- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002


NEW YORK A 1933 Double Eagle gold coin that never went into circulation is being sold by the federal government at auction this summer. It could fetch millions, experts predict.

"We expect that this coin may become the most valuable coin in the world," said David Pickens, associate director of the U.S. Mint.

Sotheby's auction house and Stack's, a numismatic firm, are planning a July 30 auction of the coin, believed to be one of only a handful of 1933 Double Eagles to have survived when all 445,000 struck that year were ordered melted down.

Double Eagles were first minted in 1850 with a face value of $20. The ones that were minted in 1933 were never put into circulation because President Franklin Roosevelt decided to take the nation off the gold standard.

The term Double Eagle is derived from the fact that a $10 coin is called an Eagle. Before the coins were melted down, two were handed over to the Smithsonian Institution for historic safekeeping.

But one other somehow survived. It suddenly surfaced in public in 1996.

Henrietta Holsman Fore, director of the U.S. Mint, said the coin "has been at the center of international numismatic intrigue for more than 70 years."

The Double Eagle, its whereabouts unknown for decades, surfaced when British coin dealer Stephen Fenton tried selling it to undercover Secret Service agents at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Mr. Fenton was charged with possession of stolen property because of the coin's status as uncirculated, but the charges were later dismissed.

Barry Berke, who represented Mr. Fenton during forfeiture proceedings, said he negotiated a settlement after presenting evidence that Mr. Fenton purchased the coin in 1995 from an Egyptian jeweler with ties to an Egyptian military official.

That strengthened the possibility the coin once belonged to Egypt's King Farouk, one of the world's great coin collectors. A 1933 Double Eagle from the collection of the king was offered for sale at a 1954 Cairo auction, but withdrawn at the behest of the U.S. Treasury, according to Sotheby's and the U.S. Mint.

Mr. Berke said proceeds from this year's sale will be split between the Treasury Department and Mr. Fenton. Sotheby's and Stack's will receive an undisclosed commission.

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