The Infamous Double Eagle: Rarity Makes It One Of History’S Most Valuable Coins

The 1933 Double Eagle is one of the rarest and most coveted coins in the world, fetching millions at auction. But why is this elusive gold coin so immensely valuable? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unravel the double eagle’s mysterious history and examine what makes it so exceptionally rare.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Only a handful of 1933 Double Eagle coins were ever minted, and they were ordered destroyed, making any survivors incredibly rare. Their extreme rarity and intriguing backstory give the double eagle an unbelievable multi-million dollar value today.

Background and History of the 1933 Double Eagle

Origins and Creation

The 1933 Double Eagle is a rare and highly sought-after coin that holds a special place in the world of numismatics. It was originally minted as part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s initiative to beautify American coinage.

The design of the coin was the result of collaboration between renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and President Roosevelt himself. The Double Eagle, with its stunning depiction of Lady Liberty and the American eagle, quickly became a symbol of American prosperity and power.

The Controversial Minting and Melting Order

Despite its initial popularity, the 1933 Double Eagle faced a tumultuous journey. In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to halt the production of gold coins and to recall all gold coins in circulation.

This order was a response to the economic crisis and aimed to stabilize the nation’s currency. Unfortunately, this meant that the minting of the 1933 Double Eagle was abruptly halted, with only a small number of coins ever released to the public.

However, a few Double Eagles managed to escape the melting pot. These coins were inadvertently released into circulation before the recall order was fully implemented. It is believed that around 20 of these coins were saved by mint employees and government officials who recognized their potential value.

These coins would go on to become the most valuable and infamous coins in American history.

How Some Coins Escaped Destruction

The escape of the 1933 Double Eagles from destruction is a fascinating tale of intrigue and secrecy. The few coins that managed to elude the melting order passed through various hands and were traded in secret.

One notable figure in this story is the famous Egyptian King Farouk, who was an avid coin collector. It is said that he acquired a number of 1933 Double Eagles during his reign, and these coins eventually found their way into the hands of collectors and dealers.

Today, the ownership of a 1933 Double Eagle is highly contentious and legally complex. The United States government considers these coins to be stolen property and has confiscated several examples over the years.

However, a small number of coins have been deemed legal to own through a special exemption granted by the government. These rare legal specimens have fetched record-breaking prices at auction, with one coin selling for over $7 million in 2002.

The story of the 1933 Double Eagle is a remarkable one, showcasing the allure and mystique of rare coins. Its background and history are a testament to the rarity and value that can be found in the world of numismatics.

Estimating How Many Coins Survived

When it comes to the infamous Double Eagle coins from 1933, estimating how many of these rare treasures have survived is a fascinating task. Official records state that none of these coins should exist today, as they were ordered to be melted down and destroyed.

However, collectors and experts in the numismatic community have a different perspective.

The Official Record States None Should Exist

The official records indicate that the 1933 Double Eagles were never released for circulation. The United States Mint had already started producing the new design with the intention of replacing the previous version.

However, due to the Gold Reserve Act of 1933, which prohibited the private ownership of gold coins, the mint was ordered to halt the release of the Double Eagles and melt them down. As a result, the official record suggests that none of these coins should have survived.

But Collectors Believe 10-15 May Have Escaped

Despite the official record, collectors and experts believe that a small number of the 1933 Double Eagles managed to escape destruction. It is speculated that around 10 to 15 of these coins were saved from the melting pot. How did these coins manage to survive?

The story goes that a few coins were sent to the Smithsonian Institution for preservation, while others were possibly given to influential individuals or found their way into the hands of collectors before being confiscated.

The Famous 1933 Double Eagles Now in Existence

Today, there are a handful of 1933 Double Eagles that have become famous in the numismatic world. One of the most well-known is the King Farouk coin, which was once owned by the Egyptian king himself. This particular coin was discovered in the king’s collection after his overthrow and eventually ended up being sold at auction for a record-breaking price.

Another notable example is the “Langbord 10,” a group of 10 Double Eagles that were discovered in a safety deposit box many years after they were assumed to have been destroyed.

High Profile Auctions and Million Dollar Price Tags

When it comes to high-profile auctions and jaw-dropping price tags, the Double Eagle coin takes center stage. This rare and highly sought-after coin has made headlines for its astronomical values and record-breaking sales.

Let’s explore some of the most notable auctions and the staggering prices that these Double Eagles have fetched.

The Record-Shattering 2002 Sotheby’s Auction

One of the most iconic moments in the history of the Double Eagle coin occurred during the 2002 Sotheby’s auction. It was here that a 1933 Double Eagle, one of the most coveted coins among collectors, was sold for an astounding $7.59 million.

This sale not only cemented the Double Eagle’s status as one of the world’s most valuable coins but also set a new record for the highest price ever paid for a single coin at auction.

The 1933 Double Eagle holds a special place in numismatic history due to its unique backstory. Although over 400,000 Double Eagles were minted that year, they were never officially released into circulation. The US government ordered their destruction but a few coins managed to escape.

As a result, the 1933 Double Eagle became the holy grail for coin collectors, making it incredibly rare and valuable.

Subsequent Auction Prices and Private Sales

Following the groundbreaking 2002 Sotheby’s auction, the prices for Double Eagles continued to soar. Several other auctions and private sales have seen these coins change hands for millions of dollars. In fact, it is not uncommon for a Double Eagle to fetch a price tag in the seven-figure range.

For example, in 2013, a 1907 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle sold for an impressive $10 million in a private transaction. This particular coin is renowned for its stunning artwork and intricate design, making it highly sought after by collectors and investors alike.

The Highest Value Ever for a Rare Coin

With its extraordinary rarity and historical significance, the Double Eagle has achieved the highest value ever recorded for a rare coin. Its desirability among collectors and investors has driven the prices to unimaginable heights.

The allure of owning a piece of history combined with the scarcity of these coins has created a perfect storm for skyrocketing values.

It’s important to note that the value of Double Eagles can fluctuate depending on various factors, such as condition, rarity, and historical significance. However, it is safe to say that these coins consistently command top dollar in the numismatic market.

For more information about the history and value of the Double Eagle coin, you can visit the official website of the American Numismatic Association at They provide a wealth of resources and insights into the fascinating world of rare coins.

Why the 1933 Double Eagle is So Valuable

The 1933 Double Eagle is one of the most valuable coins in history, and its worth is driven by several key factors. These factors include its extreme rarity, the tantalizing backstory that surrounds it, and the collector prestige associated with owning a literal impossibility.

Extreme Rarity Due to Tiny Original Mintage

One of the main reasons why the 1933 Double Eagle is so valuable is its extreme rarity. The coin was minted in 1933, but almost all of them were melted down and destroyed. Only a few examples managed to escape this fate, making it an exceptionally rare find.

In fact, it is estimated that only around 20 of these coins exist today, with most of them held in private collections and museums. This scarcity drives up the demand and value for the coin among collectors and investors alike.

Tantalizing Backstory Adds Mystery and Allure

The backstory of the 1933 Double Eagle adds to its value and allure. The coin was produced during the height of the Great Depression, but it never officially entered circulation. The US government decided to halt the gold standard and recall all gold coins, including the Double Eagle.

However, a few coins managed to slip through the cracks and were acquired by collectors illegally. This led to a legal battle between the US government and the collectors, adding an element of mystery and intrigue to the coin’s history.

The fact that the 1933 Double Eagle is considered contraband makes it even more enticing to collectors and increases its value.

Collector Prestige of Owning a Literal Impossibility

Owning a 1933 Double Eagle holds a significant amount of collector prestige. The coin is not only rare and historically significant but also represents a literal impossibility. Due to the recall and destruction of the majority of these coins, it is illegal to own a 1933 Double Eagle.

However, a single example was exempted from the recall and sold at auction in 2002 for a record-breaking $7.59 million. This legal sale created an exception for this particular coin, making it the only 1933 Double Eagle that can be owned legally.

The rarity, historical significance, and the legal exception associated with this coin make it highly sought after by collectors and investors who want to own a piece of numismatic history.


In conclusion, the elusive 1933 Double Eagle coin is considered the holy grail of rare coins due to its extreme rarity, enticing backstory, and collector prestige. With only a handful known to have escaped melting, its value has skyrocketed, setting million dollar records at auctions.

The double eagle’s journey from disputed minting to legendary rarity makes it one of history’s most prized treasures.

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