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The Double Eagle Mystery

September 16th, 2011 Coins

The 1933 Double Eagle is one of the most valuable American coins in existence - one was sold at a Sotheby's auction in 2002 for 7.5 million dollars, according to ABC News. You may be wondering what on earth makes these coins so special, and luckily you're about to find out.

These Depression-era pieces were among the last batch of gold coins made by the U.S. mint, and they were never circulated. Most of the coins were melted down in 1937, but somehow 10 of them managed to avoid a doomed fate. No one knows how the coins were saved - in fact, a Secret Service investigation has been going on for over 70 years in order to find out who was responsible. Many people wonder why the U.S. is so adamant about finding out who circulated the coins, which is another level to the mystery.

One side of the coin features Liberty, who looks like a Greek goddess with her hair flowing in the wind. The other side has an eagle flying over its nest with an olive branch. Augustus Saint-Gaudens designed the coin to fit the idea of Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted to make a gold American coin reminiscent of ancient Greece's. The coins were produced from 1907 to 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt ordered that the coins be melted down to help relieve the Great Depression.

The Secret Service suspects that a Philadelphia jeweler named Israel Switt sold the coins in 1937, one of which went to King Farouk of Egypt in 1940. The government began tracking down the coins as soon as they realized they were no longer in the mint. The one sold for auction was supposedly the only one meant to be held privately, but 10 more coins surfaced in a vault owned by Switt's daughter. She took the government to court looking for monetary compensation, but the jury gave the coins to the government. She is expected to appeal the decision, so perhaps the 10 1933 Double Eagles will eventually show up again.