Pa. family fights US over rare 1933 gold coins

PHILADELPHIA (AP) ? A Philadelphia jeweler’s heirs with a cache of rare $20 gold coins, circa 1933, will fight for the right to keep them when they square off in court this week against the U.S. Treasury.

Treasury officials charge that the rare “double eagles” were taken from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia in 1933. They could be worth $80 million or more, given that one sold for nearly $7.6 million in 2002.

The coins come from a batch of coins that never circulated after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in 1933.

Nearly a half million of the $20 “double eagles” were instead melted into gold bars at the Mint, with two preserved for the Smithsonian. But a handful of others mysteriously got out.

The daughter and grandsons of Israel Switt, a jeweler and scrap metal dealer on nearby Jeweler’s Row, say they found 10 of them in his bank deposit box in 2003.

Joan Langbord of Philadelphia and her sons asked the U.S. Treasury to authenticate the coins, but the government instead seized them. Authorities point out that the box was rented after Switt died in 1990.

“A thief cannot convey good title to stolen property,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel M. Sweet wrote in a brief.

Langbord, who ran her father’s store, and sons Roy Langbord of New York City and David Langbord of Virginia Beach, Va., filed suit in 2006. They demanded the return of the coins or a settlement of up to $40 million.

The government instead plans to prove the coins were legally seized when the trial opens Thursday with jury selection.

The seized coins are being kept at Fort Knox.