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The story is more or less as follows. President Theodore Roosevelt authorised the production of gold double-eagles ($20) in 1907. The dies were sunk by the highly regarded sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. They were struck for most years including the crucial year 1933. It was this year that president Franklin D. Roosevelt decreed that the private possession of gold was no longer to be permitted prior to the president taking the US off the gold standard. Some 445,000 were struck. They were all melted down. All? Well not quite. Two were retained for the Smithsonian Institution.

That is the background. A few escaped and these are said to be illegally held. Some eight or nine have been recovered by the US Secret Service mostly during the 1940s. It seems that these have been destroyed. That fun roué King Farouk (d.1965) obtained one. When it appeared in the 1954 sale in Cairo shoulders were tapped by the US ambassador and it was withdrawn but (this is significant) not returned to the US authorities.

Very attentive readers of the Antiques Trade Gazette will remember (Issue No. 1227, March 1996) when I reported that the Farouk coin had been seized from London dealer Stephen Fenton and Kansas dealer Jay Parrino in New York alleging that it had been stolen from the US Mint in Philadelphia in the 1930s; this we now know to be without foundation. After a lot of legal hoo-hah (and, doubtless, lawyers bettering themselves) a solution has been reached. After all a king, friendly to the United States, can hardly have been in possession of stolen goods. Further, and this is what the case hinged upon, the coin had a US Government export licence when it went to King Farouk. A compromise has been found after five years. Fenton has been allowed to benefit from a half share in the proceeds of this coin.

So, what is this coin now worth? Nobody wants to say. Patriotism compels me to rejoice that it is in the control of an English dealer. It remains for me to give you a clue. The record price for a coin is the $4.14m paid in August 1999 for the rarest of the US silver dollars (1804).