In February 23, 1944, the renowned figure in the world of coin collecting, B. Max Mehl, completed the sale of a 1933 Double Eagle to King Farouk of Egypt for an undisclosed amount. Just two days after this transaction, an emissary from the Egyptian Royal Legation arrived at the Treasury in Washington, D.C., seeking an Export License for the coin. This action was fully compliant with the provisions of the Gold Reserve Act of 1934. Given King Farouk’s deep passion for coin collecting, it’s quite likely that his representatives had followed this procedure on previous occasions. This coin is officially an issued coin. But because there is just 1 officially issued 20gold 1933 coin.
Farouk amassed his private treasury of 8,500 gold coins by purchasing them from financially struggling Americans in the aftermath of the Great Depression. However, when he was removed from power in 1952, the government confiscated his collection and conducted a disastrously mishandled auction to sell it. However, the 1933 double eagle was removed from the sale at the request of the U.S. State Department. However, the coin mysteriously disappeared.
King Farouk’s Double Eagle Saga begin : From Smithsonian Verification to Secret Service Seizures.
The sole privately owned 1933 double eagle is a unique piece. Historical records suggest that several might have been distributed from the mint and Treasury cash window in Washington, even post the ban. During the 1940s, offers to purchase or trade them were published in hobby magazines. When Switt, an antique dealer passed away in 2003, their descendants discovered ten of these rare coins tucked away in a safety deposit box. In 1944, Switt confessed to the Secret Service that he had owned and traded nine additional Double Eagles, all of which were found and eliminated. The single remaining Farouk coin is thought to have been the tenth from that same group.
The coin was physically transported to the Smithsonian, accompanied by a request from Mint Director Nellie Tayloe Ross to confirm whether the coin met specific criteria. These criteria revolved around its recognition as having special value to collectors both immediately before December 28, 1933, and prior to the issuance of the Executive order on April 5, 1933. Smithsonian Curator of History, Theodore Belote, promptly examined the coin and, on the spot, verified that it met the requirements for the issuance of a License.
As a result, on February 29, 1944, Export License TGL-11-170 was granted. The coin was retrieved from the Treasury on March 11th and eventually became a part of the extraordinary collection housed within the Koubbeh Palace in Cairo, owned by the Egyptian King.
The spark that ignited this chain of events occurred a mere week later, on March 18, 1944. In response to an inquiry from the Coin and Stamp writer for the New York Herald Tribune, Acting Mint Director Leland Howard sent a telegram to the Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, urgently seeking information about whether any 1933 Double Eagles had been issued. This inquiry was motivated by news of an upcoming auction in New York.
The response received was that none of the 1933 Double Eagles had been disbursed, setting in motion a chain of events that would span over half a century. On March 22, 1944, Howard informed the Head of the United States Secret Service about the illegal nature of the coin. Two days later, Special Agents descended upon the offices of Stack’s in New York, where they confiscated the 1933 Double Eagle scheduled for sale the following day as part of the Colonel James Flanagan auction. This marked only the initial seizure, and by the end of March 25th, the Secret Service had already secured three of these coins, and the investigation was broadening.
the Royal Legation of Egypt delivered the 1933 Double Eagle to the United States Treasury with a request for an Export License.
On February 29, 1944, the United States Treasury issued the Egyptian Royal Legation an Export License (TGL-170) for the 1933 Double Eagle
On March 6, 1944, a letter from the Associate Director of the Smithsonian Institution to Mint Director Ross confirmed that the coin was shown to T. Belote, who affirmed that the coin was of special interest to collectors prior to April 5, 1933, and December 28, 1933, pursuant to the Gold Reserve Act of 1934
witnessed Mr. Fahim of the Egyptian Royal Legation retrieving the 1933 Double Eagle from the United States Treasury.
Acting Mint Director Leland Howard wired the Superintendent of the United States Mint at Philadelphia to inquire whether any 1933 Double Eagles had been disbursed, referencing an upcoming auction in New York.
The General Counsel to the Treasury recommended that diplomatic representations be made to have the Farouk coin returned to the United States.January
1952, when Farouk was overthrown. In 1954, King Farouk’s 1933 Double Eagle reappeared in Cairo during a state-run auction of the former monarch’s coin collection, two years after his overthrow. The United States government identified the 1933 Double Eagle as part of that collection and formally requested the Egyptian government to withdraw it from the sale and return it as stolen property of the United States. Despite the coin being removed from the auction, it was not ultimately returned to the U.S.
In Washington, D.C., during the following week, the erroneous issuance of the Export License to King Farouk came to light. On March 30th, Leland Howard corresponded with the Chief of the Secret Service, noting that Belote lacked information regarding whether or not the coins had been circulated. Furthermore, as the Smithsonian possessed two examples, “Mr. Belote may have been under the impression that they had been distributed.”
the Enigmatic Journey of the 1933 Double Eagle: From Mint to Mystery
The Secret Service’s investigation on March 22, 1944 marked not only the commencement of the coin seizures but also the meticulous unraveling of their origins. The trail ultimately led back to the Mint, where a former Head Cashier emerged as the primary figure with access to these elusive coins. Notably, he had a checkered history, having been dismissed from the Mint and serving a one-year prison sentence in 1940 for a remarkably similar offense involving the embezzlement of obsolete silver coins. Worth noting, such an offense was, under the original Mint Act of April 2, 1792, punishable by death under Section 19.
Beyond the confines of the Mint, a common thread emerged.
The acknowledged source of every know n example of these coins traced back to a jeweler and dealer specializing in “old gold” in Philadelphia. Although the Secret Service harbored a desire to prosecute, the statute of limitations had expired, and the alleged wrongdoers were never brought to trial. However, the coins retained their status as stolen property, prompting a relentless pursuit. By mid-1945, nearly all known examples were under the custody of the government. An additional piece, previously unknown, was voluntarily surrendered in 1952 (courtesy of Louis Eliasberg), leaving just the tenth coin, the Farouk coin in Egypt, as the remaining elusive coin.
Periodic efforts were made to retrieve this coin, but the backdrop of a World War, heightened tensions in the Middle East, and the presence of a significant ally took precedence over the recovery of a single coin. In 1952, when King Farouk was overthrown by a group of colonels led by Gamal Abdal Nasser, the US Treasury made another bid to reclaim its property. This time, the State Department acted on their behalf and managed to withdraw the Farouk’s 1933 coin from Sotheby’s auction of Farouk’s astounding coin collection. However, the State Department fell short of securing the coin’s return, leading to its disappearance and gradual fading into the annals of history.
Farouk1933 Double Eagle Resurfaced: A Decades-Long Saga of Legal Battles begin.
In 1996, it was alleged that the long-lost Farouk ’33 had resurfaced.
A span of forty-two years later, in New York City, Secret Service agents seized a 1933 Double Eagle from Stephen Fenton,an English coin dealer attempting to sell it. Federal agents swiftly confiscated the coin, leading to its storage in a vault within the World Trade Center for several years. It was only in 2001 that the coin’s provenance was definitively established, as the U.S. government’s export license for the coin was discovered still on file. Shortly before the tragic events of September 11, the coin was removed from the World Trade Center and was then transported to Fort Knox, until it was sold at auction at Sotheby’s in 2002. The ensuing five-year legal battle surrounding the coin, marked by sworn depositions, confirmed its historical ownership by King Farouk. It was this legal struggle that unlocked the vaults of history, revealing an entirely unknown chapter in American numismatics, all centered around an unassuming coin with an extraordinary narrative.
The 1933 Double Eagle’s 2002 First auction.
In 2002, the coin made history by selling for an astounding $7.59 million, a world record at the time. The proceeds were split between the dealer and the U.S. Mint department. Additionally, a symbolic $20 was paid to the U.S. Mint Director for the purpose of monetizing the coin. Accompanying the coin was a document affirming that it was the sole 1933 Double Eagle that individuals could legally possess.
The 1933 Double Eagle’s 2021 second auction, and Stuart Weitzman’s Auction Revelation.
Fast forward to 2021, and this remarkable coin has resurfaced, set to go under the auctioneer’s gavel next month. To everyone’s surprise, the collector who purchased the coin in 2002 has been revealed—none other than the renowned fashion designer Stuart Weitzman. Weitzman will be entrusting the sale of the coin to Sotheby’s in New York, with the auction scheduled for June 8, 2021. Anticipation is rife regarding the auction’s outcome, with expectations that the coin may command a staggering price, anywhere between $10 million to $15 million.