The three grandchildren of a US coin dealer Israel Swift found ten Saint-Gaudens double eagle $20 pieces in his safe deposit box in 2003 after his death. They are among the rarest and most valuable modern coins in the world some 445,500 were struck during the Great Depression, but were soon pulled out of circulation. Only a few survived the recall, including one which was acquired by collector King Farouk of Egypt (which sold for more than $7.5 million at a Sotheby's auction in the summer of 2002).
It turned out the coins had been given to Swift by Philadelphia Mint cashier George McCann years ago. The coins were seized by the government when the heirs took them to the mint seeking authentication. Since then, Swift's grandchildren, Joan, Roy and David Langbord, have been battling in court to prove they are the rightful owners of the coins. [...] A jury found for the government last year, and this week a federal judge agreed with the verdict. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis Jr. held that, since no records showed coins being lawfully taken from the mint, they were almost certainly stolen.[...] this absence of a paper trail speaks to criminal intent. If whoever took or exchanged the coins thought he was doing no wrong, we would expect to see some sort of documentation reflecting the transaction [...]This is a cautionary tale for no-questions-asked collectors of dugup ancient coins which come without any records showing they left the ground or source country legally, they too may be considered "almost certainly stolen"- "this absence of a paper trail speaks to criminal intent". After all, "if whoever took or exchanged the coins thought he was doing no wrong, we would expect to see some sort of documentation reflecting the transaction". Let's hope before long we see some other US coin collectors and dealers up before U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis Jr.
'Judge upholds government's claim to $80M in rare gold coins found in safe deposit box', Fox News September 07, 2012
See also: Greg Reynolds, 'Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The fate of ten Switt-Langbord 1933 Double Eagles ($20 gold coins)' Coin Week, July 20, 2011
and the 'TheEvilFedsAreAfterYa' Conspiracy view so common among US coin collectors: 'Government Brazenly Confiscates 1933 Gold Double Eagles – Bury Your Gold Deep', Gold and Silver Blog September 6, 2012 [but do not neglect to read the comments one of which if the information given there is true sheds a bit more light on the background to the case]
Vignette: A pretty piece, can be worth a bit too.