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Familly Fight Goverment over coins From Yahoo

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Family fights government over rare ‘Double Eagle’ gold coins

A jeweler's heirs are fighting the United States government for the right to keep a batch of rare and valuable "Double Eagle" $20 coins that date back to the Franklin Roosevelt administration. It's just the latest coin controversy to make headlines.

Philadelphian Joan Langbord and her sons say they found the 10 coins in 2003 in a bank deposit box kept by Langbord's father, Israel Switt, a jeweler who died in 1990. But when they tried to have the haul authenticated by the U.S. Treasury, the feds, um, flipped.

They said the coins were stolen from the U.S. Mint back in 1933, and are the government's property. The Treasury Department seized the coins, and locked them away at Fort Knox. The court battle is set to kick off this week.

The rare coins (pictured), first struck in 1850, show a flying eagle on one side and a figure representing liberty on the other. One such coin recently sold at auction for $7.6 million, meaning the Langbords' trove could be worth as much as $80 million.

The coins are part of a batch that were struck but then melted down after President Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in 1933, during the Great Depression. Two were given to the Smithsonian Institute, but a few more mysteriously escaped.

The government has long believed that Switt schemed with a corrupt cashier at the Mint to swipe the coins. They note that the deposit box in which the coins were found was rented six years after Switt's death, and that the family never paid inheritance tax on the coins.

A lawyer for the Langbords counters that the coins could have left the Mint legally since it was permissible to swap gold coins for gold bullion.

Authorities in the Roosevelt era twice looked into Switt's coin dealings, including his possession of Double Eagle coins. In 1944, Switt's license to deal scrap gold was revoked.

The battle over the Double Eagles is hardly the only recent coin contretemps. Two British metal-detecting enthusiasts are said to be locked in a bitter dispute over how to divide the profits from a horde of Iron Age gold coins that they unearthed together in eastern England in 2008.

And an 80-year-old California man was jailed in 2009 after allegedly hitting another man in the head with a metal pipe and firing a gun at a third man during a dispute over missing gold coins.

Some coin disputes involve more than wrangling over valuable collectors' items. In 2007, Secret Service and FBI agents raided an Indiana company called Liberty Dollar, in a bid to stamp out illegal currency. The firm was making "Ron Paul Silver Dollars," in honor of Rep. Ron Paul, whose presidential campaign advocates bringing back the gold standard.

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Rare NotesCoins

What are rare US coins?


1969-S Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse

This coin is exceedingly rare. The early specimens were confiscated by the Secret Service until the U.S. Mint admitted they were genuine.

How to Detect: Look for clear doubling of the entire obverse ("heads" side) except for the mint mark. If the mint mark is doubled, it is probably a case of strike doubling, rather than a doubled die, which isn't worth much.

Approximate Value: Around $35,000 or more in EF-40 or so.

There are a number of U.S. error coins and die varieties in circulation today. These coins are overlooked by people because they have small distinguishing characteristics, such as a modest doubling of the coin image, or minute differences in the size or spacing of the letters in the legends.

Tip: Be sure to do your hunting with at least a 6x power magnifier so you don't miss anything!

1. 1969-S Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse

Photo courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries

This coin is exceedingly rare. The early specimens were confiscated by the Secret Service until the U.S. Mint admitted they were genuine. Counterfeits abound, but usually have the wrong mint mark.

How to Detect: Look for clear doubling of the entire obverse ("heads" side) except for the mint mark. If the mint mark is doubled, it is probably a case of strike doubling, rather than a doubled die, which isn't worth much. (Mint marks were punched in the dies separately in 1969, after the doubled die itself had already been made.)

Approximate Value: Around $35,000 or more in EF-40 or so.

2. 1970-S Small Date Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse

As with virtually all true doubled die varieties, only one side of the coin shows doubling. If both sides exhibit doubling, the coin probably exhibits strike doubling instead, and is worth little.

How to Detect: The rarer Small Date variety is most easily distinguished from the common type by the weakness of LIBERTY. The Doubled Die Obverse is best demonstrated by doubling in LIB and IN *** WE TRUST.

Approximate Value: Around $3,000 in EF-40 or so.

3. 1972 Lincoln Cent With a Doubled Die Obverse

The 1972 (no mint mark) Lincoln Cent doubled die variety shows strong doubling on all elements. The "Cherrypicker's Guide to Rare Die Varieties", which was an important source for this article, suggests using a "die marker" to help verify your finds. A die marker is a gouge or crack that identifies a particular die.

How to Detect: Clear doubling of all obverse elements; look for a tiny gouge near the edge above the D in UNITED as a die marker.

Approximate Value: About $500 in EF-40 or so.

4. 2004-D Wisconsin State Quarter With an Extra Leaf

Variety experts disagree about the cause and long-term value of this type, but I've included in the list because it is very findable in pocket change and worth hundreds of dollars right now.

How to Detect: There is some defect on the die that makes it appear as if there's an extra leaf on the lower left-hand side of the ear of corn on the reverse. The leaf is very clear. Known in two varieties, the High Leaf and the Low Leaf type.

Approximate Value: $200-$300 in MS-60 or so.

5. 1999 Wide "AM" Reverse Lincoln Cent

This variety is known for 3 dates, 1998, 1999, and 2000, with 1999 being by far the rarest. The mint erroneously used a proof die to strike normal circulation coins.

How to Detect: The AM in AMERICA on the reverse is clearly separated in the Wide variety. In the normal variety for these dates, the letters AM are very close or touching.

Approximate Value: $5 to $25 in circulated condition, $75 to $600 in MS-63 or better depending on color. 1999 brings the highest prices, with 2000 being second.

6. 1982 No Mint Mark Roosevelt Dime

At the point in time that these coins were made, the dies sent to the individual branch mints would be punched with the proper mint mark letter for that branch. This variety is believed to be caused because one or more non-punched dies were used to make coins. (The letter P was being used for Philadelphia on dimes at this time.)

How to Detect: The 1982 dime is missing a mint mark.

Approximate Value: About $30 to $50 in AU-50, more for higher grades.

7. Presidential Dollar Edge Lettering Errors

Ever since the first Presidential Dollar (the Washington Dollar issued in 2007) there have been errors associated with the lettering on the edge of these coins. In some cases it is missing entirely. In others, the edge lettering has been placed there multiple times.

How to Detect: Look at the edge. The inscription should appear fully incused all around the circumference of the coin. Missing or doubled inscriptions are rare and valuable.

Approximate Value: $50 to $3,000, depending on the President.

8. 1995 Doubled Die Obverse Lincoln Cent

This doubled die variety generated a lot of mainstream interest when it was featured as a cover story in USA Today. Specimens are still being found in circulation all the time!

How to Detect: Clear doubling in LIBERTY and IN *** WE TRUST.

Approximate Value: About $20 to $50 in Uncirculated condition.

9. Certain Uncirculated State Quarters

As the economy has worsened, people who have been hoarding rolls of State Quarters have been spending them into circulation. If you can put together whole rolls Uncirculated quarters of certain in-demand states, you can get as much as $50 per roll for them.

How to Detect: Demand changes from time-to-time based on major coin dealer promotions. Currently, look for Georgia, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Illinois. Quarters must be Uncirculated!

Approximate Value: $20 to $52 per roll for strictly Uncirculated rolls of certain states. .

10. Silver Half Dollars

Most people think that the silver in U.S. coins ended in 1964, but this isn't true. The Half Dollar coin had silver in it until 1970. Many people spend the Half Dollars from 1965 to 1970, or sells them in rolls of halves they take to the bank, not realizing they are 40% silver.

How to Detect: If the Half Dollar is dated 1964 or earlier, it is 90% silver. Halves dated from 1965 to 1970 are 40% silver. You might also find silver Proof Half Dollars, which are 90% silver and dated to current.

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Most of the coins in the post above are die varieties. And I do not believe they deserve to sell for those kinds of prices given their merits. Many of them are not even that noticeable. I do not know how rare they are, but I consider $35,000 an exorbitant price for US circulating modern coin, especially in XF-40, die variety or not.


The 1933 double eagle in the first post, that story is relatively well known in the US collecting community. I'm not sure what the legal merits of the government's case are but normally, I would have thought that the statute of limitations would have expired. One possibility would potentially be a legal settlement where the government splits the proceeds with the heirs. However, it is my understanding that the government's settlement with the owner of the only currently legal specimen stipulated that no others would be deemed legal tender. That coin sold for $7.59 million and the existence of any other "legal" specimens would unquestionably impair its value. The last time I checked, the PCGS "Million Dollar Club" valued it at $5 million precisely for this reason.

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