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V13 2010 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 46, November 14, 2010, Article 4

COURT TRIAL LIKELY IN CASE OF SEIZED 1933 DOUBLE EAGLES

An article by David Ganz, (originally printed in Numismatic News and now available on Numismaster.com) provides an update on the legal proceedings surrounding the hoard of ten original 1933 $20 gold pieces seized by the U.S. Mint. -Editor

1933 Double Eage

Resolution of the legal positions of the U.S. Mint and the descendants of Israel Switt over the fate of 10 genuine 1933 double eagle coins moved one step closer to trial on Oct. 28 with release of a 20-page decision by U.S. District Court Judge Legrome Davis Jr., from the federal court on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

A trial would occur in late 2011 or in 2012.

Both sides have been battling since September 2004 when Switt’s daughter, Joan Langbord, and her two adult sons, contacted the Mint’s counsel, Daniel Shaver, to ask if the Mint would authenticate 10 coins thought to be genuine 1933 double eagles. The coins were sent to Washington for review.

The family acted through New York lawyer Barry Berke, who had previously negotiated with the Mint to legalize the King Farouk-Jay Parrino-Stephen Fenton specimen that sold for $7.59 million in 2002.

Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jeweler and pawn merchant, has been identified in recent years as included in the pedigree of every known specimen of the 1933 double eagle or $20 gold piece that ever surfaced. This includes a number of pieces in the 1940s and 1950s in a series of seizures or prosecutions, usually by the United States attorney in the district where the coin was seized.

The Mint declined to return the 10 gold coins, saying in essence, “sue us,” and Berke rose to the challenge, demand the coins return in court.

Berke’s pleadings laid out the case as to why Langbord and her family believed that they had the right to retain the coins and that the Mint had to seek their forfeiture, not simply retain them like a neighborhood bully. The Mint had an entirely different perspective and attempted to retain the coins as the fruit of a crime, much as a bank robber is denied the loot.

The plaintiffs basically claim the government has my coins, it took them, and we want them back. Significantly, the government now bears the burden of proof that it is the rightful owner. The problem: all through the years, the government found that when the other side had the burden, it could not be met. The shoe is on the other foot.

In the end, the Judge gave both sides a little – and Langbord’s a solid procedural victory. “The Court appreciates the uniqueness of this case. But the unfamiliar landscape does not persuade it to abandon well-established legal principles, as the parties’ briefs often suggest it should.”

Based on other cases and past practices called precedent, “the Court 1) denies the Government’s motion for leave to file Counts II and IV of its proposed complaint; 2) grants the Government’s motion for leave to file Count III of its proposed complaint; and 3) grants Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the Government’s claim of interest in the forfeiture proceeding.”

To read the complete article, see: Trial Likely for Langbord 1933s (www.numismaster.com/ta/numis/Article.jsp?ad=article&ArticleId=15442)

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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