Liberty Street Economics

« Why Mortgage Refinancing Is Not a Zero-Sum Game | Main | How Did the Great Recession Affect New York State’s Public Schools? »

January 13, 2012

Historical Echoes: The Double Eagle Lands at the New York Fed

Megan Cohen, New York Fed Research Library

The most expensive coin in the world, the famed 1933 Double Eagle, is on display to the public at the New York Fed. Its price at auction exceeded that of the gold Brasher doubloon, minted in 1787, which was sold for $7.4 million earlier this month. This post traces the 1933 Double Eagle’s long, fascinating history, which stretches from the early twentieth century to the unusual circumstances of the coin’s arrival at the New York Fed.

    Twenty-dollar gold coins, commonly known as Double Eagles, were issued between 1850 and 1933. Production of all gold coins by the government ceased in 1933 after President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6260, which largely prohibited the public from acquiring or holding gold.


    After the issue of this presidential order, two 1933 Double Eagles were placed at the Smithsonian and the rest of the gold coins were melted down—supposedly. In the decades that followed, it became clear that at least ten 1933 Double Eagles had escaped destruction. They had been stolen and sold to a number of people, including King Farouk of Egypt. The revelation of the theft resulted in extensive legal actions by the U.S. government to recover the coins. For more detail, see this timeline from the U.S. Mint.

    In 2002, at the conclusion of these legal proceedings, a sole 1933 Double Eagle was “monetized” (that is, declared to be money and allowed to enter circulation) and then sold at public auction. The coin was purchased by an anonymous buyer for a record $7,600,020. The extra $20 in the purchase price—the face value of the Double Eagle—was necessary to establish the coin as legal tender. (For more about the auction, see the story that appeared in the New York Times the following day.) The buyer then lent the coin to the American Numismatic Society, which has displayed it at the New York Fed ever since.

    Visit the Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s museum if you’d like to take a look at the 1933 Double Eagle’s legendary beauty.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.
Posted by Blog Author at 07:00:00 AM in Historical Echoes
About the Blog
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from economists working at the intersection of research and policy.

The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.

Economic Research Tracker for iPad®

Liberty Street Economics is now available on the iPad® and can be customized by economic research topic or economist.

Most Viewed

Last 12 Months
LSE in the News

Access to linked content may require a subscription.

Useful Links
Feedback & Comment Guidelines
Liberty Street Economics invites you to comment on a post.
Comment Guidelines
We encourage you to submit comments, queries and suggestions on our blog entries. We will post them below the entry, subject to the following guidelines:
Please be brief: Comments are limited to 1500 characters.
Please be quick: Comments submitted more than 1 week after the blog entry appears will not be posted.
Please try to submit before COB on Friday: Comments submitted after that will not be posted until Monday morning.
Please be on-topic and patient: Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been reviewed to ensure that they are substantive and clearly related to the topic of the post. The moderator will not post comments that are abusive, harassing, or threatening; obscene or vulgar; or commercial in nature; as well as comments that constitute a personal attack.  We reserve the right not to post a comment; no notice will be given regarding whether a submission will or will not be posted.
Disclosure Policy
The LSE editors ask authors submitting a post to the blog to confirm that they have no conflicts of interest as defined by the American Economic Association in its Disclosure Policy. If an author has sources of financial support or other interests that could be perceived as influencing the research presented in the post, we disclose that fact in a statement prepared by the author and appended to the author information at the end of the post. If the author has no such interests to disclose, no statement is provided. Note, however, that we do indicate in all cases if a data vendor or other party has a right to review a post.