1933 double eagle # 6 from James A. Stack, US coin collector. Melted in 1956.

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James A. Stack is a notable figure among collectors of high-quality U.S. coins, primarily due to the dispersal of his collection through several auctions in the late 1980s and early ’90s. If he had opted for a single sale, his collection would have been considered one of the 20th century’s greatest. The decision to split the collection into multiple sales is a tale for another time. Here, the focus is on a remarkable coin that never made it to auction—the 1933 $20 double eagle.

The story of James A. Stack’s 1933 $20 is extensively detailed in David Tripp’s “Illegal Tender” (2013). On April 3, 1944, James A. Stack had his initial encounter with the U.S. Secret Service, led by Special Agent Edward Connors, who visited Stack’s Broadway office in New York, according to Tripp, during the 1944’s interrogation by the United States Secret Service, fellow collector F.C.C. Boyd identified Stack as the owner of a 1933 $20. Following Boyd’s revelation, the Secret Service visited “Stack Bros., Numismatists,”at 12 West 46th Street in New York (unrelated to Stack’s Bowers firm that sold anaother 1933 Double Eagle in 2022. Initially hesitant to disclose the source of his acquisition, Stack eventually confirmed, under presented evidence, that he had acquired the coin from Philadelphia coin dealer Ira Reed. Despite holding onto the coin for over a year, James A. Stack, on June 20, 1945, reluctantly surrendered his 1933 Double Eagle to the Secret Service. James A. Stack continued his legal battle for the return of his 1933 $20 until his death in 1951.
The dispute over forms between the Stack estate and the federal government persisted for five years until the case was eventually dismissed. In 1956, the government assumed full possession of the coin, which was subsequently melted down in August of that year.

2 responses to “1933 double eagle # 6 from James A. Stack, US coin collector. Melted in 1956.”

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  1. aziz

    As an aged numismatist reflecting on the memorable James A. Stack dime auction of January 1990, I must say those dimes were truly splendid, both in terms of their numismatic allure and the astonishing prices they commanded. It’s intriguing to note that, over the years, some of these coins experienced a downgrade in their condition.

    My foremost desire from that auction was James A. Stack’s exceptional “gem” 1853-O arrows dime. I had tirelessly sought such a coin in true uncirculated condition for over a decade. Applying my discerning eye, I graded the coin as 64+ ($6K-$8K), perturbed by certain uncertainties about the surfaces, which appeared somewhat prooflike or lightly manipulated. This was an unusual characteristic for a date typically seen with a fully satiny or blasty appearance due to its generally weak strike. However, I was easily outbid, as several dealers perceived the coin as a lock for a 65 grade or better. Jay Miller acquired the coin for a seemingly modest sum of just over $12K (a bargain in my opinion). To my astonishment, NGC later assigned an MS66 grade to the coin! Jay Miller swiftly flipped it to Bruce Amspacher for $23,500, proving to be a profitable transaction. Bruce, with a preference for PCGS holders, removed it and sent it to PCGS, where it was graded as MS65. Undoubtedly, this decision incurred a significant loss. Nevertheless, the coin likely remains the finest known, as I am unaware of a superior specimen, especially considering the challenging nature of the date. It’s probable that it is no longer attributed to the Stack collection.

    One regrettable oversight of that auction involved an individual acquiring a gem 1859-O dime for $13,750. This particular coin, requiring an MS66 grade to salvage its value, displayed a conspicuous gouge in the center of the “O” in ONE on the reverse, indicative of tooling. In my assessment, it deserved no more than an MS64 grade. Despite the catalog acknowledging this flaw, the coin still received an NGC MS66 grade and likely sold for a substantial amount, perhaps between $15K and $20K, sight-unseen. It was indeed a time of a completely raw collection, fueled by a fervent market.

    1. Alexandre Laurent

      The James A. Stack pedigree, along with numerous others, probably went up in smoke as the coins got entombed in slabs. The 1990s PCGS and other holders were pretty stingy with space, rarely bothering to include pedigrees on their labels – a trend that hasn’t changed much even today. And when they do deign to mention a coin’s lineage, it’s often an abridged version, thanks to their miserly label dimensions.

      On a brighter note, stumbling upon a sweet pedigree for a coin you own, perhaps through the excitement of “plate matching,” is an absolute blast! The thrill of uncovering that hidden history adds a certain flair to the numismatic pursuit.


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