PNG Files Against Seizure of 1933 Double Eagles
(Fallbrook, California) - The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) has filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief warning of “dire consequences” for collectors and museums because the federal government’s seizure of ten 1933 Double Eagles from a Pennsylvania family could lead to confiscation of other types of rare coins.
The brief was written by PNG’s legal counsel, attorney Armen R. Vartian of Manhattan Beach, California. It was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 11, 2007 along with a motion requesting the court’s permission for PNG to participate in the case as a friend of the court.
Courts may grant amicus curiae recognition to individuals or groups who are not a direct party to the particular litigation but who believe the court’s decisions in the case may affect their interests. Founded in 1955, the PNG (www.PNGdealers.com) is a nonprofit organization composed of more than 250 rare coin and paper money dealers.
In the court filing, PNG claims that “pattern coins, presentation pieces, special proofs, and experimental coins, which passed from the Mint as presentations to a domestic or foreign dignitary, or by outright sale or trade with collectors” and which are “currently residing peacefully in public and private collections across the country” would be “at risk” if the government is allowed to keep the ten 1933 Double Eagles voluntarily submitted to the United States Mint for authentication in 2004 by heirs of the late Philadelphia jeweler, Israel Switt.
The brief states in part:
The Government's theory in this case, however, is that the 1933 Double Eagle cannot be owned and sold by private collectors because it was not issued and circulated as legal tender by the Mint, and must therefore have been stolen. If all coins that were not issued into circulation as legal tender, but left the Mint through known or unknown means were illegal to own, and the Government could proceed decades later to reclaim the coins, then a large number of the most interesting coins minted during U.S. history - currently residing peacefully in public and private collections across the country - would be at risk. Individual collectors and museums who own such coins would fear loss of their prized pieces and their substantial investments in them, dealers and auction houses would fear being prosecuted for dealing in illegal or 'stolen' property, and a significant portion of America's history would either be confiscated by the Government, or go 'underground' to escape that fate. Either way, these special coins would be lost to numismatists and the public. "PNG believes that these dire consequences are not, in any way, justified by a compelling interest on the Government's part in recovering the coins at issue in this case, or any other 'non-issued' coin. The Government has nothing to fear from knowledgeable collectors studying, enjoying and displaying these rare coins. There is no danger of U.S. coinage being subverted by a few pieces out of the billions manufactured each year. Numerous coins of the types previously described - indeed, all such coins except the 1933 Double Eagle - have been actively traded for over 100 years in the numismatic marketplace, without any adverse effect on the Mint and its operations.
This is the second time PNG has filed an amicus curiae brief in a case involving the famous 1933 Double Eagles. In February 2000, the organization filed a motion in support of London, England dealer Stephen Fenton’s ownership of one of the coins. The federal government eventually sold the coin at a public auction and paid Fenton a fee based on a portion of the record $7.59 million winning bid for it.