Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World's Most Valuable Coin

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Overview

One coin, for years the only known 1933 twenty-dollar Double Eagle in the world, has inspired the passions of thieves and collectors, lawyers and charlatans. Its extraordinary story winds across seventy years and three continents, linking an almost unbelievable cast of characters: Theodore Roosevelt and a Philadelphia gold dealer with underworld connections; Egypt's King Farouk and an apple-cheeked Secret Service agent; London's most successful coin dealer and a retired trucker from Amarillo, Texas. Alison ...
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Overview

One coin, for years the only known 1933 twenty-dollar Double Eagle in the world, has inspired the passions of thieves and collectors, lawyers and charlatans. Its extraordinary story winds across seventy years and three continents, linking an almost unbelievable cast of characters: Theodore Roosevelt and a Philadelphia gold dealer with underworld connections; Egypt's King Farouk and an apple-cheeked Secret Service agent; London's most successful coin dealer and a retired trucker from Amarillo, Texas. Alison Frankel's stylish narrative hums at the pace of a thriller. Her meticulously researched descriptions and vivid character studies bring the coin's history to life and illuminate the world of coin collecting, where the desire to possess often borders on madness.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Frankel, senior writer at the American Lawyer, has produced a thrilling page-turner about the most common of objects-a coin. Granted, the coin in question is no ordinary piece of change. Produced at the Philadelphia Mint in 1933, the $20 Double Eagle was the last gold coin made in the United States and never officially placed in circulation. Still, in the sometimes shadowy world of numismatics, one of the coins surfaced and was chased around the globe for nearly 70 years. In hard-driving prose, Frankel chronicles the events and characters that orbit this small piece of precious metal. Acquired by shady gold dealer Israel Switt, "a squat, balding redhead who wore thick-rimmed glasses, cheap suits, and a perpetual sneer," the coin found its way into the collection of King Farouk of Egypt, a ruler described by Frankel as having an appetite for collecting "so unquenchable and undiscriminating that he seemed almost cartoonish." Frankel demonstrates her journalistic skill with sparkling accounts of deals, investigations and the arcane rituals of the coin world. This is a great read for the obsessed collector and general public alike. 8 pages of b&w photos. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The 1933 $20 Double Eagle disappeared from the U.S. Mint during the Depression and has had quite a journey since then, much of it through illegal channels. From a senior writer at American Lawyer. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A narrative of events shaping the destiny of the 1933 U.S. gold piece that has become the world's most coveted coin. Frankel, a senior writer at The American Lawyer, covers much the same ground as David Tripp did in Illegal Tender (2004), which tracked the "last known" example of the famous $20 gold piece to its triumphant sale for more than $7.5 million during a July 2002 auction at Sotheby's. Tripp, former head of Sotheby's coin department, captures the intrigue that led to the coin's 1933 recall just prior to public issue (hence its rarity) and the thrill of the chase as the Secret Service spent decades hunting down the few that were taken out of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia by presumably illicit means. Frankel's effort touches those bases but puts a sharper focus on the fated coin's design and creation, as well as the unique circumstances that produced a collectors' frenzy from a government's crisis. Readers will learn, for example, that terminally ill sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, approached by Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 to design something that would uplift the stature of U.S. coinage, was primarily motivated not by presidential badgering but by the chance to thoroughly vanquish his artistic nemesis: the Mint's chief engraver, Charles Barber. Revisiting the Sotheby's auction, the author sets the scene with tightly wired tension that makes this chapter a gripping read despite the known outcome. Finally, in her account of developments following the auction, Frankel describes the chain of events that now, incredibly, put the U.S. government in contention with the heirs of Philadelphia jeweler and gold dealer Israel Switt for rightful ownership of not just one long-suspectedremaining Double Eagle but ten of them. Readable and authoritative history of a phenomenon for the numismatic ages.
Jason Goodwin - Wall Street Journal
“Frankel steers her reader through a world of coin fairs, backroom deals, gossip and meticulous scholarship. The result is a thriller-like narrative that tacks swiftly back and forth among the principal players.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393059496
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/15/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Frankel is a senior writer at The American Lawyer. Her work has also appeared in Newsday, the New York Times, and several other national magazines. She lives in Sea Cliff, New York.

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Table of Contents


Prologue     1
"Give Us a Coinage That Has Some Beauty!"     5
"All Persons Are Hereby Required to Deliver All Gold Coin Now Owned by Them"     29
The Mysterious Man at the Money Factory     49
The "Gold Coin Bootlegger" and the Coin Dealers     65
The First Investigation     81
Seizure     101
Farouk of Egypt     107
Disappearing     125
Surfacing     139
The Deal     151
"It's Not Okay Over Here"     165
The Sting     181
"I Was Just Selling a Coin"     193
"All Right, Then. Let's Fight"     209
Jack Moore's Last Stand     221
Splitting the Baby     229
Second Chances     243
"Fair Warning"     251
Only One Coin     259
Epilogue     263
Acknowledgments     277
Notes     283
Selected Bibliography     301
Index     309
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Gift for Coin Collector

    Bought this as a Christmas gift for a avid collector of ancient coins. This guy is quite intelligent, up in age (so he has everything), and very hard to buy for. He loved it! He told me several times how much.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2007

    Best Book

    This is one of the best books I have ever read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2006

    A Golden Detective Story

    I know what you're thinking, 'A book about a coin? Who cares?' I finished this three-hundred paged book, including eighteen pages of footnotes, within two days. And even though eight of those hours were on-the-clock, that alone does not explain my reading speed. Double Eagle is an exciting and fascinating book about the last known 1933 U.S. twenty dollar gold piece in circulation. Illegally. For us 'Baby Boomers' born in the early 1950s, Double Eagle discloses the gentleman whose promotion drove so many of us kids to become bright-eyed coin collectors searching through our change at the corner grocery store and our mother's coin purses. And then making long bicycle rides in the summer vacation heat to the nearest bank in order to exchange our rolls of gone-through pennies for fresh red-rolled cents. The eighteen pages of footnotes were sometimes used, but as I read further I believe are put there mainly to prevent the thought of lawsuit from any of the individuals exposed by author Alison Frankel's meticulous research. One of the gripes I have with the book is that sometimes there is far too much detail, while at the same time I also yearned for pictures of some of the other often-mentioned coins. Speaking of the eight pages of black and white photos, if you wish to pursue the story as the real life suspense mystery it chronicles, leave the photos for last, because their captions reveal too much of the story in too little words. Through about chapter eight or nine the reading is virtually as exciting and compelling as a Michael Chricton thriller, only this story is pure golden fact. This is a book I could not put down and an adventure that doesn't end until the last two pages of the Epilogue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2006

    The Gold Standard!

    Frankel's deft book, Double Eagle, tells the incredible story of the famous 1933 $20 gold coin. The world's most coveted and treasured coin traveled the globe, only to land in New York City, in the middle of a thrilling sting operation by the Secret Service. Where greed, wealth and obsession meet, the book details the inner workings of the coin world, the mania of collectors, the art history of coin making, and the secretive auction house rules. Frankel's writing is stylish and muscular. She is clearly an accomplished reporter. Her attention to detail was the best part of the reading experience for me. Double Eagle (the book) holds up as well at Double Eagle (the coin) as a treasure for the ages.

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