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The Majestic 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - February 7, 2021

The legendary gold coin once owned by the likes of King Farouk of Egypt and iconic shoe designer Stuart Weitzman now resides in another prestigious cabinet. Encapsulated by PCGS and graded MS65, the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle sold for $18,872,250 on June 8, 2021, at a Sotheby’s auction to become the world’s most valuable coin ever sold at auction. The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle was submitted for grading to PCGS by GreatCollections. “We have likely submitted 500,000+ coins to PCGS over the past 10 years, but the standalone highlight was this 1933 $20,” said GreatCollections President Ian Russell. “It is the pinnacle of numismatics, and we are grateful to the owner for entrusting it with us.”

The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is a rarity of outstanding allure and value. It sold for nearly $19 million in June 2021 to become the world’s most valuable coin and is graded PCGS MS65. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Only one 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle is legal for private ownership, but this esoterically rare coin didn’t start off rare. The United States Mint struck 445,500 double eagles in 1933, and the first delivery of the gold coins to the Philadelphia Mint cashier was made about 10 days after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated. However, the worsening pains of the Great Depression prompted President Roosevelt to take a number of drastic actions to help allay the severe economic conditions that forced more than a quarter of Americans into unemployment, depleted bank accounts and investment portfolios, and impoverished millions of families from coast to coast.

In one of his first acts, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 on April 5, 1933, “forbidding the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States.” In summary, the executive order brought about an effective end to the nation’s gold standard, banning the payout of gold coins and beginning the recall of virtually all U.S. gold coins, which were eventually melted. The entire mintage of 445,500 double eagles struck in 1933 was to be melted, except for two sent to the Smithsonian. In 1937, a number appeared for sale privately. In 1944, a Secret Service investigation determined that they had been stolen from the Mint and were seized from their owners.

Once it was purchased by King Farouk, it became part of his fabulous collection, therefore placing it beyond the Secret Service’s reach. Sociopolitical turmoil led to King Farouk’s fall. He was exiled, and the new Egyptian government dispersed his collection of coins through Sotheby’s. The 1933 Double Eagle was withdrawn from the auction and its whereabouts were unknown for decades until British coin dealer Stephen Fenton surrendered the coin to United States authorities in 1996.

The coin hung in legal limbo for several years, leaving the rarity to be stored in a Secret Service vault at the World Trade Center in New York City. Just before terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001, the legal status of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle specimen hailing from King Farouk was resolved and the coin was subsequently removed from the ill-fated New York City landmark. The coin was offered for sale by Sotheby’s and Stack’s in 2002, taking a world-record $7.59 million.

Nearly two decades later, the specimen remains the only legally obtainable example of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, with two examples held at the Smithsonian Institution and all known others currently in the custody of the United States government, which confiscated a handful of other specimens that came to light in recent years. Many other coins have worn the crown at one time or another as the most valuable over the years, including the PCGS SP66 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, PCGS PR68 1804 Draped Bust Dollar, and PCGS PR66 1913 Liberty Nickel. Yet, the 1933 Saint-Gaudens has claimed that throne twice, remaining one of the most storied and mystical of all numismatic treasures. The coin now graces the cover of the coveted PCGS 2022 Calendar which can be purchased on the PCGS store in January and includes 12 months of jaw-dropping TrueView images blown up for a closeup view of incredible numismatic pieces.

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