Pedigrees & Hoards: The Palace Collection of Egypt’s King Farouk

palacecollectionfeature

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek....
 

A lot of my writing about Pedigrees & Hoards is based on the research of others--gathering and processing information from many sources, trying to make contacts with people involved in the discoveries, and then writing the story as you see it.

Sometimes you have to work hard to massage the data you find into something resembling a coherent story. Other times, you run across an article so precise and so well-written that it's a shame not to share it as-is.

In that vein, I'm going to quote two paragraphs covering the "Palace Collection" written by coin blogger James Bucki in an article entitled “Top 5 Famous Coin Collections of All Time”.

No. 5: King Farouk of Egypt

King Farouk I of Egypt (1920 - 1965) ruled Egypt from 1936 to 1952 when he was overthrown in the Egyptian Revolution and forced to abdicate. Farouk was known for his extravagant lifestyle and glorious spending sprees. In the 1940s, American coin dealers would frequently travel to Egypt to sell him thousands of dollars worth of coins at a time. His collection included approximately 8,500 gold coins, all five known examples of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel and hundreds of U.S. pattern coins, some of which are unique.

The most famous of his numismatic possessions was a complete set of $20 gold Saint-Gaudens double eagles, including the rare 1933 issue. In February and March of 1954, Farouk's numismatics holdings were sold at the Palace Collections of Egypt coin auctions in Cairo, Egypt. Many of these pieces found their way into other famous coin collections such as the Harry W. Bass Collection, the Norweb Collection and John J. Pittman's.

While there is much more to the extravagant lifestyle that King Farouk lived, Bucki does an excellent job of recapping several of the highlights contained in the Palace Collection. Two of the most renowned coins in the Farouk Collection were the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle and of course his 1913 Liberty nickels.

The story of the '33 Saint is interesting even without its attachment to the Farouk Palace Collection, but when you couple elements of a numismatics, illicit coins, international diplomacy, and a record-breaking Sotheby's auction, it only adds to the appeal.

 

The Palace Collection was broken up after Farouk's ouster in 1955. The '33 was supposed to be returned to the United States Government, in accordance with an agreement with Egypt. However, the coin mysteriously disappeared.

In 1996, it was alleged that the long-lost Farouk '33 had resurfaced. The government set up a sting operation in order to get it back. After a lengthly legal dispute, that coin was "monetized" and sold at Sotheby's for $7.6 million. It was supposed to be the only "legal" '33 a private collector could ever own. A recent court decision surrounding the Langbord-Switt hoard of 10 1933s might change this.

Farouk's 1913 Liberty Head nickel did not lead as interesting life as the 1933 double eagle, but it is still a crown jewel in any collection with only five known to exsist. It is thought that the Palace Collection contained two 1913 Liberty nickels, but at different times.

Despite being a huge and numismatically-important collection, pedigreed coins from the Palace Collection are not as common as one might expect--primarily because the auction took place long before the era of PCGS and NGC.

Still, the coins are out there and the attachment to Farouk brings premium money for many of these fantastic coins.

My example from the Palace Collection was an 1893 Liberty Head nickel.

The coin was authenticated and graded by PCGS and CAC and is featured in my book, Rick’s Legacy – Pedigree & Hoard / Coins & Currency (2015). Sadly, the USPS destroyed the nickel in their negligent handling and now it is lost forever, with only part of a shattered PCGS slab remaining.
 

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