Joan Langbord was going through her late father’s possessions in 2003 when she and her sons found 10 1933 St. Gaudens Double Eagle $20 gold coins in a bank deposit box. Trusting the government, Langbord took the coins to the U.S. Mint to get them authenticated.
Claiming the coins were stolen from the Mint in 1933, the government seized them and locked them away in Fort Knox. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all gold pieces confiscated and melted into gold bars. Most were. But some gold coins survived. A similar coin sold at auction in 2003 for $7.5 million, so the Federal government essentially stole $80 million from Langbord without compensating her.
Langbord went to court to get the coins back. Of course, Federal judges are employees of the U.S. government and are loath to rule against their employers. Such was the case this time.
The government claims Langbord’s father, Israel Switt, a jeweler who died in 1990, stole the coins from the Mint. Switt was investigated in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1944, his license to deal scrap gold was revoked. His alleged partner in crime was a Mint employee named George McCann who was also investigated in the 40s. Charges against the two were dropped.
The government could not say how Switt obtained the coins. Being a coin dealer, he could have obtained them legally. That didn’t matter to the judge, who ruled the double eagles belonged to the government “regardless of… how the coins came into the claimant’s possession.”
I am often asked if the government could once again choose to confiscate gold from individuals. The clear answer is: yes, if the government knows you have it. Buy gold; just don’t tell anyone — especially the government.