Government Wins 1933 $20 Case

Posted on July 20, 2011 by

A jury found in favor of the government today in a case involving ten 1933 $20 gold pieces. The government has long contended that no 1933 $20 Saint Gaudens were officially released and that any surviving specimens were in fact stolen. The government confiscated numerous specimens in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ten years ago or so, a specimen showed up in New York and was seized by the government in a sting operation. After a few years of legal wrangling, the coin was sold by Sotheby’s and Stack for $7.5 million, the government splitting the proceeds with the owner, British dealer Stephen Fenton. The coin was supossedly the King Farouk specimen which had an official export license sometime in the 1940s when Farouk acquired the piece. At the time of the sale, it was stated that this was the only specimen that would ever officially be monetized and legal to own.

There are also two examples in the Smithsonian Institution collection. There are also 2 to 5 more existing specimens out in the shadow world…one of which I personally saw in 1980.

To complicate matters, the Philadelphia heirs of the jeweler who originally handled probably all of the existing specimens post-1933 turned in ten specimens (there existence being unknown to the numismatic community) to government after the $7.5 million sale and asked them to rule on their legal status. The governemnt decided to keep the coins. The heirs sued.

I assume the decision will be appealed. I am not a lawyer and I don’t know who’s right legally. But as a coin person I think the decision sucks. I would much prefer the coins be legal to own and sold into the marketplace so numerous people could own them. If the ten coins were legal to own they’d probably be worth $3 million each, give or take. Two intersting questions to think about. If the ten coins are made legal to own on appeal, would the shadow coins then be legal too? Second, what’s the government going to do with the coins? They have stated that they would not make any other 1933 $20 gold pieces legal. But are they going to melt $30 million worth of coins????

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Comments (24)


  1. M SMITH says:

    No, this is out right thief of private property, period. It happens every day, the war on drugs is a case in point. If they know they can lure the traffic to homes of the very rich, they make sure there is drugs found the property that is around where they set up drug bust or stings as they call it. There is many case files to back this up & has now been put on public records for all to see, but most are never seen by the public because there no advertisement by the gov that this info may be access by anyone. I wonder why?

    These coins belong to the finders & no one came forward to claim them after years setting in a banks lock box, so the family members wanted to know what was in there & what they found should be theirs, no questions asked by the mint ogovernmentnt. The gov wastes that much a minute on programs that repeat each other ending waste in the billions daily.

    Another sad day for freedoms & rights of Americans by the gov over reaching arms & dirty hands!

  2. Rick says:

    They are already stored with the gold in FT. Knox. In their coin form. So maybe one day they will be released (if the government ever sells it’s gold). All major coin collectors may take heart that day may come. At least they have not been destroyed.

  3. Gilbert Couillard says:

    WOW!…If the government does indeed keep them and looks like they might, THEY’D BE CRAZY to melt these! congress or someone on the hill can pass some sort of admendment to allow these coins to exist!!! whether they like it or not, these 10 coins are now an INFAMOUS part of numismatic HISTORY now…at least donate them to the smithsonian or put them in their own collectors museum but for pete’s sake…DO NOT DESTROY THEM just because they can…there’s roughly about 10 ounces of gold there…wow! at market prices that’s only about $16k compared to about $75 million!!!! PLEASE make them legal and keep them themselves if they have to but please DO NOT DESTROY THEM…however, does alot of what our government does make sense? the answer is NO!!!

  4. Scott B says:

    Based on the decision, what does this say about other coins that have left the Mint without permission? For example, the 1913 Liberty Head Nickels were illegally struck and were smuggled out of the Mint. Does this lawsuit now make those coins illegal to own?

    I think you said it best: “As a coin person I think the decision sucks.”

  5. billy blanx says:

    Who cares? I say melt them.

  6. Rick says:

    M. Smith is wrong. These coins are stolen property. The government is not seizing personal property as he seems to think. It is the same as the police returning a stolen car to it’s rightfull owner. I have read several accounts of cars returned decades after they were stolen. So if M. Smith believes that shouldn’t happen I hope someone steals his car.

  7. sac says:

    $30 Saint Gaudens…never heard of such a thing.

  8. Jack the Clicker says:

    HOORAY FOR THE GOVERNMENT!!! Citizens suck…

  9. FatherPatriot says:



  10. CoinKing says:


    Maybe they sent only ten out of their hundred!

  11. B W says:

    It goes to show you that we don`t live in a free society!!

  12. Frank says:


    as a very amatuer collector;, I remember reading about a theft at the DuPont residence years ago. Many years later someone tried to sell an 1804 $1.00 stolen from Dupont collection. The coin was confiscated, documented as DuPont’s and returned to the rightful owner.

  13. Michel says:

    I hope the case goes to appeal and that the decision is reversed.

  14. Captain Lance says:

    Let there be NO doubt, the coins were stolen. Those in possession, should consider themselves fortunate for not being charged with criminal possession.

    The law was quite specific about this, as the case was heard by a JURY.

    I have been a Numismatist for 55 years. I take GREAT care to make sure those coins I accumulate are; genuine, being aquired from the rightful owner.

    Same prodcedure for vehicles, vessels, aircraft, firearms.

  15. Ger H says:

    The jury did the right thing! The heirs probably knew what they had and thought they could just “wait until the coast was clear!” The coins belong to the government. The government could sell lottery tickets for each of the 10 gold pieces over the next ten years.

  16. Michael C says:

    This was the correct decision. The coins were not obtained in a legitimate manner. Hopefully they will not be melted down. Let the US Government sell or auction them. There should be no benifit to the Longbord family.

  17. Mjclemm says:

    Hey, let’s not forget about the staute of limitations, does it apply to these coins? I would think so. As far as I know, the statute of limitations of stolen gold or currency if he had POSSESTION of the stolen gold for the statute time period, is one thing, however, since he died, the new owners not ever have known it was stolen are the legal owners of the gold coins. I believe the only fair way to settle the matter is , sell the coins at auction, the Goverment and the owners of the coins split the proceds. Including not being taxed upon it. Also, they could offer to pay FACE value of the coins . This was not a huge crime if he was to be prosecuted at the time, it’s a total of $200, just below the Grand larceny number. Also, it would just be a mister-meaner, felony. ( I know I jumped around a bit, I Adam just trying to remember everything I am trying to say..) thanks , Mjc…

  18. Ron Elrod says:

    I agree that the coins were always property of the Federal government and anyone who bought one of them KNEW they were breaking the law and therefore “thumbing their nose” at our Laws . The buyers of the coins werein every respect, were knowiingly comitting the criminal act of concealing stolen property from the rightful owner. Afterall we are a country of laws. And yes I am a lawyer!!!!

  19. BS Hutch says:

    To have that many of those coins! It seems that their family member must have been the thief. They are just plain lucky that the gov. doesn’t prosecute them for possesion.

  20. Ed Whitson says:

    They may have been illegally owned, but surely not stolen. They were either traded with other $20 gold pieces or with paper currency. They must have been purchased at the desk where collectors at the time were able to buy new issues directly. It seems legal to me to own them. So many dealings were done under the table in the early years, mules, one of a kinds, smuggled coins, it didn’t just happen yesterday. Modern laws do not apply. The jury is out, 1964 Peace dollars may exist.

  21. Harold M. Hoogasian says:

    What about all the patterns? They weren’t all “issued” through legitimate “channels” most of the time.

  22. Harold M. Hoogasian says:

    As I recall, the government “traded” a number of patterns to get one of the $50 “Union” coins for the Smithsonian cabinet!

  23. Hany Haddad says:

    The concept of “Monetization” is a legal fiction. Others better versed in this concept such Roger Burdette have said so. I plan to write a book about about the famous King Farouk of Egypt and his fabulous coin collection. I will endeavor to get a picture of the 1933 Double Eagle from 1954 the date of the Auction in Cairo, Egypt. I will try to dig up more information on these very interesting coins.

  24. Ron Stringer says:

    What about the five 1913 Liberty Head Five-Cent pieces? They were never released to the public, but I’ve never heard of any problems with them being sold or owned.

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