Groves Forum in American Numismatics: 1933 — The Paper Trail

by Robert W. Hoge

poem by Eric P. Newman

This year’s Groves Forum, held Wednesday, November 10, in the Society’s new facilities at the corner of William and Fulton streets, focused upon the remarkable story of the background behind the 1933 United States twenty dollar gold piece which is renowned today for having achieved the highest price ever paid for a coin when it was sold at auction in 2002. ANS President Donald Partrick welcomed visitors and introduced the featured guest speaker David E. Tripp, former head of the numismatic department of Sotheby’s, expressing his own enjoyment of and satisfaction with Tripp’s recent widely acclaimed book, Illegal Tender: Gold, Greed, and the Mystery of the Lost 1933 Double Eagle. In this work, Tripp discusses the subject fully, but in his Groves Forum lecture he presented further insights into his approach to the subject and his methods of immersing himself in the times and the people involved. He related his experiences in conducting interviews and researching the chain of events central to the mystery of the 1933 gold issue, and reported the significance of particular documents found in Federal archives. The audience was fascinated, and a series of questions and a lively discussion followed the talk.


David Tripp signing a copy of his book

Refreshments were served in the reception held in the Society’s main floor meeting hall. Copies of the book were made available, and the author autographed them for members in attendance. Subsequently, a fine dinner in honor of the featured speaker was held at the 14 Wall Street Restaurant, located in what was once a penthouse apartment owned by noted financier J. Pierpont Morgan on the building’s 31st floor.

Buy the Book Instead of the Coin for 7,590,020 Rea$on$

The book Illegal Tender is a “novel” expression
About a 1933 U.S. Double Eagle minted impression
Struck during the Great American depression
When gold coins were ordered into suppression

Some ’33s were then stolen from Treasury possession
Through some conniving mint workers’ indiscretion;
Then sold through dealers in the coin profession
To collectors afflicted with rare coin obsession.

After two pieces were saved for Smithsonian accession
T-men grabbed others in Federal repossession
Litigation ensued about the right of possession
Leaving collectors none but a very clear lesson.

In a diplomatic pouch one went to Farouk, the Egyptian,
Through stupidity U.S. granted export permission.
After Farouk fled, Egypt seized and auctioned his collection
But his ’33 vanished in to clandestine protection.

Later smuggled back to the U.S. for selling session
Right into a Secret Service sting for repossession.
Then was auctioned for price too high for addition
To become an anonymous buyer’s best acquisition.

David Tripp’s book is full of numismatic erudition,
Not about raising the coin to MS 80 condition,
But research done by an enigmatic magician,
It’s wise to buy this book legally in its first edition.

(An apology to the sound advice of Aaron R. Feldman to buy the book before the coin)
—Eric P. Newman, August 2004