By Christopher Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
Well, CoinWeek’s recently-published 1933 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle story will need an update now that the New York Times has reported that the only legal-to-own example of the notorious never-issued gold coin will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on June 8 after being held in a private collection for 20 years.
The March 10 piece by James Barron also identified the owner of the coin, who until now has remained anonymous. Purchasing the coin for a then-record-breaking $7,590,020 USD on July 30, 2002, footwear designer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Stuart Weitzman was known only as “Mr. Big” at the time of the sale. A childhood fascination with stamps and coins led him to purchase not only the 1933 double eagle but also the 1856 one-cent Magenta stamp from British Guiana and the plate block of four “Inverted Jennies”, one of the most sought-after American philatelic rarities, in 2014.
“I had a life-long dream of collecting the single greatest rarities in the two great collecting areas of stamps and coins and then placing these extraordinary treasures, hidden away for decades, on continuous public view,” Sotheby’s quoted Weitzman.
Weitzman lent each of the treasures to different organizations for display. The 1933 double eagle was exhibited at the Federal Reserve in Manhattan and, since 2013, at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library; it was on loan until February 2021.
Proceeds from the sale of the coin will be donated to charitable organizations, including the Weitzman Family Foundation; the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater; and a Madrid museum specializing in Spanish Judaica, according to an article published in Linn’s Stamp News.
All three items will be auctioned during the same session on June 8, and are expected to bring in between $25 million and $37 million total, according to Sotheby’s. The 1933 double eagle is expected to fetch between $10 and $15 million.
Background of the Farouk-Weitzman 1933 Double Eagle
B. Max Mehl, a successful Texas-based coin dealer operating in the mid-20th century, originally purchased the coin from Philadelphia-based jeweler Israel Switt and sold it to a representative of King Farouk of Egypt on February 23, 1944.
After Farouk was deposed by a military coup in 1952, many of his holdings were sold at auction. Conducted by Sotheby’s in Cairo in 1954, the sale featured many American rarities but, at the last minute, the 1933 double eagle was withdrawn – possibly at the behest of the U.S. government. The coin didn’t make its way home, however, and disappeared for decades.
A 1933 double eagle, ostensibly the Farouk specimen, surfaced in 1995. Unsold lots from the 1954 Sotheby’s sale were being sold by an Egyptian jeweler to Andre de Clermont, a director of Spink’s London. Clermont and his business partner Stephen Fenton bought the 1933 double eagle from the jeweler for $325,000. The United States Secret Service seized the coin in a sting operation when Fenton tried to sell it on February 8, 1996. After a five-year court case resulted in an agreement that the coin would be publicly auctioned–the proceeds from the sale split evenly between Fenton and the United States Mint–the coin was put up for sale at Sotheby’s in New York City on July 30, 2002.
At the July 2002 sale, bids were taken via phone as 500 spectators looked on. The coin was sold to Weitzman in nine minutes for $6.6 million (Sotheby’s 15% fee bringing the price to $7.59 million). A Certificate of Monetization from the Federal Government authorizing the issuance of the coin added the final $20.