"A thrilling page-turner....This is a great read."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
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.”
Publishers WeeklyFrankel, 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 JournalThe 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 ReviewsA 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.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
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