Welcome to the summer 2002 issue of Making Cents, the online newsletter that tells you what's new and striking at the United States Mint. Be sure to check back every 3 months for a new issue.
An auction is where things are sold to the people who offer the most money. And an auction in New York on July 30, 2002, will be a very special event: the first and only time that a 1933 Double Eagle is sold!
Why has this coin never been sold before and what makes it so special? Here's the story.
Double Eagles are gold coins marked "20 dollars." The first ones were struck in 1850 from gold mined during the California Gold Rush. These coins were made until 1933, during the Great Depression, when President Roosevelt ordered the United States Mint to stop making all gold coins.
Even though almost half a million of these Double Eagles were struck in 1933, they were never issued as money because of the President's order. Instead, they were stored in Mint vaults—except for two that were saved for the Smithsonian Institution—until the Mint had them destroyed in 1937. All of the gold coins were melted down—except for ten of them, which secretly were stolen!
In 1944, King Farouk of Egypt bought one of the stolen Double Eagles from a coin dealer. He obeyed the law by asking the Treasury Department for a license that would let him take the coin to Egypt. Not realizing that the coin had been stolen, the Treasury Department mistakenly gave him the license.
A few days later, other 1933 Double Eagles appeared in a coin auction. When the Secret Service realized that all the 1933 Double Eagles were supposed to have been destroyed, they knew they must have been stolen. They found out who was selling the stolen coins and how they were stolen, but they couldn't convict him because too much time had passed since the robbery. But the coins were still stolen government property, and had to be returned. The government got all of them back by 1952—except the one King Farouk had bought and taken back home to Egypt.
Ten years after the king bought the coin (1954), a new government took over and the king's coin collection was put up for auction in Egypt. The United States government asked the new Egyptian government to give the coin back to us instead of letting it be sold. The Egyptian government did take it out of the auction, but then...it disappeared! It was never returned.
More than 50 years later (1996), an English coin dealer was arrested in New York City while trying to sell a 1933 Double Eagle to Secret Service agents who were pretending to be coin collectors. The coin is one of the stolen coins and very probably the one from King Farouk's collection. But the United States had to prove in court that it still owned the coin.
It took five years for everyone to agree what to do with the coin. It was settled that the government owned the coin, but that this one and only 1933 Double Eagle, after 69 years, should be issued and then sold in a public auction.
What an interesting case! This legendary coin was made legally but couldn't be owned legally; was taken out of the country legally though it was stolen property; and now it can be bought legally—someone can buy and own what may be the most valuable gold coin in the world.
Someone like you can go to Sotheby's in New York and try to win the bid—if you have a few million dollars in your piggy bank!
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Hope you've enjoyed reading Making Cents! Click to see and print out the crossword puzzle, which uses words from all the articles in this issue. This will test your memory, but if you need clues, go back to the articles. Most of the words in the puzzle were in this issue.
Check your answers with the answer key.
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The Spring quarter ended with the Louisiana quarter's debut in May. For the Summer quarter, the Indiana quarter is the Mint's celebrity coin. Race cars, geography, music—learn more about the designs on both of these stylin' coins at "The Coins Are Coming."
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The big news in June was a great new collection that went up for sale by the Mint...the 5 new quarters for 2002 and Europe's 12 new 1-euro coins, packaged together. The 12 uncirculated one-euro coins come from each of the 12 European Union nations that are taking part: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. The five uncirculated quarters are for 2002's five states: Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi, each with a "D" (Denver) mint mark.
The set also supplies great history and coin design facts, where you can learn about the symbols on both the euros and the quarters, and the histories of how both coins came to be. And if you want to know more about the euro (as it relates to France), don't miss the Coins of the World cartoon adventure.
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