The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is one of the most storied and sought-after coins in the world of numismatics. Featuring a captivating design by renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this $20 gold piece is steeped in history, controversy, and rarity. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating story behind this exceptional coin and the reasons for its extraordinary value.
The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle: A Brief History
The Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle was first minted in 1907, featuring a high-relief design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The coin was struck in 90% gold and 10% copper and was part of President Theodore Roosevelt's effort to beautify American coinage. The obverse features Lady Liberty striding forward, holding a torch and an olive branch, with the U.S. Capitol building and the sun's rays in the background. The reverse showcases a majestic flying eagle, with the denomination and the words "United States of America" inscribed.
The 1933 Double Eagle: A Coin Born in Turmoil
In 1933, the United States was in the grips of the Great Depression. To stabilize the economy and protect the nation's gold reserves, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, which prohibited private ownership of gold coins, bullion, and gold certificates. As a result, nearly all of the 445,500 Double Eagles minted in 1933 were ordered to be melted down.
However, a few coins managed to escape this fate, and their survival turned them into numismatic legends. It is believed that only 20 examples of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle exist today, making them exceedingly rare and valuable.
The Controversy Surrounding the 1933 Double Eagle
The 1933 Double Eagle has been surrounded by controversy and legal disputes for decades. One of the most famous examples involved British coin dealer Stephen Fenton, who was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service in 1996 while attempting to sell a 1933 Double Eagle. The coin was subsequently seized, and a lengthy legal battle ensued. In 2001, an agreement was reached, and the coin was auctioned off in 2002, fetching a record-breaking $7.59 million.
Another high-profile case involved the Langbord family, who discovered ten 1933 Double Eagles in a safety deposit box belonging to their grandfather, Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jeweler. The coins were confiscated by the U.S. government, leading to a protracted legal battle. In 2011, a jury ruled that the coins were rightfully the property of the U.S. government, as they had never been legally issued.
[midjourney command: Generate an image of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, showcasing its stunning design and the inscription "In God We Trust" which was added to the coin in 1908.]
Image tag: 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, rare coin, gold coin
The Legacy of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle
The allure of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle continues to captivate collectors and investors alike. Its rarity, storied history, and stunning design make it one of the most desirable coins in the numismatic world. In 2021, a 1933 Double Eagle sold at auction for a staggering $18.9 million, setting a new world record for the highest price ever paid for a coin.