With permission, here's an excerpt from the very detailed history description of the Farouk 1933 Double Eagle up for auction in Sotheby's June New York sale. Thanks.
THE BRIEF LIFE AND DEATH OF AMERICA'S LAST GOLD COIN
The Factory on Spring Garden Street
As citizens lined up to return their gold at Federal reserve banks, the employees within the massive neoclassical edifice of the Philadelphia Mint saw little action. Both the Cashier's and Coining Departments' daily records reflect this torpor. In that beleaguered, depressed economy there was little need to make new money; the entire 1933 production at the Philadelphia Mint approximated a single day's output in 1928.
Each step of production and delivery was carefully choreographed and scrupulously recorded. On Thursday, March 2, the first 1933 Double Eagles were struck, but it was not until March 15, 1933 that the requisite number (25,000) passed quality control when the first delivery to the Cashier was made.
The delivery from coiner to cashier, as responsibility passed from one entity of the mint to another, was memorialized in manifold ways on multiple documents. Two examples were sent to Washington, D.C., for Special Assay to ensure quality, and an additional one coin from every thousand delivered was sealed in an envelope and deposited in a double-locked wooden box which would be opened at the Annual Assay the following February. At the close of March 15, the Cashier recorded in his Daily Settlement the remaining number of 1933 Double Eagles in his custody: $495,000 in the basement vault, and $4,460 (223 pieces) in an office safe. The gross amount received, less those reserved for assay, was recorded on the official Cashier's Daily Statement and sent to Mint headquarters. A total of ten deliveries (445,500 pieces), similarly recorded, were made, the last on May 19; in June the vast majority of 1933 Double Eagles was placed in Cage 1 of the massive Vault F—dead storage.
On January 30, 1934, with the government's vaults replenished by hundreds of millions of dollars in recalled gold, the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 was passed and
abolished gold as a component of the monetary system.
Two weeks later, the last gold coins ever struck for circulation by the United States, the 1933 Double Eagles, were tested by the Annual Assay Commission. This newsworthy event marked the last testing of gold coins and the first Assay Commission presided over by a woman, Nellie Tayloe Ross.14 Nine Double Eagles were destroyed, and the remainder were noted by the cashier as received on February 20, 1934.
In August 1934, Mint Director Ross ordered the melting of all gold coins held by the government—the 1933 Double Eagles awaited destruction. In October, she ordered that two examples be sent to the Smithsonian, the only institution or private collection that would ever be permitted to own an example of these historic coins — legally. But not the only one that wanted one.
TO HAVE NOT– AND HAVE
It is susceptible to no waiver . . .
JUNE 1934 LETTER FROM PHILADELPHIA COIN DEALER HENRY CHAPMAN TO CONNECTICUT STATE LIBRARIAN GEORGE GODARD, INDICATING HE HAD BEEN UNABLE TO GET 1933 DOUBLE EAGLES IN 1933. (CREDIT: CONNECTICUT STATE LIBRARY ARCHIVES)
In 1911 the State of Connecticut was bequeathed a stellar collection of coins, with the stipulation that examples of current United States coins be added annually. This responsibility fell to State Librarian George Godard, whose requests to the Mint and Treasurer's Office were honored for two decades. But not in 1933.
Connecticut's initial request for examples of 1933 Double Eagles was rejected, and on August 14 an appeal was subsequently turned down by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Thomas Hewes, who wrote:
The prohibition is susceptible to no waiver. In July 1934, Godard determinedly contacted coin dealer Henry Chapman to see if he could
supply the 1933 gold coin coinage. Renowned for his close ties to the Philadelphia Mint, Chapman, though old and frail, responded:
I cannot supply your want. Just about a year ago a collector came in and said he had tried to get a $20 gold piece for his collection but the government had denied him and he asked us to try and see what we could do. They refused.
No gold coins may be supplied . . .
Similarly, the American Numismatic Society regularly purchased new coinage for its collection. Its relationship to the Mint and Treasury Department could not have been closer: Treasury Secretary Woodin, a learned coin collector, was a Board member; when in 1932 the ANS curator Howland Wood wrote to the Mint complaining about the quality of a Double Eagle just purchased, the mint director personally selected its replacement; and in January 1934, as new laws concerning gold coin ownership were being written, the ANS helped officials craft the language. But when the Society tried to obtain a 1933 Double Eagle it failed—repeatedly.
The correspondence, beginning April 28, 1933, includes a direct appeal to the Treasury Secretary from his friend ANS President Edward Newell, asking him
to put the wheels in motion so we can order these. Letters from Wood to his longtime correspondent Assistant Mint Director Mary O'Reilly were met with pro forma responses. And finally, an offer from the ANS to
exchange a Double Eagle of another date met with the constant refrain of:
no gold coins may be supplied.
If it is not against the law . . .
On February 2, 1934, former Ambassador John Work Garrett, owner of one of the greatest coin collections ever formed in America, thought it
might be interesting to add to his collection
if it is not against the law, the last gold pieces. His inquiry was sent to Wayte Raymond, one of the nation's leading coin dealers, whose reply was blunt:
I have never been able to get them.
No one who tried to legally acquire a 1933 Double Eagle from the government could — ever.
More next week. Meanwhile, give a listen to the CoinWeek podcast with David Tripp.
This week on the CoinWeek Podcast, numismatic researcher and author David Tripp joins us to talk about the 1933 Double Eagle. You know that the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is the most notorious coin in the U.S. series, but do you really know the coin that the FBI spent more than 60 years pursuing? We talk to David about the one example of this notorious coin that the government couldn't keep.
To listen to the podcast, see:
CoinWeek Podcast #159: The Infamous 1933 Double Eagle (with David Tripp)
To read the complete lot description, see:
The 1933 Double Eagle
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
THE FAROUK 1933 DOUBLE EAGLE
Wayne Homren, Editor
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.
To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor
at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe go to: https://my.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
Copyright © 1998 - 2021 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.
NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster