Skip to comments.Rare Coins: Family Treasure or Ill-Gotten Goods?[1933 Double Eagle]
Posted on 09/17/2009 10:35:27 AM PDT by BGHater
Roy Langbord had guessed that someone in his family might have hidden away a great treasure decades before, but not until his mother had him check a long-neglected safe-deposit box did he realize just how great it was.
Inside the box, opened in 2003, he found an incredibly rare coin, wrapped in a delicate paper sleeve. It was a gold $20 piece with Lady Liberty on one side, a bald eagle flying across the other and, at Libertys left, the four digits that made it so valuable: 1933.
The famous double eagles from that year were never officially released by the government. Only a few had ever made their way out of federal vaults, and only one had ever been sold publicly, in 2002. The price: $7.6 million.
And there were nine more of them in the safe-deposit box.
But after the Langbord family took the coins to the United States Mint to be authenticated in 2004, they got a rude surprise. The Mint said the coins were genuine and kept them.
The government claims that they are government property stolen from the Mint, most likely in the 1930s, by Mr. Langbords grandfather, Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jewelry dealer.
The Langbords went to court and recently won an important ruling. A United States District Court judge has given the government until the end of the month either to give back the coins or go back to court to prove that they were in fact stolen by Mr. Switt, a daunting task after three-quarters of a century.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
The last people you being into confidence are cops, politicans and the federal government.
Lady Liberty looks pretty guilty. Yikes!
But after the Langbord family took the coins to the United States Mint to be authenticated
prove it feds.
or give them back.
they had a different standard of guilt back then!
Couldn’t there be some statue of limitation about this? It was in their possession...and they can’t prove that the present owners had stolen them...
Reminds me of a story I heard many years ago about a guy in Oregon who bought a sheet of stamps and noticed a major printing error. He went around showing off his discover and telling people how this could lead to him making big bucks and a local paper picked up the story and printed it. Within a month the government began printing millions of that stamp with that error reducing his once precious discovery to nothing more than a sheet of stamps.
And announcing you have 9 of them is not a real good idea either. If I recall there were only supposed to be two of the 1933 double eagles in existence and adding 9 more will knock that $7 million price down quite quite a bit.
I have dreams of a find like this.
One of my mother’s EIGHT brothers was a wandering, semi-homeless hermit type. He lived in a cheap hotel room and made his living fixing old broken radios. When he died in 1983, they found a stash of Krugerrands in a shoebox.
No historic value, but worth $250,000 in bullion value.
Split among the 10 living kids (those randy Polish Catholics).
That stuff never happens to me, but I’m keeping an eye on the kids’ great grandma. She can’t last forever.
Uhh, I thought that was the way things were supposed to work.
"No person shall be ... deprived of ... property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Court order or not, he’s never getting his coins back.
“took the coins to the United States Mint to be authenticated...”
Ooohhh... That was dumb.
When word got out that he had them, believe me, our benevolent government would have sent the Brute Squad to confiscate them anyway...
But yes, it wasn’t the brightest idea...
The narrative in the story is one of theft, plain and simple. The 'lucky' finders of the coins were idiots to take ALL of them to the Mint.
Proper strategy: take (don't ship) 9 of them to, say, Nevis (which does not recognise civil orders of recovery from ANY other nation). Then, take the remaining coin to the Mint. Have the Mint issue an opinion of authenticity, and then have the remaining coins AND the opinion (or certification, perhaps) of authenticity auctioned by a reputable international auction house.
Oh, and don't forget to expatriate (lawfully) prior to the auction. This way, the coin stolen by the Mint effectively becomes just 'taxes paid'.
In the US Code, only murder and treason are not subject to statute of limitations, iinm.
Do you have title to the US currency in your wallet? No? Then hand it over.
The theft of the property isn’t an issue for this guy.
Nobody’s trying to put him in jail for that.
Hower, the posession of stolen property begins the moment it’s discovered. I’m not saying it’s stolen, but the government considers it to be stolen. Stolen property doesn’t legitemize with the passage of time.
Now, I’d like to see the government prove that they were stolen.
Anybody that’s ever been to an surplus or MRO sale knows that the goobermint is incapable of keeping track of its stuff and wether it was legally sold or not.
However, the government had no evidence whatsoever, at least as far as the article mentions, that the Langboards' did not have title to the coins.
They just assumed their title was invalid and responded accordingly.
IOW, the government did not go through any due process hearing to show why its title was superior to that of the Langboards.
the title to an item that was stolen (if that's what happened) does not magically transfer itself to you just because a lot of time has passed.
I don't believe this is true. Isn't there a common-law principle whereby unchallenged possession for some period of time constitutes title? Since just about all title to real estate is based on conquest (theft) or force of some type, if you go back far enough, don't we admit that legitimate title passes with sufficient time?
A great many American Indian tribes have (accurately) pointed out that their land was stolen, often in direct defiance of treaties. Yet there doesn't seem to be a lot of support on FR for handing the USA, or even large chunks of it, back to them.
Oh there are large chunks I would have no problem giving back to them, let's start with Massachusetts.
The mere notion of goobermint 'considering' something to be stolen is hardly sufficient, at law, to justify the seizure of the property...assuming the goobermint operates according to the rule of law.
Oh, I definitely agree.
Mega-dittos for the way the IRS seizes accounts and assets without due process.
And don’t get me started about cops and their WO(S)D asset seizure and forfeiture tactics.
They want it. You got it.
Anything else is incidental.
Well, aside from land.
A fair point.
Actually, he does.
U.S. currency is a liability on the Fed's balance sheet - meaning whoever has possession of the Federal Reserve Note has a claim against the Fed.
Of course, the Fed pays its claims in more Federal Reserve Notes, but that's beside the point.
Even if adverse possession applies to coins in general, it would not apply in this case because Langbord’s possession of them was not “open and notorious.”
i had a cowoorker of mine when I was much younger that had a rich uncle. He new his uncle had money but never rally was that close to him. well his uncle died and left him everything becuse he had no children of his own. probably why he had money. Anyway, the 48 milion dollars was quite a surprise. he handled it well and became a really good family man.
That they did, although it might not be unreasonable to act that way if the coins were never released to anyone.
That said and with possession usually being 9/10th’s of the law. He should have not gone to the Treasury until he established legality of ownership. He probably would have ended up with 1/3 to 1/2 of the loot because the Treasury wants the money and will not destroy the coins. Of course that would be illegal since it violates a presidential order.
Oh heck go with the Nevis scenario.
A fascinating story. I’ve read both these books and have followed this story since.
Alison Frankel: Double Eagle: the epic story of the world’s most valuable coin. New York: Norton, 2006 ISBN 0-393-05949-9
David Tripp: Illegal tender : gold, greed, and the mystery of the lost 1933 Double Eagle. New York: Free Press, 2004 ISBN 0-7432-4574-1
I would’ve lived a year at most.
“Bottle of whisky, sleeping tablets by his head.”
Bad Company nailed it with that tune.
I am doubtful the government’s records from that period are complete enough to justify such a confiscation.
To be perfectly fair, let’s admit it is more than likely the coins were stolen from the government.
All I’ve said is that the government should have gone through a due-process hearing to establish this.
Not just confiscate the coins arbitrarily.
Well, aside from land.
No, there's almost always more to acquiring title to land through adverse possession than simply having unchallenged possession. The law differs from state to state but generally requires that the possession be "actual, open, exclusive, continuous, and notorious." Some states use the additional term "hostile" or similar words.
Basically, in most cases, the true landowner has to KNOW (or there should be facts where a reasonable landowner should know) that the squatter/interloper is laying claim to the land, by fencing it in, or living on it, or otherwise doing something that's open and an obvious statement of "I own this" contrary to the true landowner's right.
In some states, the squatter even has to possess the land under "color of title," which means he or she has to have a deed or other document that purports to give title, even if it doesn't in fact, in a situation where a reasonable person would not suspect that the deed was invalid.
I wouldn't be surprised if one or two western states had a less stringent standard, but the general national standard requires the the true owner of the land KNOW or be in possession of facts where he SHOULD KNOW of the squatter's claim.
Sorry to go all lawyer on you.
I’m thinking of the case where a local judge began to develop a footpath and grass on an adjacent property, fully knowing it wasn’t his. The property belonged to another local man, who was keeping the land for a retirement or vacation home in the future.
He found out that the judge had filed an “adverse posession” claim and had been deeded the property by the courts.
Oh, the outrage.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t have squatters in mind, but the government theft of land from natives.
I also agree that the full article doesn't mention any specific evidence that good old granddaddy Switt stole the coins.
However, for those who haven't read the full article, it sounds as if perhaps granddaddy Switt wasn't as pure as the driven snow and that the government had long suspected him of illegal dealings involving corrupt cashiers at the Mint.
Those, of course, are suspicions and the government should still have to prove its case -- but I'll bet there is some evidence from back in the 1930's.
According to the article:
The Secret Service, which polices currency crimes, has argued that all of the double eagles that escaped government control passed through the hands of Mr. Switt, working with a corrupt cashier at the Mint. A Mint spokesman declined to comment on the case because of the litigation.
According to a history of the coins by Alison Frankel, a journalist with The American Lawyer, a United States attorney decided not to prosecute Mr. Switt in the mid-1940s, saying the statute of limitations had passed.
Ms. Frankel wrote in her 2006 book Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the Worlds Most Valuable Coin that Mr. Switt was a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and that a dealer who traded with him called him a gold coin bootlegger who continued to sell gold coins long after the practice had been prohibited. The book details the governments contention that Mr. Switt worked with a corrupt Mint cashier.
Somebody contemporary who is familiar with the facts has, in her judgment, decided that old granddaddy Switt was "a thoroughly nasty piece of work."
Make the government prove it. I just ordered a copy of Ms. Frankel's book from Amazon. Sounds like interesting reading.
And I'm just saying . . . if none of these coins were supposed to leave the mint . . . and if the government suspected back in the 1930's that Mr. Switt (himself not a Mint employee) had managed to acquire some through illegal dealings with a corrupt U.S. Mint cashier but didn't have enough evidence to prosecute . . . then it seems a little, shall we say, "convenient", that it just happens to be a descendant of Mr. Switt who finds the coins in a family safe deposit box?
Being the contrarian here;
The printed these up wrong, so they kept them at the mint. They were not released. Instead, someone stole them from the mint.
Now, the descendents of a person who worked at the mint find 9 of them in a safe deposit box.
How could they possibly have gotten these things legally?
This isn’t like the government trying to seize your gold after you’ve purchased it on the open market.
Sure, we can talk about all the ways these people could have gotten rich from this, but if they were stolen from the mint, why should they get rich?
It is interesting that, in general, if property that is known to be stolen shows up, the law requires it be returned to the person who had it stolen, even if the person who now has it paid someone else for it.
Or is there really a question as to whether these coins were stolen from the mint? It doesn’t seem there is such a question, from the article.
In most states, the judge must have used the path for an extended period (usually about seven years or more) and the landowner must have known about the judge's use.
Even then, the judge would normally have received only an easement to use the path for access unless his/her use was exclusive during the period of adverse possession.
Sounds like there are probably some interesting facts tucked away in the pleadings and discovery.
statute of limitations applies to punishment for a crime. It wouldn’t necessarily apply to returning stolen property.
You know this can’t turn out well for them. If they end up with “title”, the next step will be the government claiming that the coins were part of an estate, which was subject to estate taxes (federal and state).
They will probably argue for interest and penalties. Maybe they will argue that the people were criminal in their filings, if they knew about the coints.
By the time we are done, they will probably be turning the coins over as part of some plea bargain.
But, at the time, it was all over the national news.
The judge was receiving death threats.
I think the original landowner was on O’Reilly or Hannity.
Here it is:
Maybe you can clarify the legal details, but it definitely happened.
“Sticky fingers” was quite a problem amongst the Mint employees back in the day, according to both books about the coins. Just ‘pocket change,’ though...
The man is still an idiot for assuming the Mint would treat him honestly.
Will the government next seize some or all safety deposit boxes under the guise of searching for more stolen property?
It appears a lot of the uproar was over: (a) rejection of evidence that suggested the Judge had created a path on the land AFTER filing the lawsuit to bolster his claim to the land; (b) the fact the judge giving the ruling had once served as a judge in the same district as the Judge who won; and (c) pretty convincing the evidence that the Judge knew the land wasn't his, knew the law, used the land for the requisite period of time, and used the law to his advantage (all of which isn't illegal, but certainly makes him a bad guy in my eyes).
People were incensed that adverse possession could exist in this day and time, particularly when a powerful former mayor of Boulder appeared to knowingly take advantage of a young, non-lawyer couple. There's some evidence they had been warned about the Judge's use and simply decided to be "good neighbors", letting the Judge use the land to access his backyard, etc.
As a result of the uproar over the decision, I read that Colorado amended its adverse possession laws. They now appear to require color of title and payment of taxes. I'm guessing that's new. In addition, the case was appealed and rather than risk the appeal the Judge settled for a strip of land at the back of the property, ranging from 5' to 9' wide, instead of the 34% of the property originally awarded to him.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.