a club tradition dating back to its founding in 1959.
While thinking about the door prizes and raffle, I was scanning online auctions looking for ideas. One idea came when I stumbled across currency-like notes with holiday themes. When I found a $1 million note with “A Blue Christmas with Elvis” I knew I found a door prize. Since I was buying two for the coin club, I bought a few more to include in greeting cards that I will be mailing this year.
To be inclusive, the next search was to look for Chanukah currency. Although the selection was not as varied as the Christmas notes, I found one that looked nice and was going to satisfy the coin club and be added to my holiday cards.
Then my thoughts turned to the raffle. We try to raffle gold coins whenever we can buy them at a cheap enough price. However, with the price of gold over $1,200 per troy ounce and over $189 higher than it opened in January, finding something affordable was not easy. As I was searching I found a listing for 1-grain bars mounted on holiday-related cards. I know that 1 grain is not a lot of gold. In fact, it comes out to about $2.50 in gold. But to buy four at $5 per card to donate for the raffle where the proceeds go to charity, that would be something different.
After purchasing the four cards, I started searching for other gold bars and found everything from one-third of a gram and heavier. Even with the current price of gold, finding special bars that could be purchased for $25 or less gave me an idea to buy a few to include in cards to special people.
Of course, this type of gift giving is not for everyone. But if you want to do something with a numismatic theme and make it look special for not a lot of money, think about buying these light gold bars. I think you will impress your gift recipient.
In 1916, the U.S. Mint began to circulate three iconic coin designs that remain favorites amongst collectors. To celebrate, the U.S. Mint issued 24-karat gold centennial versions of the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half-Dollar. The designs of the coins are the same as their century-old counterparts except the gold specification was added. Earlier this month, the U.S. Mint released the 2016-W Walking Liberty Half-Dollar 24-karat gold coin to complete the series.
2016-W Mercury Centennial Gold Dime
2016-W Standing Liberty Centennial Gold Quarter
2016-W Walking Liberty Centennial Gold Half-Dollar
With the release of the gold Walking Liberty Half-Dollar, every coin design that was part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” that has gone out of circulation, except the Bela Lyon Pratt quarter and half-eagles and the Saint-Gaudens $10 eagle, have been reproduced at least once. Only Victor D. Brenner’s Lincoln Head Cent design remains in circulation even though the reverse has been redesigned a few times.
Isn’t it time we move on?
Let’s forget the legal limitations placed on the U.S. Mint that only allows them to do a tribute like this in gold even though the original coins were struck in silver, how many collectors are really interested in buying these coins? How many can afford these coins?
Judging by the listings for online auctions and dealers that specialize in modern precious metals, it seems that the alleged sellout of the gold Mercury Dime was because of speculation. While there will always be some opportunists in any market, the appearance of the churn in that market feels more like people looking to make money rather than collect, especially since its $209 issue price is more affordable.
Now, both the Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty gold coins are still available. With the limited availability, why aren’t collectors buying these coins?
Aside from the cost of a gold coin, how many younger collectors or even those that are a part of Generation X have any connection to those coins? It is possible we Baby Boomers have seen these coins in circulation, even sparingly. I was able to find Mercury dimes and Buffalo nickels as late as the very early 1970s before they were all removed from circulation. My interest in collecting started when I found Indian Head cents in pocket change.
I am not saying that these designs are unworthy of a tribute. As a collective, they are arguably the most iconic designs of U.S. coinage. But what many consider the best of the best will live on as part of the American Eagle, Buffalo 24-karat, and the soon-to-be palladium bullion programs.
Isn’t it time we move on?
American Silver Eagle Proof
2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin
2013-W American Buffalo gold reverse proof obverse
Sales of mint and proof sets are down. Sales of commemorative coins are not meeting expectations where only a few have been sellouts. And the only modern coin that has seen any respect from the Baby Boomer and older collecting community was the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar gold coin.
It is time we move on.
The 115th congress will be sworn into office on January 3, 2017. Giving the congress time to get settled including my representative who will be entering his first term in the House, I will write to him to propose a that a silver program similar to the 24-karat gold program be created. Maybe, if coins are offered in silver, a more affordable metal, we can use those coins to generate additional interest in collecting.
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.
1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle (obverse). Last sold for $7,590,020 in 2002.
Reverse of the iconic 1933 Saint Gaudens $20 Double Eagle gold 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.
Price is based on the average price of gold based on the afternoon price of gold as set by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The U.S. Mint uses a Thursday-to-Wednesday week for the average which means that it is highly likely that the Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty gold coins will also be released on a Thursday.
I will add a link to this table under the Collector’s Reference on the menubar for your future reference.