An extremely rare, uncirculated 1933 Double Eagle gold coin sold for a record $19.51 million at Sotbeby's auction in New York on Tuesday.
Sotheby's described the $20 coin designed by American sculptor Agustus Saint Gaudens as the last US gold coin ever made and intended for circulation, making it "one of the most coveted coins in the world." The $19.51 million sale price blew past pre-sale estimates of between $10 and $15 million, breaking the record for the most expensive coin in the world which was previously set by a 1974 Flowing Hair silver dollar that went for $10 million in 2013, according to AFP.
The Double Eagle, which was never issued after US President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard in place since the 1830s, and issued Executive Order 6102 forbidding "the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates."
More from AFP on the history of the coin:
The Double Eagle has an image of Lady Liberty on one side and an American eagle on the other.
The 1933 Double Eagles were the last American gold coins intended for circulation by the United States Mint but were never legally issued for use.
That year, President Roosevelt removed the United States from the gold standard in an effort to lift America's battered economy out of the Great Depression.
All of the coins were ordered to be destroyed, apart from two which were given to the Smithsonian Institution.
However, in 1937, several of the coins appeared on the market, sparking a Secret Service investigation in 1944 that ruled that the coins had been stolen from the US government and were illegal to own.
Prior to the probe, one of the coins was purchased and mistakenly granted an export license, Sotheby's said in its notes.
It ended up in the coin collection of King Farouk of Egypt. When Sotheby's tried to auction the Double Eagle in 1954, the US Treasury successfully had it withdrawn.
The coin's whereabouts were then unknown until 1996 when it was seized during a Secret Service sting at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
A five-year legal tussle ensued and it was decided that the coin could be privately owned. -AFP
Meanwhile, other Double Eagles which have surfaced have been ruled the property of the United States in various cases - including by the Supreme Court, making the coin bought on Tuesday the only 1933 Double Eagle allowed to be legally sold. It last changed hands in 2002 when designer Stuart Weitzman bought it for $7.59 million.
Fun fact; $20 invested in the Dow in 1933 would be worth $7,055 today.