Golden opportunity: World's most expensive coin goes on show

Wed, Mar 7, 2012, 00:00

A COIN believed to be the most valuable in the world went on display amid tight security at the Irish Museum of Modern Art yesterday afternoon.

The 1933 $20 gold coin nicknamed the “double eagle” was designed in 1907 by Dublin-born sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and is one of only 13 known to be in existence.

More than 445,000 were minted by the US in 1933 but none were officially circulated after the use of gold coins as legal tender was outlawed due to the discontinuance of the gold standard.

Two of these were presented by the United States mint to the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute as a matter of record. It later emerged that a number of the coins had been stolen and over a period of 20 years the US secret service recovered a total of 10 coins.

Only one 1933 double eagle remains legally held in private hands as all other – known or unknown – double eagles are the property of the US government.

It was acquired by King Farouk of Egypt in 1944 when the US treasury department mistakenly issued an export licence for the coin.

The coin went missing after the king was deposed in 1952. Years later, a British coin dealer was arrested while in possession of a double eagle coin in New York. He claimed the coin came from King Farouk’s collection.

The US dropped charges against the British dealer after a lengthy legal battle and the coin was eventually sold to an unnamed bidder at auction in 2002 for $7.59 million.

The proceeds were shared by the dealer and the US mint.

This is the first time that a double eagle has gone on display in Europe. The exhibition has been arranged by the Samlerhuerst Group in association with the Smithsonian Institute.

“We believe that it is important for us to take iconic rocks or objects like this on the road and share them with people,” said Karen Lee of the Smithsonian Institute.

We want to engage people in learning history from objects.

The 1933 double eagle is on display along with a collection of other US coins at the Baroque Chapel at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The exhibition ends today.

A video of the coin is available to view at iti.ms/AxAp5L