Despite never actually being in circulation, the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle coin is still the world’s most valuable coin. The last gold coin ever made for circulation in America, this coin has long been deemed the most beautiful coin ever designed.
This coin was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer handpicked by Theodore Roosevelt. Saint-Gaudens created a spectacular high-relief gold coin that was meant to circulate for the denomination of $20. Originally valued at $20 at the time of its production, the coin was sold in a 2002 auction for a whopping $7.5 million American dollar.
Actually, Saint-Gaudens’ design was issued from 1907 to 1932. However, at this same time, America was under the Great Depression. In order to help stabilize the economy and end the run on the banks, President Franklin Roosevelt changed the currency laws. According to the laws, no gold coins would be made again and in order to save and collect all gold coins, every citizen was required to surrender whatever gold coin they have.
Now, before the laws were changed, there were already 445,500 gold Double Eagle coins that were minted in the year 1933. There was an order for the 1933 Gold Double Eagles to be melted. By 1937, the government believed they had all the 1933 coins melted into bullion bars.
However, in the middle of the operation to collect and melt all gold coins, a few of the 1933 Double Eagle coins was spared for the melt pot. The US mint saved two coins and surrendered them to the Smithsonian Institute for safekeeping and records purposes. It was initially believed that these two were the only surviving 1933 Double Eagles. To the surprise of many, the Secret Service was able to confiscate a few more of these coins. By 1952, their total reached eight coins.
Although there is no definitive findings on how these coins escaped melting, many scholars seem to point to a man named George McCann. McCann was a Mint Cashier. Scholars believed he switched the coins, deliberately replacing the 1933 coins with coins of an earlier date. The switch made it seem like none of the coins went missing so there was never any alarm.
Later, some 20 coins came into the possession of a Jeweler named Israel Switt. In private, Switt was able to sell at least 9 of the coins to collectors. Somehow, one of the coins ended up with King Farouk of Egypt. All eight of the coins were confiscated. Meanwhile, King Farouk’s coin ended up with Stephen Fenton. Fenton fought a long battle to keep the Secret Service from getting it.Eventually, it was agreed that the coin would be in auction with the proceeds split between Fenton and the US Mint.
Now, it seems like one of Switt’s heirs found another ten of the 1933 gold coins. Although she is fighting to get it back from the government, the sheer number of the coins will definitely affect the status of the 1933 Gold Double Eagle as the world’s most expensive coin. We’ll all have to see when the next auction is.