Judge Says 10 Rare Gold Coins Worth $80 Million Belong to Uncle Sam

A judge ruled that 10 rare gold coins worth $80 million belonged to the U.S. government, not a family that had sued the U.S. Treasury, saying it had illegally seized them.

The 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle coin was originally valued at $20, but one owned by King Farouk of Egypt sold for as much as $7.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2002, according to Courthouse News.

After the U.S. abandoned the gold standard, most of the 445,500 double eagles that the Philadelphia Mint had struck were melted into gold bars.

However, a Philadelphia Mint cashier had managed to give or sell some of them to a local coin dealer, Israel Switt.

In 2003, Switt’s family, his daughter, Joan Langbord, and two grandsons, drilled opened a safety deposit box that had belonged to him and found the 10 coins.

When the Langbords gave the coins to the Philadelphia Mint for authentication, the government seized them without compensating the family.

The Langbords sued, saying the coins belonged to them.

In 2011, a jury decided that the coins belonged to the government, but the family appealed.

Last week, Judge Legrome Davis of the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, affirmed that decision, saying “the coins in question were not lawfully removed from the United States Mint.”

Barry Berke, an attorney for the Langbords, told ABCNews.com, “This is a case that raises many novel legal questions, including the limits on the government’s power to confiscate property. The Langbord family will be filing an appeal and looks forward to addressing these important issues before the 3rd Circuit.”

The family said in its suit that in another seizure of the 1933 double eagle, the government split the proceeds with the owner after the coin sold for $7.59 million in 2002.

regarding the difference between embracing and exploiting geek culture

I’ve gotten a ton of criticism from people about the I Am a Geek video that launched yesterday, and I feel the need to respond to it.

After watching the video yesterday, I was impressed by the production values, and I thought it was really awesome that it was just one small part of a larger project. I love that the whole thing is supposed to encourage literacy (if you really look for the links) and intends to support a good cause. As a writer, I certainly want more people to be readers!

But as I watched it a second and a third time, something didn’t feel quite right to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, until e-mail started flooding in from people who could: this was supposed to be about refuting stereotypes and celebrating the things we love, but it ends up feeling like we’re trying to convince the Cool Kids that we’re really just like them, and a promotional opportunity for celebrities who don’t know a damn thing about our geek culture, and don’t care about the people who create and live in it.

I was under the impression that this video would feature actual geeks who are important to our culture, like Woz, Felicia Day, Leo Laporte, and Jonathan Coulton. Instead, I saw a lot of entrepreneurs who have good marketing instincts, joined by a bunch of celebrities who are attempting to co-opt our culture because it’s what their publicity team is telling them to do.

When you’re speaking to people who read TMZ and People magazine, getting contributions from MC Hammer, Ashton Kutcher and Shaq is a logical choice. But when you’re speaking to geeks, it’s insulting to us to pretend that they are part of and speak for our culture. Those people are not geeks; they’re celebrities who happen to use Twitter. Featuring them as “geeks” undermines the whole effort, because they aren’t like us. I’ve been a geek my whole life. I’ve suffered for it, I’ve struggled because of it, and I’ve worked incredibly hard to remove the social stigma associated with all these things we love, like gaming and programming. It’s like a slap in the face to be associated with these people who claim to be like me, and want to be part of our culture, but couldn’t tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs. In other words, they haven’t earned it, but they’re wrapping themselves in our flag because their PR people told them to.

Having someone in a video that purports to celebrate our geek culture say that they don’t play D&D, like playing an RPG is something to be ashamed of, is profoundly offensive to me, because I play D&D. In fact, it’s the chief reason I am a geek. D&D isn’t anything to be ashamed of, it’s awesome. I don’t recall seeing that in the script I was given, and if I had, I never would have agreed to be part of this project.

I loved the idea of creating a video that celebrates our culture and shows that we’re proud to be in it. That’s what I thought this would be, but I feel like we ended up with some kind of self-promoting internet marketing thing that plays right into established stereotypes, and hopes that The Cool Kids will let us hang out with them.

I am a geek. I have been all my life, and I know that those guys are nothing like me and my friends. If we’re going to celebrate and embrace geek culture, we should have geeks leading the effort, not popular kids who are pretending to be geeks because it’s the easy way to get attention during the current 15 minute window.

I want to be clear: I wasn’t misled, I think that the project just changed from conception to release. I think their heart was in the right place, and I think their fundamental idea was awesome. But what I saw isn’t what I thought I was going to be part of. I thought I was going to be part of something that said, “Hey, I am a geek, I’m proud of that, and if you’re a geek you should be proud of it too!” What I saw was more like, “I am using new media to reach people. Yay!” There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t mean the people doing it are geeks, and it’s not what I thought I was contributing to.

There was a great conterpoint on Twitter just now, while I was wrapping this up. Wyldfire42 said: “Seems to me that we shouldn’t be deciding who is or isn’t a geek. If we start passing judgment, we just become the bullies we hated.” I can’t disagree with that, at all, and after reading that, I feel a little grognard-y. Who knows, maybe these celebrities who have recently shown up in our world love these things as much as we do. Maybe it’s not their fault that they bring hordes of celebrity-obsessed non-geeks with them wherever they go. Maybe they’re as upset about people telling them they’re not “real” geeks as I am about marketers pretending that they are.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but I care deeply about my fellow geeks and there is a fundamental difference between embracing our culture and exploiting it. Please, come and be part of our culture. Read our books and play our games and watch our movies and argue with us about what is and isn’t canon. But if you try to grab our dice, and then don’t even know or care why we’re a little touchy about it … well I cast Magic Missile on you, dude.

ETA: I’ve been pretty active in the comments of this post, because I see the same misconception over and over again, largely the result of me being unclear when I wrote part of this post.

Somehow, a bunch of people have turned into “Wil Wheaton says you have to do a, b, and c or you’re not a geek, so fuck him because he’s a dick.”

That’s not what I meant, at all. Most people seem to get that, but there’s enough who don’t that I feel a need to respond, in case you don’t feel like digging through hundreds of comments to find my replies in there.

I never meant to say that unless you do a or b or c even ∏, you don’t “qualify” for admittance to some super secret clubhouse where I am the gatekeeper. When I said, “…couldn’t tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs…” I didn’t mean that unless a person does know what these things are, they don’t pass some kind of test. I was making an example, picking out some things that I happen to be geeky about, in an attempt to illustrate a point, and I did that poorly.

I was not trying to be, and I don’t want to be, some kind of exclusionary geek elitist. That’s just the most incredibly stupid and offensive thing in the world.

As I said in a comment somewhere in this post: Creating a world where my kids don’t have to grow up being picked on for loving RPGs is awesome. But what I see – not just here, but in general at this moment – is a bunch of marketing jerks trying to take the things we love and turn them into something from Hot Topic. I didn’t mean “you’re not geeky enough…” at all, and I hate that people seem to latch on to that, because it means I wasn’t clear enough. If these guys I mentioned truly love what we are, and they have been here all along (and I’ve just missed them for my whole life) than it’s great that they’re not ashamed to love the things we love … but I haven’t seen anything to indicate that they genuinely are interested in the things we love as much as they are riding a pop-culture wave that’s driven by Twitter’s explosive and pervasive popularity. It feels calculated and planned out by PR and marketing people, and as someone who loves this culture, that bothers me. I didn’t mean to imply that you have to meet this list of criteria to come be part of our club (vi, d10, etc) as much as I was attempting to illustrate a point: we know what at least some of those things are, and Cool Kids have teased us for it our whole lives. It feels to me like those same people are now trying to take our culture away from us and make a quick buck off of exploiting it, and us. It was not my intention to create some sort of Geek Literacy Test. That’s lame. Like I said, all are welcome, but at least make an effort to understand why we care about these things.

Finally, I’ve been trading e-mails with Shira Lazar, who had this idea in the first place. She says:

Well, I think the hornet’s nest was stirred up a bit. But that’s ok. I rather open, honest discourse than people to feel shut off or alienated. That would be ridiculous and horrible.

Anyway- from reading the post and comments it’s important off the bat for people to know this isn’t a marketing ploy or some evil plan to take over the world. ha

also, It sucks that the d&d line got misconstrued. It’s important to point out that a lot of ppl besides you in the video actually do play the game- the line was more to say yes lots of geeks play d&d but you don’t need to play d&d to be a geek.

It really started as a fun way to bring people together, geeks of all extremes. To break down stereotypes. I consider myself a geek. Yes, the level of geekiness changes depending on the context. Amidst developers and my gamer friends, I might not know a lot but with some of my friends I’m queen geek. While I might not know certain things in certain situations, I still have a yearning and passion to know and learn and a love of accepting those geeks who do know it all. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and the first person to make it digital. I would hang out in my computer room at school until midnight working on photoshop and quark while my friends were out and about doing their thing. I participated in my high school science fairs and went to regionals twice. My mom is also a coordinator for children with special needs- i’ve seen kids that are alienated from their peers who need to know it’s ok and they have a place.

While some of us have struggled and some have not, some know more, some don’t- this was simply a video that was supposed to be a fun way to bring everyone together.

USA Made A Video Divide And Conquer

In fascist America, we will still hold tight to our Bill of Rights, but the way those rights will be exercised will be altered to our detriment. The government will suggest we're free because we're allowed to own guns and exercise our freedom. All the while, a nefarious Supreme Court will reinterpret the rights that actually matter, and enable the government to do things that were beyond the pale before. Guns mean freedom, and guns are freely available, therefore you are free. This is despite the fact that a militia is nothing compared to the US military, but militia members celebrating their freedom won't care about that. All the while, the freedoms we have that can actually impinge upon a government's power like the 14th amendment. If you asked someone on the street what they thought about the importance of the 14th amendment was, they might not know. So you can damage the 14th amendment, spin it in the news, and only the disgraced experts that no one listens to anymore will care. And yet we will still have our Bill of Rights. We won't wake up tomorrow in fascist America, but if it does happen, it will be by means of our institutions and our values, not opposed to them.

Our institutions are being tested like no other time in our history. I guess we'll see how strong they really are. Sometimes I'm hopeful; sometimes I'm not.

I sound like a total downer here. We've got a fighting chance - I agree with you there. But I've never been so pessimistic. I think part of that is seeing racists and trolls all over Reddit, where I admit I spend too much of my time.

It's not an equivalent also because it's a strawman caricature. There are so few people like that, they're statistically zero. The internet does a great job of magnifying persecution complexes. Gamergate found like a handful of people with somewhat radical views. Under the banner of being worried about ethics in gaming journalism, it only really succeeded in creating this cartoon villain "Other" SJW that now serves as a pejorative to belittle people or identify them as an irrational enemy. The same thing is happening with the nebulous word "Globalist."

There are a million other historic sites you could devote your life to outside of Iran. "I would consider it" is 100% BS. You'll think about it, and how quaint and wholesome it is, and then you'll enjoy the comforts of a clean mattress and hot showers and air conditioning like everyone else. Because, unless someone is passionate enough to make those sacrifices, they shouldn't really be devoting their life to a grain mill anyway.

I know that you probably have access to the internet that isn't restricted by the government in any way, and that you probably have an elected, secular government. I know that you're educated enough to read, and probably much more. If you're not American, you probably have healthcare. If you are American, there are several different military and service organizations that offer healthcare, many of which accept people with no qualifications and provide paid job training. Not ideal, but the National Guard taught me job skills that got me through college and the healthcare (which is amazing) costs me something like $42/mo.

Your life in the first world is something you look at and see the potential in. There's a chance that you could land a gig paying $40k next week and rent a nice apartment. My first real job, which I got at 21 with no college degree, paid $80k. It was in sales and hustled my ass off every day to keep that job. Sales sucks, but they take anyone and if you can make money they'll keep you around forever.

Move to Africa or Iran or South America to care for some heritage site in the middle of nowhere and you lose that. Life is worrying about things like "Will I get killed for my religious convictions or nationality?" or "Is this a blister on my foot, or a parasite that will lead to my leg getting amputated?"

I've been poor in America. I've also seen the poor in a country like Afghanistan. There's no comparison. I don't know you, and I don't know how hard your life has been, but you're trying to pull this "I'd consider it" card when you really wouldn't. Either you'd already be obsessed with it, you'd already be doing it, or you'll never do it. No shame in that, I'd never do it either, but don't act like living in the Iranian desert and dying alone, all for a grain mill, is on the bucket list.

They all seemed so proud of everything they made. What a fantastic universal feeling a toy can give. This is cool but I swear it looks like all the “good” lego bricks were picked out and they were sent crap bricks from those “bucket” sets.

It’s mostly donated, and if you’ve ever played with 1997-2004 Lego you’ll know that these would be positively the best bricks from that era.

Follow up video: Ugandan children stepping on LEGO barefoot for the first time. Really cool! I expected more spaceships though… you ALWAYS have to build spaceships with LEGO.

They are probably not familiar with the concept of a space ship. some one needs to introduce them to space core and benny they will teach them..

This is making me tear up a bit. Just to think that there’s kids who have never even seen Lego, let alone played with them. It really makes us, with our massive collections, feel lucky. The comments on the video are godawfull, but awesome for them getting lego, that’s cool. Really grinds on me when people call them Legos its Lego in the plural and the singular.

First Contact

Stumpy Brown is a Wangkujanka woman who lives at Christmas Creek in the Kimberley. Stumpy has seen many changes throughout her lifetime but nothing so dramatic, when as a teenager, she saw a white man for the first time.

It actually gets even better. Certain islanders who lived on an islands with an airstrip believed the airplanes were gods, and came to love the goods the received from the supply drops so much that years after the war ended, they constructed wooden plan replicas on the abandoned runway in hopes that it would cause the gods to return to drop more supplies.

When my grandmother was very young, living in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, her brother and her were having a fight. It was getting to be about dusk and the sun was setting when he locked her out of the house and said that “The Devils gonna come and getcha!”

Not too long after that, just up the road she saw 2 bright lights appear and then a horrible sound that sounded like the howl of the devil! It was coming closer and closer to the house making a terrible racket!

My grandmother was so scared she peed in her dress and beat on the door until it nearly came off the hinges before my great grandfather and grandmother finally came to the door to see what was going on.

Turns out it was my great grandfathers friend who had just bought himself a new automobile. He was the first one in the area to own one and he decided that was the night to come out to show my grandfather.

The howl, was the horn AAAAOOOOOGA! Might as well have been the devil so far as my grandmother was concerned.

I have family in Laos, who have distance family in the jungles of Laos. We once went to visit my dad’s aunt or something along those lines. They were so remote that during the rainy season, their roads were flooded so access to them was impossible usually.

Their village didn’t have electricity. It was surreal. Kids were butt naked. They had little money but insisted on cooking us 3-4 eggs. The eggs were chicken eggs but had as much meat to them as quail eggs.

They were amazed at my light skin. Mind you, I’m Asian. Not even a light skin one like a Japanese or Korean, but more along the lines of “Trump tan”. They kept touching it and asking me how I’m so light skinned. I told them the sun barely exists in Minnesota’s harsh winter.

Even though I’m ethnically Lao, I would say I’m the first “westerner” they’ve ever met. They were perplexed. Some of the kids were scared of me because of how light skinned I was compared to them.

This video brought me back to that encounter for some reason.

This will probably get buried, but I believe (but can’t know for sure), judging from the time period, that the priest she came across in Balgo would have been my great uncle. He died a few years ago now, but said this was very regular, largely uncontacted Aborigines coming out of the desert. Some stayed, some didn’t. I visited Balgo and another community, Beagle Bay, where he spent a lot of his time and it made me very happy to see the extremely high regard that the local peoples seemed to hold him in.