In 1933, the US Mint in Philadelphia minted almost half a million $20 gold coins, known as double eagles. But with the nation in the throes of the Depression and fearing a bank run, FDR blocked their release and most were melted down. A few managed to wander out of the Mint, however, including 10 that have been at the center of a decade-long legal contest between a Philadelphia family that found them in a safe deposit box and the federal government, which claims the family patriarch stole them. The latest chapter in that fight comes via the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, reports Reuters, which ruled Friday that the feds must return the coins to Joan Langbord and sons Roy and David. At stake is a little more than the $200 face value: A double eagle sold for $7.6 million in a 2002 auction.
The feds think Joan Langbord's father, gold dealer Israel Switt, swiped the coins. Treasury seized them when the Langbords found them in Switt's safe deposit box in 2003 and tried to authenticate them, notes the Wall Street Journal. But when the Langbords filed a seized-asset claim in 2005, the government failed to respond in the required 90 days. "The government knew that it was obligated to bring a judicial civil forfeiture proceeding or to return the property, but refused," wrote a judge. "Having failed to do so, it must return the Double Eagles to the Langbords." Says a Langbord lawyer: "The Langbords are thrilled to receive their property back after fighting to vindicate their rights for over a decade."