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Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World’s Most Valuable Coin by Alison Frankel

This article will review the book titled “Double Eagle – The Epic Story of the World’s Most Valuable Coin”, by Alison Frankel. The first thing that is different about this book is that it is not like most coin books. Most coin books are reference books. This book is most certainly not a reference book. This book tells a story. The story of what became the world’s most valuable coin, at least as I write this.

You might think that a book about a single coin would be the dullest book around. You would be wrong. This book was an extremely interesting book. If you are unfamiliar with the story, it will be an educating experience in operations at the Mint back in the 1930s, the mood of the nation, etc. If you are familiar with the story, you still might learn a thing or two. It is a story of deception, intrigue, the Secret Service, the King of Egypt and one person’s plight for merely trying to sell a coin.

The book begins with some background on Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the designer of the coin known as the Double Eagle. There is a wealth of information on how Teddy Roosevelt wanted to change American coinage and how many of the changes came about. There are of course some references to Charles Barber, who opposed any outside artists designing American coins. After a period of time, a design for the Double Eagle was approved, despite the efforts of Barber to thwart such a design. Unfortunately Saint-Gaudens did not live long enough to see his work in circulation and in fact died before the final designs were approved.

Skipping ahead to 1933 the book explores the banking crisis at hand in American and what led to discontinuance of the Gold Standard. This of course is what led to what everybody believed to be the melting of all 1933 Double Eagles except the ones for the Smithsonian. Over 400,000 Double Eagles were coined in 1933 with the 1933 date. All, with the exception of a few were melted.

The book covers an enormous amount of detail about the Double Eagles that ended up outside the Mint. This is fascinating reading. The book provides details on who had access to the coins and when as well as scenarios on how they could have left the mint. The book also explores the lineage of several Double Eagles. It is like reading a Who’s Who of early 20th century collecting. It also covers how what was believed to be the sole survivor escaped to Egypt.

he book covers the Secret Service and their efforts to retrieve all the Double Eagles, except the one in Egypt and how all were thought to be recovered. There is then a 40 year gap of history where the Double Eagle seems to have vanished.

When the Double Eagle did reappear the book provided great detail on the sting operation by the Secret Service to recover it as well as the legal actions taken make it legal tender. This is an absolute fascinating on story. The number of lives that were affected is staggering. The amount of time and effort into recovering one single coin is astounding. If you read this book, and this part in particular, you will begin to wonder about where government resources are allocated. This is not a statement about whether it was right or wrong, just something to ponder.

Finally, the book touches on the fact that recently 10 more Double Eagles were discovered and insinuates that there is still a Double Eagle or two unaccounted for. I will not go into detail on who had these. You will have to read the book for that.

Overall, I found this to be a very well written book. Again, this is not your typical coin reference book. This is a story of what is currently the most expensive coin ever sold.

I highly recommend this book.
Keith Scott has been a collector for over 30 years. His website has US coins for sale. He also writes Coin Collecting Articles for fun. Visit his websites for a history of US coins, metal market updates and news about your favorite coins

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