Judge rules $80 million in family gold coins belongs to the government

1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coin 
By: Shifra Unger 

A family who thought they have in their possession a huge fortune were very disappointed when a judge took it all away from them.

A judge ruled that 10 rare gold coins worth $80 million is the property of the U.S. government, not a family that had sued the U.S. Treasury, saying that the government had seized the coins illegally.

The 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coin was initially valued at $20 each, but sold for up to $7.5 million each at a Sotheby's auction in 2002, according to the news media.

After President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the U.S. off the gold standard, the majority of the 445,500 double eagles Philadelphia Mint coins had been melted into gold bullion.

However, a Philadelphia Mint cashier had managed to give or sell some of them to a local coin dealer, Israel Switt.

In 2003, the Switt family, Joan Langbord, and her two grandchildren, drilled open a safe that had belonged to him and found the 10 coins.

When the Langbords gave the coins to the Philadelphia Mint for authentication, the government seized them without compensating the family.

The Langbords filed a lawsuit, saying that the coins belonged to them. A jury decided that the coins belonged to the government, but the family appealed.

Then Judge Legrome Davis of the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, said in his decision, that "the coins in question were illegally removed from the Mint of the United States."

Barry Berke, a lawyer for the Langbords, told the news media: "This is a case that raises many new legal issues, including limits on government power to confiscate property. The Langbord family will file an appeal and looks forward to address these important issues before the 3rd Circuit."

The family said in its application that, in another seizure of a 1933 Double Eagle, the government split the proceeds with the owner after the coin sold at auction for $7.59 million in 2002.