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Did You Know That The Export License for the Farouk Specimen 1933 Double Eagle Was Issued 80 Years Ago This Week?

In the history of the Farouk Specimen of 1933 double eagle (the only example that can be owned privately), a document issued 80 years ago this week is important: Treasury Gold License 11-170. It authorized the export of one of the 1933 double eagles that were stolen from the Mint (likely in 1937), and sold to coin dealers and major collectors. Among these collectors was Egypt’s King Farouk. A profligate collector of everything from coins to pornography, Farouk paid $1,575 to B. Max Mehl for the coin, one of the period’s most prominent coin dealers.

Under the terms of the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, licenses had to be granted for gold coins to be exported, and only those with “a recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coin” would generally be so authorized. Representatives of the Egyptian government applied for the necessary export license and Mint officials checked records. Informed, incorrectly, that the coin was just one of the more than 400,000 double eagles struck in 1933 only worth its face value and, not realizing that none of that date had been issued, the Treasury authorized Treasury Gold License 11-170 on February 29, 1944. Egyptian authorities shipped the coin to Cairo in March 1944. 

Subsequently, the fact that no 1933 double eagles had been issued came to light, the theft was discovered, and an investigation began which resulted in the seizure of numerous coins. Getting King Farouk’s coin back was deemed diplomatically infeasible in the context of WWII and later the Cold War, and it remained out of the public eye for more than half a century after being pulled from the Egyptian government’s sale of Farouk’s collection which occurred two years after he was deposed.

David Tripp’s Illegal Tender: Gold, Greed, and the Mystery of the Lost 1933 Double Eagle and Alison Frankel’s Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World’s Most Valuable Coin are both readable, helpful accounts from which this blog writer drew the above information.

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