THE STORY OF THE WORLD FAMOUS COIN
One of the most coveted coins in the world, the 1993 Double Eagle is unique in that it is the only example that may be legally owned by an individual. When Weitzman anonymously purchased the coin at Sotheby’s New York in 2002 for $7.59 million, it established a new world auction record for any coin at the time, nearly doubling the previous record. The auction was conducted on behalf of the United States Government following a landmark legal settlement, which for the first and only time, authorized the private ownership of this 1933 Double Eagle alone. At the conclusion of the sale and in an historic moment, the Director of the United States Mint signed a Certificate of Monetization turning the coin into legal United States tender – the first time the United States Government had ever monetized a coin in this way.
The 1933 Double Eagle has a uniquely captivating history which encapsulates large swathes of United States history and has been at the centre of numismatic intrigue for
▶ more than eighty years. It is America’s last gold coin struck for circulation, ending a tradition begun in 1795. Known as the coin that took the US off the Gold Standard, 1933 Double Eagles were the last American gold coins struck and intended for circulation by the United States Mint but were never legally issued for use. Designed by the renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt, its imagery of Liberty striding forward on the obverse, with an American eagle in flight on the reverse marks the apex of United States coin design. In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in an effort to lift America’s tattered economy out of the Great Depression. Never officially issued for use, all
1933 Double Eagle coins were ordered to be destroyed with exception of two examples set aside for the Smithsonian Institution. In 1937, several 1933 Double Eagles appeared on the market, which led to a Secret Service investigation in 1944 that deemed all newly discovered coins were stolen from the United States government and therefore illegal to own.
However, only weeks before the Secret Service investigation began in 1944, one of the 1933 Double Eagles was purchased and erroneously granted an export license. It entered the famed coin collection of King Farouk where it remained until 1954 when his collection was offered at auction by Sotheby’s, acting on behalf of the new Republic of Egypt. Upon learning of its presence in the sale, the United States Treasury successfully requested that the coin be withdrawn and the whereabouts
of the coin remained a mystery until 1996 when it was seized during a Secret Service sting at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
Following a five-year legal battle, which unearthed the long-forgotten and erroneously issued export license, the case was settled, and this single 1933 Double Eagle was permitted to be privately owned.
In 2005, ten more 1933 Double Eagles surfaced in the possession of the family of one of the individuals investigated in the 1944 Secret Service investigation and another legal battle ensued.
More than a decade later, after a jury trial and appeals (to as high as the Supreme Court), 1933
Double Eagles were ruled property of the United States and therefore, with the exception of Stuart Weitzman’s example, can never be sold (following the litigation another 1933 Double Eagle was voluntarily surrendered to the US government).