The rare double eagle gold coins: Was grandpa a thief, or a great collector?


In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to move the United States away from the gold standard, and issued Executive Order 6102, which limited the amounts of gold bullion and coins that private citizens could own. He also determined that the country would no longer issue gold coins.

Before the executive order could take effect, the mint produced almost a half million gold $20 coins. After giving two to the Smithsonian institution, officials sent the rest off to be destroyed. However, a few of the 1933 Saint Gaudens double eagles (as the coins later came to be known) survived, largely through the efforts of Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jewelry dealer. The best-known of these began a long odyssey which took it into the collection of Saudia Arabia's King Farouk and, ultimately, into the hands of Stephen Fenton, a British coin dealer. When Fenton attempted to sell the coin in 2002, he was arrested; later, he struck a deal whereby he was able to sell the coin in return for sharing the proceeds with the government. When it fetched $7.6 million at auction in 2002, it became one of the most valuable coins in the world.