The Wells Fargo Hoard .. How did this happen?
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The other night I was reading about the Wells Fargo hoard of 1908 No Motto $20 gold pieces in the Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795 - 1933 by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth. This hoard contained 19,900 double eagles. Many of them were Gem Unc. quality including one that graded PCGS MS-69. :o It was stated that these coins were found in sealed bags that had not been moved for decades. The name came from their temporary storeage place which was a Wells Fargo bank vault.

 

My question is, if these bags were never moved and deep in the vaults of a bank, how did they escape the 1933 Gold Surrender Order? And if they had been held in the bank, how did the bank get away with it? I thought the Roosevelt Administation required that all of these coins had to be turned in for melting. hm

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Now long have IRAs been around and how about the presious metal IRA. I am thinking that these coins do not have the gold content needed for this but could they have been held for that reason?

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They might have been owned by a foreign national, or purchased in Europe and repatriated following lifting of gold restrictions. It’s very doubtful that they escaped a bank auditor. Banks turned in gold bullion and coin to the treasury – this was the primary source of nationalized gold. Very little came from individuals in part because gold did not circulate very much.

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From what I understand, the 19,900 coins were purchased in the 1990s, but they were in sealed bags dated from the 1960s. Those bags replaced the original bags from 1917 that had deteriorated. The original hoard had something to do with an international payment from the World War I era, and outside of the rebagging in the 1960s were essentially untouched since 1917. The fact that these were for an international payment was likely how they escaped the great melt of the 1930s. After they were purchased, they were stored for a time at the Wells Fargo bank in Nevada, which is where they got their name.

 

Here is a breakdown of the grades of this hoard: MS-68 (200+); MS-67 (1,700+); MS-66 (6,000+); the balance were MS-65 and below and there are a few that graded MS-69.

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From what I understand, the 19,900 coins were purchased in the 1990s, but they were in sealed bags dated from the 1960s. Those bags replaced the original bags from 1917 that had deteriorated. The original hoard had something to do with an international payment from the World War I era, and outside of the rebagging in the 1960s were essentially untouched since 1917. The fact that these were for an international payment was likely how they escaped the great melt of the 1930s. After they were purchased, they were stored for a time at the Wells Fargo bank in Nevada, which is where they got their name.

 

Here is a breakdown of the grades of this hoard: MS-68 (200+); MS-67 (1,700+); MS-66 (6,000+); the balance were MS-65 and below and there are a few that graded MS-69.

 

I think you have given us the answer, jtryka. Most of the pre 1933 gold coins that are available to us today were in Europe when the Gold Surrender order was issued. Any gold that was in the hands of the U.S. banks had to be turned in to the government.

 

As for IRA (Individual Retirement Accounts) those did not start until the late 1970s for bank held accounts, and the early to mid '80s for corporate accounts.

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I have heard that PCGS has graded 10 examples as MS-69, including one sold by Heritage in the Phillip H. Morse collection. I would check the Heritage archives for photos of that one, as it's likely one of the best examples.

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I heard a rumor the bags actually came from Russia and the story was just that - a story. But that's just a rumor. I don't see why it would matter much.

 

A made-up story being attached to a hoard of coins? I just can't believe that would ever happen. ;)

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I have heard that this hoard received very generous grades from PCGS and that because of this, the Wells Fargo pedigree carries a stigma resulting in some owners asking PCGS to reholder them without the pedigree noted on the label.

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The gold recall order is a rather odd document full of loopholes. The people were directed to turn in their gold but it still seems to have been a voluntary recall. The banks HAD to turn the gold they held in to the government and any gold turned into them over the counter. But I doubt they could confiscate privately held gold on their premises. Then there was the loophole that allowed collectors to hold "rare and unusual" gold coins and "rare and unusual" was defined as all US gold coins struck before I believe it was April 5th 1933. So if someone was a "collector" they could hold an unlimited number of gold coins of any and all dates and mints. (Except for quarter eagles where you were limited to no more than four specimens of any given date and mint combination.) So in theory these nearly 20 thousand double eagles could be legally held by a private "collector" and even if they were stored in a bank vault the bank or government couldn't touch them.

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In my mind, I’m trying to analyze how a gold coin made in the 1900’s, bagged and stored in a vault/vaults for 60 years can be graded out as MS-69, or even grade out at MS-68 (the key word here is “bagged“ and maybe even re-bagged…as in tumbling, scraping, rubbing, clinking, digging and chinking)

 

Seems to me the handling alone would render even the best of the best to no more than a 66.

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Gold nationalization occurred over several steps and was not the simple executive order than many coin collectors assume. The original order referred to hoarding and was a follow-on to the failed voluntary order by President Hoover of February 1932.

 

(A lot of gold and other currency was turned in between Feb and June, then that amount and more was re-hoarded following failure of major banks in the Chicago area. Hoover didn’t try again, but he did approve secretly recording the name and address of everyone who withdrew gold coin in large amounts from banks, as well as unusual activity in renting or accessing safe deposit boxes.)

 

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jtryka has given the bulk of the story - there's only a little bit more in Bowers' Red Book of Double Eagles. Bowers quotes Ron Gillio's description - he doesn't mention where the gold was stored before he bought it or who owned it.

 

Conder101: according to Tripp's Illegal Tender, the Government was keeping records of large gold withdrawals before the gold confiscation order and put a lot of pressure on private individuals to return the gold they had withdrawn, so I'd think it would have been unlikely that the Wells Fargo hoard could have survived had it been located in the States.

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jtryka has given the bulk of the story - there's only a little bit more in Bowers' Red Book of Double Eagles. Bowers quotes Ron Gillio's description - he doesn't mention where the gold was stored before he bought it or who owned it.

 

Conder101: according to Tripp's Illegal Tender, the Government was keeping records of large gold withdrawals before the gold confiscation order and put a lot of pressure on private individuals to return the gold they had withdrawn, so I'd think it would have been unlikely that the Wells Fargo hoard could have survived had it been located in the States.

 

I believe this hoard never left the US, but was held at a bank for some international payment. It could be that the hoard was owned by a foreign government and stored here, which would have been quite legal. After all, the 19,900 double eagles was approximately 0.6 tonnes, and foreign governments have held hundreds of tonnes of gold in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY for the last 90 years. Keep in mind also that this would have been a large gold withdrawal made in 1917, well before the chaos of the early 1930s and all indications are that the coins were undisturbed from 1917 through the 1960s when they were rebagged.

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The real story is that I used my Delorean to go back to 1908 and purchase the Double Eagles......

 

cars-02-1981-delorean-dmc-12-back-to-the-future.jpg

 

wells3.JPG

 

Then I reappeared in the 1960's so I could get them transferred into modern bags to help erase any suspicions others would have if they found my pristine bags of gold coins stored in hundred year old bags.

 

Finally my cousin Vinny helped me smuggle the coins back into the bank using a vintage Wells Fargo Stage Coach.

 

pg221.jpg

 

The coins weren't actually stored in a Wells fargo Bank....we just used the stage coach name as we thought it would sound better then the Banco Popular hoard

TM

 

logoBPPR.gif

 

Any questions? (shrug)

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From 1917 to 1920, the Treasury restricted access to gold bars or coin and prohibited most exports. Gold coins were removed from circulation and banks were ordered not to pay it out unless the customer explained the planned use of the coins. Routine requests for $2.50 and $5 coins for holiday gifts were refused and the Treasury encouraged people to give new bank notes instead of gold coins.

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This is the first I've heard of this hoard, so I can't add anything. But does someone have pictures of the 69s? Holy cow, those must be amazing.

 

Heritage Link, you'll have to sign in to see the pictures

Wells Fargo - The Best One! Heritage as well.

 

Having looked at the photos, I'd have to say that I might have a hard time giving that coin an MS-69. I can spot at least three small marks on the obverse that would be visible, at least to me, with the naked eye. To me an MS-69 should have no more than couple of barely perceptable marks. So I guess I would have called an MS-68, but what do I know? (shrug)

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There seemed to be a collector perception also that the Wells Fargo Hoard coins were graded rather liberally. I have looked at quite a few MS65/MS64, Wells Fargo coins, passed on them and thought that they were overgraded. This overgrading has been the issue with several other hoards as well.

 

As for the provenance of these coins, who knows? The most logical quess is that they were used for specie payment and either never left Wells Fargo vaults or were foreign coins bought back in the late 1960's. It could be as simple as an asset that off-book and was forgotten, kind of like the GSA dollars.

 

Big banks have proven again recently that they are only stingy with accounting for our money not their own assets.

Edited by Oldtrader3
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It could be as simple as an asset that off-book and was forgotten, kind of like the GSA dollars.

 

GSA dollars were never “off-book” or forgotten. Treasury knew what they had which is why they refused to distribute them during the silver dollars release of the early 1960s.

 

As for a domestic bank keeping that much money off its books, that is extremely unlikely, particularly with the Treasury examiners, auditors and FDIC reviews (after 1934). Foreign ownership is the most likely source.

 

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jtryka,

 

I dunno, but just from the way that Bowers quotes Gillio:

 

"Of all the different hoard I have bought in Europe, Asia, America, and elsewhere. . .", I get the distinct impression that this hoard was in Europe (Switzerland?).

 

Or, perhaps Gillio just wants people to think that. ;)

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DaveG, I think what Ron Gillio was saying was that he had purchased a number of hoards in those regions and of all the hoards he had purchased in all those regions, this hoard was the most interesting and highest quality.

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The hoard name is nothing more than clever marketing. Collectors make a strong association between gold and the “old west.” The “Wells Fargo” name is one of the few from western American history that remain widely known. The connection is nostalgic, romantic and entirely artificial. If it were called the “Lichtenstein Hoard” would it have had as much appeal? Could the marketers have dumped nearly 20,000 over graded, common-date double eagles at premium prices from the “Lichtenstein Hoard?”

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As long as we're sort-of on the subject, I've heard a number of stories of large groups of gold coins found in the vaults of European and South American banks (especially in the 1950s), but does anyone know any stories of groups of gold coins found in the vaults of American banks?

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There are a number of Treasury case reports of hoards of gold coin in U.S. banks after 1934, but all that I've seen involved ownership by foreign nationals.

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