In 2002 an exceptionally rare United States 1933 $20 Double Eagle gold coin sold for a colossal £4.8 million at Sotheby’s, making it the most expensive gold coin in the world to ever be sold at auction. So rare are the coins that only thirteen are known to still exist today, with the one due to go on display in London next month believed to originally have come from the personal collection of King Farouk of Egypt.
Their rarity is due to the desire of the then new President Franklin D. Roosevelt to remove America from the gold standard in an effort to help rescue the banking system and stabilise the economy as people rapidly withdrew gold from banks in the midst of the Great Depression. As part of this plan, he withdrew the almost 500,000 1933 $20 Double Eagle gold coins that already been minted, before they had a chance to circulate.
Ever since, the U.S secret services have been actively hunting down any of those coins that somehow escaped being melted down. Several high-profile legal battles have been fought, with one as recently as August 2011, as the U.S government looked to reclaim those coins that they believe were removed in an ‘unlawful manner’ before they could be destroyed.
Now, with economists often comparing the current world economic crises as reminiscent of the Great Depression, the story of those seeking comfort in gold during a time of economic hardship appears as relevant today as it did to the U.S government of the 1930s.