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Judge rules $80m in rare coins belong to U.S. government, not Philly family

Israel Switt was allegedly illegally given the coins in the 1930s by a cashier at the Philadelphia Mint and stashed them in a safe deposit box.

A federal judge last week upheld a ruling that 10 formerly-missing gold 1933 Saint-Gauden double eagle coins valued at about $80 million belong to the U.S. government, not to the descendants of a Philadelphia coin dealer whose family found them nine years ago wrapped in a paper Wanamaker's bag and sealed inside a safety deposit box, according to a report from The Courthouse News Service.

Coin dealer Israel Switt was allegedly given the coins illegally by Philadelphia Mint cashier George McCann in 1933, just before then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered U.S. banks to vacate the gold standard as the Great Depression dawned. The majority of the $20 coins were melted down, making them extremely rare and driving their auction prices to record-setting levels.

After finding his stash, Switt's daughter and grandsons gave the coins to the Philadelphia Mint for authentication, but the government instead seized them, locking them away in a vault in Fort Knox.

Despite the relatives' claims that the coins could have left the Mint legitimately through a "window of opportunity" in which they were still available, no records could be found to support that theory and a jury concluded last year that the coins were likely stolen and rightfully belonged to the United States. The judge upheld that jury's decision.

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