In January, 2010 a rare 1907 Double Eagle $20 gold coin was sold in Orlando, Florida – for over half a million dollars!
What made this coin so unique? Its „Farouk“ pedigree – indicating that it was formerly owned by the legendary King Farouk. Just one of an incredible cache of highly valuable, sought after numismatic coins.
The Double Eagle was actually discontinued in 1933, when President Roosevelt prohibited circulation of gold, in an attempt to rebuild the U.S. economy during the Depression. When hoarding of gold was also prohibited many Americans dutifully turned in their gold to the banks. Though the U.S. Mint made another 445,000 $20 Double Eagle coins – which were never circulated.
In 1937, these 1933 Double Eagle coins were destroyed, except two, now at the Smithsonian Institute. Prior to this however, several coins were stolen. The US Mint’s Chief Cashier took ten of the coins, nine were later recovered. One remained – which somehow found its way into King Farouk’s collection.
Who was King Farouk? And how did he manage to acquire such a treasure?!
Farouk I Fārūq al-Awwal (1920– 1965) – King of Egypt and Sudan.
Like many nobles, he was educated in England. Multilingual, he spoke eight languages fluently.
Throughout his short, but eventful life, this infamous Egyptian was known for his lavish, excessive, Western lifestyle. Upon the death of his father, at just 16 years of age, he was crowned King of Egypt, inheriting thousands of acres of land, palaces by the dozen, hundreds of cars, and a huge treasury.
Farouk loved the glamorous royal lifestyle, the money, travel, and made frequent shopping trips to parts of Europe – which not surprisingly, did not prove popular with many of his subjects.
Reportedly, he once offered a Mexican actress Queen Nefertari’s (wife of Ramses) crown – for a single night of passion. It is not known whether she took Farouk up on his offer, but the crown remained in Cairo…
During his reign (1936 to 1952), King Farouk 1st was a prolific collector, and built up one of the largest, most impressive international collections of gold numismatic coins – an estimated 8,500 gold coins! – some of them quite rare. Farouk picked up most of his coins in the 1940s, when a numismatic dollar was far less expensive, costing just one Egyptian pound.
During World War II, Farouk was widely criticized for continuing his lavish lifestyle. He wrote to Hitler, advising that an invasion would be welcome, then delayed declaring war on Germany until most of the fighting in Egypt was already over.
Due to corrupt government, long-standing British occupation, and the loss of most of Palestine to Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Farouk’s unpopularity grew. A military coup in 1952 forced him to abdicate and go into exile, first in Monaco, then Italy where he remained.
In 1953, when the 150-year monarchy was officially abolished, the revolutionary government auctioned all of Farouk’s treasures. Among these was a rare 1933 Double Eagle -which unfortunately went missing.
All of the coins had to be catalogued under military guard in Cairo within a short period of time, making it impossible to record everything. Most of the coins were offered in large lots (often 15-20 coins), arranged by denomination, with both rare and common coins in each lot. Large lots, and poor presentation, meant the coins were sold far below their true worth.
Numerous well-known American dealers/collectors attended the sale. Astute collectors realized this was an amazing opportunity. John J. Pittman reportedly took out a second mortgage to finance the trip, and purchased the entire collection – the wisest move of his entire numismatic career.
As the U.S. government was aware that the 1933 Double Eagle was in the collection, they officially requested that the stolen coin be taken out of the sale and returned to the US. The Egyptian government did withdraw the Double Eagle, but it disappeared and its whereabouts remained a mystery, for more than four decades…
Then in 1996, a British dealer arrived at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City, to sell to an American collector. Federal agents, disguised as coin collectors, swooped in and seized the 1933 Double Eagle.
It resurfaced in 2010, making the present owner a cool half million dollars!
And what happened to King Farouk? As he aged, a fondness for an overabundance of rich food caused Farouk to become dangerously obese, weighing nearly 300 pounds. In 1965, he collapsed and died after a heavy meal, at the Ile de France Restaurant in Rome. There were some suspicions of poison, but no autopsy or investigation was ever carried out.
And this ended the short but memorable life of King Farouk – coin collector extraordinaire!
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Source by Joti Bryant