By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
It may have been Neil Gorsuch’s first day on the bench, but the real news Monday, April 17 (at least for coin collectors) is that the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the Langbord family’s appeal as they attempted to recover 10 1933 double eagle $20 gold coins seized from them by the federal government in 2004.
This means that the August 1, 2016 en banc Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the United States’ case that the coins were stolen from the Mint is allowed to stand, and that the government was, in fact, merely recovering its own property. The Langbords had been seeking a writ of certiorari from the court, which would have meant that the Supreme Court would review the lower court’s decision for possible errors. The family must now surrender any and all claims to the 1933-dated $20 gold coins.
The legal journey of the Langbord-Switt 1933 Double Eagles is a long one. The family first recovered the coins in 2003 from a safety deposit box where Philadelphia jeweler and businessman Israel Switt had placed them sometime before his death in 1990 (Switt is the father of Joan Langbord and the maternal grandfather of Roy Langbord, the main drivers behind the family’s attempts to have the gold coins returned to them). Hired by the family after his successful 2002 resolution of another case involving a 1933 double eagle, attorney Barry Berke advised his new clients to send the 10 double eagles in their possession to the Department of the Treasury for authentication in 2004. The government then seized the coins without compensation and refused to return them to the Langbords, accusing Israel Switt of theft.
The Langbord family sued the federal government for the return of what they believed to be their coins in 2006. The case went to trial in 2011, with the jury siding with the government. The family’s original appeal went before a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit court in 2015, which sided with the Langbords. A few months later, a filing by the United States Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia requested a new hearing, which was eventually granted on August 1, 2016.
Many in the hobby have disagreed with the arguments made by the United States and have expressed concern about potential repercussions for certain sectors of coin collecting, such as patterns. It is unlikely that Monday’s news will assuage these feelings.
* * *
Previous coverage of the Langbord-Switt 1933 double eagles on CoinWeek:
- Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fate of 10 Switt-Langbord 1933 Double Eagles
- Langbord-Switt 1933 Double Eagles to Remain in Government Hands
- Federal Judge Upholds Verdict: Switt-Langbord 1933 Double Eagles remain “Property of the Government”
- Government’s Case to Confiscate Langbord-Switt 1933 Double Eagles Crumbles
- Third Circuit Asked to Rehear Case Involving Langbord 1933 Double Eagles
- Court Rehears Case Involving Langbord 1933 Double Eagles
- Appeals Court Rules for U.S. Gov’t in Langbord 1933 Double Eagle Fight
Saint-Gaudens $20 Gold Double Eagles Currently Available on eBay