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Finders, Keepers? Switt Family to Appeal Double Eagle Coin Ruling

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 11, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Double Eagle gold coins are extremely rare and extremely valuable. The only Double Eagle that is legally-owned by a private collector set the winning bidder back $7.6 million in a 2002 auction.

Last year, a Philadelphia family went to court to argue that the government couldn't keep 10 Double Eagles they found in their father's safe deposit box because it couldn't prove that the coins had been stolen, The New York Times reports. The jury disagreed.

Now, the family wants the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to consider the case after a federal judge recently upheld the jury verdict, according to The Associated Press. That seems like a wise move: The coins are collectively worth almost $80 million.

The $20-face-value Double Eagles are rare because -- thanks to a Depression-era decision to ban gold ownership -- the government never officially released them. There were 445,500 Double Eagles produced at the Philadelphia Mint in 1933; most were melted into gold bars, but 10 found their way into gold dealer Israel Switt's safe deposit box. When Switt's daughter, Joan Langbord, asked the government to authenticate the coins, the feds responded with a forfeiture action. (As luck would have it, the Secret Service had long suspected Switt of obtaining the coins through nefarious means, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.)

Last month, District Judge Legrome D. Davis upheld the jury's decision in the forfeiture action, noting, "The disputed Double Eagles were not lawfully removed from the United States Mint and ... remain the property of the United States."

Do you think the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will agree? London coin dealer Stephen Fenton reached a settlement in a similar dispute, which allowed him to sell the lone, legal (Double) Eagle on the condition that he split the proceeds with the U.S. Mint. Could Third Circuit intervention afford Joan Langford a similar opportunity?

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