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United States 1933 Double Eagle

On display is one of the most famous and storied coins in the world—the 1933 Double Eagle. The Double Eagle is on display in The Robert H. & Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. Designed by the renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the coin features the figure of Liberty striding before the Capitol Building on its face and an eagle in flight on the reverse.

In 1933 the United States struck almost a half million twenty-dollar gold coins, commonly known as Double Eagles. At virtually the same time, in one of his first acts as President, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order banning the payout of gold, weaning the country off the gold standard. The 1933 Double Eagles, although legally made, became illegal to own and were never circulated. In 1934, two were sent to the Smithsonian Institution for posterity, and in February 1937 the rest were melted into gold bars and sent to Fort Knox—or so it seemed.

In 1944, a 1933 Double Eagle appeared in a New York auction, and the United States Secret Service determined that a U.S. Mint employee had stolen a number of the coins in 1937, and identified ten 1933 Double Eagles that had escaped destruction, of which nine were surrendered or seized. One was beyond reach, as it had been purchased by King Farouk of Egypt, and after 1954 it disappeared. In 1996 a British coin dealer was arrested while trying to sell a 1933 Double Eagle, which he swore had formerly belonged to King Farouk.

In 2002, the coin was sold at auction for $7,590,020, nearly doubling the previous world record. That very coin—the only 1933 Double Eagle which may be legally owned by an individual—will be on display at New-York Historical, on temporary loan from an anonymous private collection.

The Triumphal Return of Taddeo Gaddi’s Maestà Conserved

December 11, 2015
March 20, 2016

After conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum and a two-year absence, New-York Historical's Madonna and Child Enthroned with Ten Saints: Maestà(1867.375) will be back on Central Park West. Painted ca. 1334 by Taddeo Gaddi, the major disciple of Giotto, it was recently shown at both the Getty and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, in the major exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350. To celebrate its triumphal return, the jewel-like panel will take pride of place in a small focus exhibition highlighting its conservation treatment. 

Taddeo Gaddi, Virgin and Child Enthroned with Ten Saints: Maestà, ca. 1330–1334. Gilded gesso and tempera on panel. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.375. Photo courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum

With its lavish gold leaf background, Gaddi’s panel was an expensive commission for a private Florentine palazzo and for its time was cutting-edge art. Originally the central section of a folding triptych consisting of three panels, it will be exhibited with two wings (sportelli) from a private collection that recently have been linked to it. Their similar dates, measurements, traces of hinges, and related iconographies suggest that the trio may once have been part of the same triptych. At the very least, seen together they help us to envision and reconstruct how the Maestà appeared in its original glory. Thomas Jefferson Bryan bequeathed the Gaddi panel to the Historical Society in 1867, along with his entire collection. Bryan was an early connoisseur of Italian “primitives,” i.e., painters before Raphael, a taste then avant-garde. As the New York City's first museum, New-York Historical wrote an early chapter in preserving the culture of the City, and Bryan played a pioneering role in its collecting history, amassing works by both European and American artists. Fittingly, Gaddi's painting will be displayed with a several other fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century Italian panels from the Bryan (both sacred and profane, such as a cassone front with the Triumph of Caesar) and Thomas Sully's dashing portrait of the young Bryan. Other materials will illuminate this donor's contribution to the history of American collecting.


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Gold, diamonds, enamel
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New-York Historical Society, Gift of Miss Cornelia Fulton Crary, through Mrs. Arthur T. Sutcliffe
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Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.

In Gold We Trust? A Great Debate

James Grant
David Stockman
Richard Sylla
John Dizard
Thu, 05/05/2011 - 18:30
Thu, May 5th, 2011 | 7:30 pm

Since 1971, the U.S. dollar has not been convertible into anything except small change. Like every other modern currency, it derives its value from the perceived acumen of the government that prints it. But in this era of financial insecurity, is the soaring price of gold evidence that faith in this system has wilted? Experts debate the future of our monetary system: Should the United States return to the gold standard or should it carry on by printing dollars with each successive financial crisis?

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Decorative Arts >



The New-York Historical Society's furniture holdings number more than 500 objects, including seating furniture, tables, case furniture, cradles, clocks and boxes ranging from a late seventeenth-century Dutch kast to a pair of 1960s Bertoia chairs. The earliest acquisition, a chair made for Marie Antoinette's private chambers at Versailles in 1779, was purchased by U.S. Minister to France Gouverneur Morris.


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The New-York Historical Society Museum and Library houses a treasure trove of materials relating to the founding of our country, the history of art in America, and the history of New York and its people. The Museum houses more than 60,000 works and artifacts, including fine art, decorative art, historical artifacts, and ephemera. Fine art holdings include renowned Hudson River School landscapes; masterpieces of colonial and later portraiture; John James Audubon’s watercolors for The Birds of America; an encyclopedic collection of sculpture; and much more.

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