The Lost Saints of 1933The Lost Saints of 1933

Hundreds of thousands of gold coins perished in the year 1933, melted down to make gold bars that would be stored in the Federal Reserve, safe from the clutches of the American people.  It was the year our country began the process of leaving the gold standard for pure faith in the bank.  Anyone owning monetary gold at the time was ordered to return it to the government, lest they be fined heavily or thrown into prison for 10 years—or both.

Of the thousands melted down that year, almost all 1933 editions of the $20 Saint-Gaudens coin, or Double Eagles, were destroyed.  However, two were spared for display at the Smithsonian Institute, and at least 18 made it out of the U.S. Mint by illegal means.  Stolen by a Mint cashier named George McCann, 19 Saints escaped the flames unscathed and ended up in the possession of Israel Switt, a jeweler out of Philadelphia.

Switt sold at least 9 Saints, 8 of which were located by the Secret Service and confiscated under the claim that they were stolen property of the United States Government.  Unfortunately for the U.S. Mint, the ninth coin was untouchable, resting safely overseas in the possession of King Farouk of Egypt.  In 1952, King Farouk was removed from his throne, and his Double Eagle coin, still an object of the U.S. Mint's desire, disappeared for more than 40 years.

The Secret Service finally got their hands on the runaway coin in 1996 when they discovered it in the possession of British coin dealer, Stephen Fenton through a sting operation in New York.  Negotiations and a legal battle over the ownership of the coin resulted in its eventual auction sale for $7,590,000, split between Fenton and the U.S. Mint.  Where the coin is now is anyone's guess.

September 2004 brought the unveiling of ten more 1933 Double Eagles when Joan Langbord, Israel Switt's daughter, discovered them in a safety deposit box among his things.  In her naivete, she sent the coins to the U.S. Mint for authentication.  One can only imagine her regret when the Secret Service decided to confiscate them.  An 8 year battle with the U.S. Mint for the coins resulted in Langbord's defeat.  

Are there other 1933 $20 Saints out there just waiting to be discovered? 

We don't know for sure.  Theft and deception freed them from certain demise, making them some of the most valuable coins on earth. 

If you have one, hold onto it tightly.