Government gets gold coins, judge says

Posted: September 10, 2012

This story was updated at 11 a.m. Monday

A federal judge has upheld a 2011 jury decision that a Philadelphia family who found 10 purloined gold coins, worth at least $7.59 million each, cannot keep them.

The coins, "double eagle" $20 gold pieces, were among 445,500 produced by the Philadelphia Mint in 1933 but never circulated because the federal government that year outlawed the possession of gold coins.

"The disputed Double Eagles were not lawfully removed from the United States Mint and . . . remain the property of the United States," Federal District Judge Legrome D. Davis wrote in his Aug. 29 judgment, upholding a decision made by a federal court jury in July, 2011.

Joan Langbord and two of her sons, Roy and David, had sued to reclaim the coins, which were seized from the Langbord family in 2003. They plan to appeal the judge's ruling, attorney Barry H. Berke said in an email late Sunday.

After a seven-day trial, a federal jury on last year ruled against the Langbords. It was the challenge to that decision on which Davis ruled.

Mrs. Longbord is the daughter of Israel Switt, a coin dealer and owner of a jewelry store in the 100 block of South Eighth Street. Switt, who died in 1990 at age 95, had long been suspected by the government of secretly obtaining 1933 double eagles from a mint employee.

In 2002, the only 1933 double eagle then known to exist, a coin once possessed by King Farouk of Egypt, sold at auction for over $7 million dollars.

The next year, the Langbords, according to their suit, found the 10 gold coins, buried at the bottom of a family safe deposit box.

The Langbords notified the government of their find, seeking to have the coins authenticated, and the government took the coins, prompting the lawsuit.

"In essence, both parties want the coins," Davis wrote.

Langbord said at the jury trial she had no idea how her father had obtained the coins.

The family argued they were legally entitled to the coins because the government could not prove they were stolen. Indeed, there was no way to know how they got out of the Mint and eventually into the Switt family's safe deposit box, the family said.

In a memorandum issued with his ruling, Davis said that "no 1933 Double Eagles were ever lawfully issued to the public; the vast majority were melted down and formed into gold bars following the Gold Reserve Act of 1934.

"Nevertheless, some managed to esacape the Mint.

"In the 1940s, the Secret Service traced the leak to George McCann, a Philadelphia Mint cashier, and Israel Switt, a coin dealer and the proprietor of a local antique store."

Davis agreed that the double eagles belonged to the government, "regardless of . . . how the coins came into claimants' possession."


Contact Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

 

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