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Rare US Coin Auctioned for $7.6 Million - 2002-07-31

An anonymous buyer spent nearly $8 million for the only 1933 U.S. Double Eagle known to exist, making it the most expensive coin in history.

Coin-collecting history was made with those words. Add a 15 percent "buyer's fee," and the actual sum paid for the unique coin comes to $7.59 million, shattering the $1.4 million world record for a coin sale.

The record-breaking sale at Sotheby's auction house in New York was over in nine-minutes.

Sotheby's auctioneer David Redden said the sale more than lived up to the hype that preceded it. "Our estimate of $4-6 million was not exactly a conservative estimate for a small round disk. And it brought so much more than that: $7.59 million. It is truly a wonderful, remarkable, astonishing price. But it is truly a wonderful, remarkable, astonishing coin," Mr. Redden said.

But even when Mr. Redden was finished and the applause subsided, the transaction was not complete. Immediately following the sale, the Director of the U.S. Mint presided over a ceremony to officially monetize the Double Eagle.

"I, Henrietta Holsman Fore, Director of the United States Mint, acknowledge receipt from the purchaser, of $20, which shall be credited to the Treasury of the United States and, accordingly, do hereby monetize one $20 gold coin, known as the Double Eagle struck at the United States Mint in Philadelphia in 1933 and dated 1933. So this coin is hereby legal tender in the United States of America," the director of the U.S. mint said.

This procedure saves the coin from destruction - the fate suffered by every other Double Eagle struck in 1933. The coins were all destroyed when the United States went off the gold standard in that same year.

The record-breaking Double Eagle escaped destruction, leaving the United States in 1944 in the possession of Egypt's King Farouk.

It resurfaced in 1996 in the hands of a British dealer, with whom the U.S. government made a landmark agreement. The coin would go to auction, and the profits would be split evenly between the dealer and the U.S. Treasury.