World’s Most Valuable Coin Goes on Display at the NY Historical Society
New York, NY, August 13, 2013 — The New-York Historical Society is proud to display one of the most famous and storied coins in the world—the 1933 Double Eagle. The Double Eagle will be on display in New-York Historical’s Robert H. & Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History starting today, August 13. Designed by the renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the coin features the figure of Liberty striding before the Capitol Building on its face and an eagle in flight on the reverse.
In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the United States struck almost a half million twenty-dollar gold coins, commonly known as Double Eagles. At virtually the same time, in one of his first acts as President, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order banning the payout of gold, weaning the country off the gold standard. The 1933 Double Eagles, although legally made, became illegal to own and were never circulated. In 1934, two examples were sent to the Smithsonian Institution for posterity, and in February 1937 the rest were melted into gold bars and sent to Fort Knox—or so it seemed.
In 1944, a 1933 Double Eagle appeared in a New York auction, and the United States Secret Service launched an investigation. It determined that a U.S. Mint employee had stolen a number of thecoins in 1937 and identified ten 1933 Double Eagles that had escaped destruction, of which nine were surrendered or seized. One was beyond reach, as it had been purchased by King Farouk of Egypt, and after 1954 it disappeared. In 1996, as part of a Secret Service sting at the Waldorf Astoria, a British coin dealer was arrested while trying to sell a 1933 Double Eagle, which he swore had formerly belonged to King Farouk.
In 2002, at the conclusion of lengthy legal proceedings, the coin was sold at auction for $7,590,020, nearly doubling the previous world record. That very coin—the only 1933 Double Eagle which may be legally owned by an individual—will be on display at New-York Historical, on temporary loan from an anonymous private collection.
Since the record-setting 2002 auction, the remarkable history of the 1933 Double Eagle has inspired four books, a documentary produced for the Smithsonian Channel, and an episode of the television show The Closer. The coin also has been displayed at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as WWII & NYC; Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Lincoln and New York; Nueva York (1613-1945); and Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.
Image: Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, 1933. Gold. Property of a Private Collector, on loan to the New-York Historical Society.