The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 9, February 26, 2006, Article 3


Alison Frankel, a devoted E-Sylum reader, has written a new
book on the 1933 $20 gold piece.  She writes: "I know it's not
the sort of scholarly coin examination you guys usually chew
over, but I thought your readers might be interested in a
general interest book with a coin as its focus."

The 320-page book is scheduled for publication by W. W. Norton
on May 15, 2006.  Alison is a senior writer at The American Lawyer.
Her work has also appeared in Newsday and several other national

Alison was nice enough to send me an advance reading copy.  My
pile of "got to get to this" numismatic reading is getting bigger
and bigger, but I did take time to read a couple chapters of Alison's
book this week, and found quite a number of interesting tidbits about
the creation of the coins as well as things I don't recall reading
elsewhere about the prosecution of the case against dealer Stephen

Some of the new information in the book is found in the thirteen-page
Epilogue, and Alison has given me permission to reveal two details
here. First, the book includes the first-ever publication of Roy
Langbord's story of his family's discovery of the ten additional
1933 Double Eagles.  Second, the book includes a new photograph
of a 1933 Double Eagle, taken by a prospective buyer.  This particular
coin has not surfaced publicly and may well be the same Texas/California
specimen discussed and illustrated in David Tripp's recent book.  Has
anyone in the government read these books?

I also skipped ahead to the Acknowledgements, Notes and Bibliography.
These are my favorite parts of any book, because I like to know where
the information comes from.  Alison writes: "My largest debt is to the
people who lived the story" including Stephen Fenton and his lawyer
Barry Berke, and Jay Parrino, Jack Moore and Harvey Stack. There was
no index in my reading copy, but Alison assures me her publisher is
working on one.

I was delighted to read her acknowledgement of our little publication.
She writes: "The devoted readers of E-Sylum, the indispensable weekly
newsletter of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, offered leads and
encouragement.  E-Sylum regulars Q. David Bowers, Roger Burdette, Pete
Smith and Len Augsberger also got a nod, as did George Kolbe, Dan
Hamelberg and a host of others.

Alison adds: "In my first manuscript draft I actually had a whole
subchapter on numismatic book collecting. I went out to the John
Ford literature auction that George Kolbe ran in California and
interviewed him and Dan Hamelberg about the sale and collecting
coin literature. I'm so taken with numismatic bibliophilia; to
outsiders it seems the most arcane (okay, obscure) of pursuits,
but you guys are both passionate and generous--a rare combination
when it comes to collecting. My editor found the material too
tangential to the story of the 1933 Double Eagle and, alas, made
me cut it."

[Drat!  But perhaps there's a novel somewhere in the murky world
of The E-Sylum.  "The Feldman Code" could tell the tale of secret
messages hidden in the marginalia of numismatic literature,
undiscovered for centuries until a disparate band of bibliophile
bloggers pieced together the mystery and solved the perplexing
murders of several high-society coin collectors.  The film version
could star Brad Pitt as the hunky computer-geek protagonist
(OK, quit the eye-rolling).

Actually, the tale of the 1933 Double Eagle could well be fodder
for a fine true-story film script someday.  It has many dramatic
moments, such as Saint-Gaudens' clash with Barber, President
Roosevelt's table-pounding over the production delays, the stock
market crash and Great Depression, William Woodin's sleepless
juggernaut to reengineer the nation's financial system, the gold
recall, the Secret Service's quest and confiscation of coins,
King Farouk and his eccentricities, the sting at the Waldorf-Astoria,
the auction, and the seizure of ten Izzy Switt coins and their
storage at Fort Knox.

Coins can be boring, and it's hard to blame the general public
for that perception.  But it's their stories that make them come
alive, and those stories are what we bibliophiles lust after.
Many thanks to Alison Frankel, her fellow author David Tripp, and
everyone who helped sort out and tell the tale of these fascinating
coins. -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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