One of the last gold coins ever struck for circulation in the US sold for a record $18.9 million in New York on Tuesday.
The exceptionally rare 1933 "Double Eagle" is now the most valuable coin ever to appear at auction, almost doubling the previous world record, according to Sotheby's, which organized the sale.Featuring Liberty on one side, and an eagle in flight on the other, the coin has a face value of $20. The 1933 edition of the "Double Eagle" never entered circulation, and nearly all of them were returned to the US government and melted down.
Only a handful of the coins were spared this fate, and a small number entered the market. But in 1944, a Secret Service investigation declared that any of them found in collectors' hands would be considered stolen, according to Sotheby's.
The specimen sold on Tuesday is the only one that can be legally possessed by a private individual, following a legal battle between the United States Treasury and a former owner. The sale marks the second time it has broken the auction record for a coin, having last done so in 2002, when it fetched $7.6 million.
The coin was one of three valuable items put up for sale by the shoe designer Stuart Weitzman. The other two -- a stamp from a former British colony and a sheet of US postage stamps printed with a unique error -- also attracted bids in the millions of dollars.
The oldest of them, a 165-year-old One-Cent Magenta, had been described by Sotheby's as the world's "most famous" stamp. Hailing from British Guiana, now known as Guyana, it sold for $8.3 million.