Coin Dealer's Heirs Await Ruling on Rare Gold Pieces
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Nathan Gorenstein (7/8/11)
"At stake is the ownership of ten Double Eagle coins likely worth at least $7.59M each."
Israel Switt, long deceased but once considered a "patriarch" of Philadelphia's Jewelers Row, was an honest, if curmudgeonly, dealer in coins and gold.
Or maybe he was actually an eager participant in a 1930s scheme to sell coveted gold coins stolen from the U.S. Mint.
More than 75 years later, a federal jury will determine the truth. Switt died in 1990 at 95, but for his descendants, the decision will be worth tens of millions of dollars.
At stake is the ownership of ten $20 gold pieces minted in 1933, extraordinarily rare and stunningly valuable Double Eagle coins likely worth at least $7.59M each.
The government says that "they were stolen, and Israel Switt was somehow involved," and that it is the legal owner of the 10 coins that turned up in a safety deposit box in 2004.
Switt's elderly daughter, Joan Langbord, and two of her sons hope to convince jurors that a Secret Service investigation into Switt seven decades ago never proved him to be a criminal. No one knows how Switt came by the coins, says attorney Barry H. Berke. So the family is the legal owner.
"The government has a theory. They don't have facts," Berke told the U.S. District Court jurors in his opening statement. Next to him sat Switt's daughter, over 80 but still involved in running I. Switt, the secondhand jewelry store her father founded in 1932.
The history of the 10 gold pieces–whichever version is true–is a convoluted tale dating to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to stabilize the economy in 1933. Gold coins were taken out of circulation, and it became illegal to possess gold currency. The holders were reimbursed in paper money.