Thanks to an article that appeared in The New York Times, the case of Langbord v. U.S. Mint was back in the news. Apparently, the order [PDF] for the government to turn over the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins to the Langbord family was posted to the website for the US District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania.
In the order, Judge Legrome D. Davis, Jr. agreed with the plaintiff (Langbord family) that the coins were illegally seized and order the government to turn over the coins or initiate a judicial forfeiture procedure by September 28, 2009. There has been no comment issued by the US Mint or the Department of the Treasury. It is expected that the government would file a forfeiture procedure that would have to prove the coins were stolen from the US Mint. Since the alleged crime occurred 75 years ago and none of the principals are still alive, the government has a very high standard to meet.
The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins has been the source of legends. After the sale of the Farouk-Fenton Coin for $7.59 million in 2002, its story became the inspiration for two books, Illegal Tender and Double Eagle, and inspired legislation to protect older coins and patterns that left the Mint under allegedly nefarious conditions.
But would the addition of ten coins reduce the value of the Farouk-Fenton specimen?
Along with condition and rarity, any special story or provenance of a coin will affect its price. The story and provenance of the Farouk-Fenton specimen is extraordinary. It was the subject of international intrigue including the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt and the chase by the US Secret Service for the coin that lead to the sting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where British coin dealer Stephen Fenton was arrested trying to buy the coin.
Two books, a court case, and a sale by Southeby’s for $6.6 million (plus the 15-percent buyer’s fee making the total $7.59 million) makes it a one-of-a-kind coin.
Even if the Switt-Langbord coins enter the market they may never reach the status of the Farouk-Fenton example. The only factor that could bring down the price of the Farouk-Fenton coin would the be effect of the economy. Otherwise, it will stand alone as the first 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle that comes with a very unique story.
Image courtesy of the US Mint and NY Times.