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As we all move further into fiat representations of money, the real thing becomes more valuable. Last year, the fifth most expensive purchase in the world was made through Sotheby’s auction house and it was for a Gold Double Eagle coin with a face value of $20.
How much did the lucky buyer pay for this priceless piece of history? A whopping $18.9 million.
There are only 13 Gold Double Eagles known to exist. Only 445,500 of these coins were minted but never released to the public. Shortly after their production, FDR’s executive order 6102 demanded the public turn over their gold (and gold certificates) to the government by May 1, 1933. FDR reluctantly issued the order in hopes of easing the Great Depression. Therefore 445,487 Double Eagle gold coins were melted down. The president was hoping to melt all but two of the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles, but someone at the mint had other plans.
Today, twelve of the thirteen remaining Double Eagles are held by the US Government, but that was not always the case. After FDR mandated the recall, some of the coins were spirited away and brought to a very lucky gold dealer named Israel Switt. Switt purchased 10 coins in his little shop on South Sansom street in Pennsylvania – also known as Jewelers’ Row.
The thing is, no one in the government had released the coins. Years later, the FBI and Secret Service met with Switt who said he came to possess the coins in early 1937 but the “how” of it all remains a mystery. Switt sold some of the coins to collectors and others to fellow gold men. Ten of the coins were recovered from the Langbord family in 2016, rejoining the two Double Eagle coins that FDR spared initially.
The thirteenth Double Eagle coin, however, remains in the public sector. In 1944, the 13th coin made its way into Egyptian King Farouk’s private coffers, then transferred to the Egyptian Government treasury. In 1954 the coin was up for auction at Sotheby’s in Cairo and purchased by a private Egyptian citizen. In 1995 famous coin consultant André de Clermont (who works at St. James’s Auctions) brokered a deal for British coin dealer Stephen Fenton, then, in 2001, the coin returned to the US Mint. The thirteenth Double Eagle was purchased by Southeby’s in 2002 and then by Stuart Weitzman who is a coin collector (of course) and a fashion designer.
Weitzman gained his fortune as a shoe designer (gotta love the shoes) and was the private owner of the 13th 1933 Double Eagle until the sale last year. Weitzman seems to be slowly liquidating a number of assets. His shoe brand was purchased by Coach in 2019 also, but that’s a post for a different day…
The most recent owner of the 1933 Double Eagle coin wishes to remain anonymous but they are not shy about dropping some coin! The purchase price of $18.9M made their purchase of the 13th Double Eagle coin, the fifth most expensive worldwide auction purchase during 2021. In case you were wondering, Picasso’s portrait of his lover, Marie-Therese, was the highest-ranked item on that list.
So here ends our story. Thank you for joining us today.
See you next time on Pendant and Ring.