Not a Museum Piece

by David Enders Tripp

“In 1933 following the striking of several hundred thousand pieces for circulation, it would have been possible for a visitor to the Treasury Department or to the Mint to have obtained one by paying face value for it. It was common practice, for example, for the curator to provide specimens to various museum, university, and other collections. At least two examples of the 1927-D double eagle were distributed this way during the year of issue.” (Q. David Bowers, United States Gold Coins: An Illustrated History, 1982)

The theory of a Visitor to the Treasury or Mint purchasing one has already been discussed (in fact no 1933 Double Eagles were sent to the Treasury). The second suggestion that, as with prior years, the Mint quite legitimately supplied 1933 Double Eagles to institutions or individuals who wished to obtain them by purchase, is similarly unsupported by the record.

None were permitted to paid out by the Mint; and again the records of the Mint are remarkably precise. The Secret Service investigation revealed that Messrs. McCann and Switt had also dealt in quantities of 1931 and 1932 Double Eagles, and so the investigators examined the official releases of these dates as well.

A June 30, 1944 Memorandum to the Chief of the Secret Service noted that the Treasury department received 100 each of the 1931 and 1932 Double Eagles (an additional two 1931’s and 75 1932’s were sent out directly by the Mint); it further noted the date, destination, and value of all the coins sent out to individuals or institutions.

For example: 1931 Double Eagles were sent to The American Numismatic Society (December 11, 1931) and The Connecticut State Library (2 pieces-February 1, 1932); 1932 Double Eagles were sent to: a Mr. Taylor at the Riggs National Bank, Washington, D.C. (March 14, 1932); C.F. Childs, Chicago, Illinois (May 13, 1932—later lot 799, Bowers and Merena auction of the Walter H. Childs Collection, August 1999); The American Numismatic Society (December 21, 1932) and The Connecticut State Library (2 pieces—January 10, 1933).

February 23, 1933 was the last date the Treasury sent out any Double Eagles, a mere two weeks before FDR’s proclamation. No gold coins, of any date, are recorded as having been purchased, exchanged or sent out after March 6, 1933—for to do so would have broken the law.