Legal battle begins over disputed gold coins

Fri Jul 8, 2011 10:15am EDT
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By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - A legal battle over the fate of 10 double eagle gold coins from the Franklin Roosevelt Administration in the 1930s started with the government saying the coins, now worth an estimated $75 million, were wrongly taken from a U.S. mint.

Authorities say the coins were improperly removed more than 70 years ago from the U.S. Mint at Philadelphia, only blocks from the courthouse where U.S. District Court Judge Legrome D. Davis was presiding over the case.

"You are going to hear a remarkable and intriguing story about gold coins that were stolen from the U.S. Mint in 1933," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero told the jury in her opening statement.

None of the 445,500 coins, then worth $20 each, ever legally went into circulation, she said. President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order shortly after taking office in March 1933 that prohibited the payout of gold from banks.

Yet 10 coins -- called double eagles because the $10 coin was called an eagle -- somehow disappeared.

"The only answer is that they were stolen," Romero said. She pointed a finger at the late Israel Switt, saying the now deceased Philadelphia jeweler was "somehow involved."

His heirs -- his daughter Joan Langbord and her sons Roy and David -- are contesting the government position that it is entitled to the coins.

In fact, the government has had possession of the disputed coins since 2004, when Roy Langbord surrendered them to the government.   Continued...

<p>A double eagle coin that was put up for auction by Sotheby's and Stack's auction house is seen in a 2002 handout photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>