1933 Eagle, Numismatic Highlight in Near-Gem Condition1933 and the Recall of American GoldR
< Executive Order: By virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 5(B) of The Act of Oct. 6, 1917, as amended by section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, in which Congress declared that a serious emergency exists, I as President, do declare that the national emergency still exists; That the continued private hoarding of gold and silver by subjects of the United States poses a grave threat to the peace, equal justice, and well-being of the United States; and that appropriate measures must be taken immediately to protect the interests of our people.
"Therefore, pursuant to the above authority, I hereby proclaim that such gold and silver holdings are prohibited, and that all such coin, bullion or other possessions of gold and silver be tendered within fourteen days to agents of the Government of the United States for compensation at the official price, in the legal tender of the Government. All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed, pending action in the due course of the law. All sales or purchases or movements of such gold and silver within the borders of the United States and its territories, and all foreign exchange transactions or movements of such metals across the border are hereby prohibited.
"Your possession of these proscribed metals and/or your maintenance of a safe-deposit box to store them is known to the Government from bank and insurance records. Therefore, be advised that your vault box must remain sealed, and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of The Internal Revenue Service.
"By lawful Order given this day, the President of the United States."
In 1933, as the saying goes, the times were "hard." This land of ours had known almost unprecedented growth as a nation. America had started as one of numerous colonies of Great Britain, with a people of great ethnic diversity but not so much as today, for most Americans in 1933 were of European descent--solid stock from England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and other pockets of the Continent. Few countries were not represented by the bloodlines of other nations, and the "work ethic" was common among all these peoples. They came from oppressed situations to make a new life, in a new land full of opportunity. In a little more than a century, America had broken away from its former master, had expanded, had nearly been split in two but had mended, had grown first by agriculture and then by the discovery of gold in California, and then by industry and invention. Yet we remained an isolated nation to a great extent, not part of the company of major countries--until our military might proved itself in World War One. But then came the great crash on Wall Street in 1929, which devolved into the Great Depression--a downturn in both the economy and the spirit of the land. By 1933, America was struggling. Many people were afraid of the future.
Then came a new presence to the White House. In 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office. He had been born at a golden moment, in 1882. He had a checkered career in government before being elected President, but many Americans felt he could rescue them from the dire economic times of the early 1930s. One of the first things he did was to change the course of American history--he signed into law the executive order quoted above.
There had been a fairly recent precedent for the Presidential action of 1933. In 1917, during World War One, Congress had passed a bill which became known as the Trading with the Enemy Act. It stated in article 5(b) that the "President may investigate, regulate or prohibit, under such rules and regulations as he may prescribe, by means of licenses or otherwise, any transactions in foreign exchange for the export, hoarding, melting, or earmarking of gold or silver coins or bullion or currency." So, in 1933, FDR was simply re-enacting the law of 1917, hoping to stabilize the difficult economy and to outlaw the hoarding of gold.
Most citizens complied with the law and dutifully turned over their gold coins. Ironically, another act of Congress would have made all of them richer by almost double only months after the recall law of 1933. The Gold Reserve Act was passed on January 30, 1934, revaluing gold from the former $20.67 (which prevailed when gold coins were recalled) to a new official rate of $35 per ounce.
Many Americans, of course, hid their gold and did not turn it over to their federal government. Many coins were also exported, to remain hidden in Europe and in Caribbean countries for half a century. These actions explain the existence of earlier gold coins today, as well as the fact that many "new coin collectors" were born in 1933, not so much in fact as in name, as the only legal means of hanging on to their U.S. gold coins struck in earlier years.
But almost all the gold coins struck early in 1933 did not escape. Most remained in the vaults of the Treasury and went into the melting pots, creating today's rarities. That is because, while many pieces were minted prior to the change in the law in 1933, few had been released to banks or to the public. In fact, none had been officially released (save one, or perhaps others--as future litigation with the federal government will some day prove) of the twenty dollar denomination. A mere handful of tens had been released, however, accounting for their legal status today. But it was a mere handful! It is not known exactly how many escaped the melting pots in 1933, but today 1933 Indian ten dollar coins are among the rarest of all our coins, of any period in our history. All were minted at Philadelphia. A best guess is that only about three dozen survived--just 1/10,000th of the mintage. They were the last of a breed that began in 1795, named for one of the great native symbols of the land--the American bald eagle. From the controversial gold-recall law of 1933 was born a numismatic classic.
1933 $10 MS64 NGC. Ex: Freedom Collection.
The Presidential order of March 9, 1933 also exempted items of "recognized special value to collectors of rare and unusual coins." Late in 1933 a revised order removed the statement allowing individuals to hold up to $100 worth of gold coins or gold certificates (in addition to pieces with recognized numismatic value), so that afterward, only numismatically valuable pieces could be legally held. Although the government during 1933 issued several pronouncements that it would remain on the gold standard, in early 1934 legislation terminated the production of current gold coinage, removed the remaining gold coins from circulation, removed the gold metal backing from paper money, and took the United States off of the gold standard. A true fiat money was created in the United States, one backed by nothing other than the citizens' trust in their government. Needless to say, many other world governments and owners of gold coinage had a much more cynical view, and they chose to maintain their possessions of U.S. gold coins. (This was a short decade after the German hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic, and only four years after America's great Stock Market Crash of 1929.) Later, when import restrictions were loosened, Europe, Latin America, and some Asian countries became fertile ground for the repatriation of many gold pieces, some of them quite rare and elusive.
As with all three pieces in this auction, this coin has thick mint frost. This example differs from the other two by the rich golden color that is interspersed by light lilac in the recesses of the design. The striking details are strong on each side, and the only marks worthy of note a couple behind the mouth of the Indian, one along the jawline, and another at the front of the neck. The reverse is remarkably clean with only one, barely noticeable mark which is located in the field above the P in PLURIBUS. The first of a remarkable offering of three of these rarities, this piece is certainly worthy of consideration by the specialist.
From The Freedom Collection.(Registry values: N14284) (NGC ID# 28HC, PCGS# 8885)
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