PHILADELPHIA - The US government rightfully seized 10 never-circulated 1933 gold coins from a Philadelphia woman who said she found them in her late father’s bank deposit box, a jury found yesterday.
The civil case was over whether the $20 “double eagles’’ ever legally left the US Mint. A single one sold for a record $7.59 million in 2002.
Prosecutors argued the coins never circulated when the country went off the gold standard and were therefore stolen, with help from the woman’s father, jeweler Israel Switt.
“This is government property that was stolen’’ 70 years ago, Assistant US Attorney Jacqueline Romero said. “It doesn’t belong to someone that has a hand in stealing it.’’
The coins, designed by famed sculptor August Saint-Gaudens, are among the rarest in the world. The government made nearly 500,000 of them in 1933 but melted all but a few when it abolished the gold standard.
Two were sent to the Smithsonian Institution, and 20 more are known to have gotten out. All 20 can be traced to Switt, prosecutors said.
Lawyers for his daughter, Joan Langbord, argued that he could have acquired the coins legally. Switt was also a scrap gold dealer who regularly did business with the Mint.
He was twice investigated for illegally possessing gold coins in the 1930s and 1940s.
Langbord, 81, spent most of her life working in her father’s downtown jewelry store. She said she found the coins in 2003, a year after the auction.