Unique, "EB on Breast"
1787 Brasher Doubloon from
The Gold Rush Collection
On Tuesday, July 30, 2002, at the Sotheby's Galleries in New York, the Farouk-Fenton specimen of the 1933 double eagle ($20 gold piece) set a new world record for the price of a single coin, being hammered down for an incredible $7,590,000, including the buyer’s premium. In addition, the winning bidder was required to reimburse the government for the $20 face value of the coin. The successful buyer, who communicated by phone with his auction floor representative, chose to remain anonymous following the sale. The piece, which is the only 1933 double eagle to be declared “legal to own” by the United States government, was auctioned by the firms of Sotheby’s and Stack’s before a standing-room-only crowd of eager buyers and observers. The coin easily surpassed the former world record price of $4,140,000, including the buyer’s premium, which was previously attained by the Childs specimen of the 1804 silver dollar, auctioned by Bowers and Merena on August 30, 1999. Representatives of Gold Rush Gallery were present at the historic auction and witnessed the electric atmosphere.
This example of the 1933 double eagle, which has long been the subject of legend, was exported from the United States in 1944, via an official U. S. Treasury export license, for inclusion in the collection of His Majesty, King Farouk the First of Egypt. Although 445,500 of the pieces had been produced at the Philadelphia Mint, none had been officially issued following President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order in April 1933, requiring the return of all gold coins except those with “recognized special value to collectors.” The entire mintage of 1933 double eagles, except for two that had been conveyed to the Smithsonian Institution in 1934, was ordered to the melting pot in 1937.
The United States government officials soon realized that they had made a mistake in granting the export license to King Farouk. The official government position was that the 1933 double eagles had never been officially issued and thus any extant pieces had to have been removed illegally from the mint. Due to the demands of prosecuting World War II and the delicate nature of the U. S. relationship with Egypt, it was considered diplomatically inopportune to pursue the matter any further at that time.
When King Farouk’s coin collection was auctioned in Cairo in 1954, following His Majesty’s forced exile in 1952, the U. S. State Department officially requested that the king’s 1933 double eagle be removed from the auction and returned to the United States. The Egyptian government removed the coin from the auction but did not return it to the U. S. and its location remained a mystery for the next 42 years.
The King Farouk 1933 double eagle resurfaced in 1996, when London dealer Stephen Fenton and U. S. dealer Jay Parrino were arrested in New York by a Federal agent, after attempting to consummate the sale of the piece. The coin was confiscated and stored in the U. S. Secret Service vaults at the World Trade Center in New York. Charges were later dropped against the two coin dealers and Mr. Parrino declared that he had no economic interest in the piece. Mr. Fenton later sued the U. S. government for recovery of the coin. Days before a jury was to begin hearing the case in January 2001, the U. S. government announced that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Mr. Fenton, whereby Mr. Fenton and the United States would split the proceeds of coin, which was to be auctioned to the highest bidder. As part of the settlement, the U. S. government would “officially issue” this 1933 double eagle and grant ownership to the successful bidder. The coin was transferred to Fort Knox, approximately six months before the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists. Two other examples of the ultra rare issue are included in the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution. Rumors of one or more “underground” specimens persist.
In 1944, after the U. S. government realized that examples of the 1933 double eagle had clandestinely left the mint, an investigation was begun under the auspices of the U. S. Secret Service. The following list summarizes what happened to all known examples of the 1933 double eagle.
The auction of the Farouk-Fenton 1933 double eagle was an auspicious occasion, one to be long remembered in the annals of numismatic history. As always, Gold Rush Gallery will be happy to help you track down your “special coin,” including execution of your bids in upcoming auctions. Simply click on our contact information here on the GRG web site.