clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Woman trades rare coins for groceries

These rare $20 gold coins were traded at a Zions Bank in St. George for face value, but the old coins are worth at least 50 times that.
These rare $20 gold coins were traded at a Zions Bank in St. George for face value, but the old coins are worth at least 50 times that.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

The woman told the bank teller she just needed money to pay for the groceries she had waiting at a local store.

Then she traded a small fortune in rare gold coins for a couple hundred bucks, launching a quest to reunite the coins with their rightful owner.

Zions Bank and Washington County law enforcement now are trying to solve a mystery that began March 16 when an unknown woman walked into a local Zions Bank branch in the St. George area and handed over 14 rare $20 gold Double Eagle coins in exchange for $280.

Just based on the price of the gold in the coins, each one is worth 50 times that — or more. The oldest of the coins was minted in 1875 and the most recent was 1927.

But the search has thus far stalled with little to go on, aside from a bank surveillance photo that shows a woman with short, dark hair who's about 5-foot-6, medium build and most likely in her mid-20s to early 30s.

While the coins have not been appraised, at today's gold prices, each would be worth at least $923, a far cry from the $20 each the woman collected, according to Rob Brough, Zions Bank's executive vice president over marketing and communications,

An online coin appraisal site says the value of a gold Double Eagle, depending on condition, year and other factors, can range into the tens of thousands and in rare cases, perhaps exceed $1 million.

Each gold Double Eagle coin weighs close to an ounce and they're 90 percent gold, 10 percent copper. The series was minted between 1849 and 1933, changing from the Liberty head design in 1907 to a St. Gaudens version. They were called "double" eagles because at $20 each, they were double the value of the to-that-point biggest coin, the $10 gold Eagle.

The woman told the teller that Wal-Mart would not accept the coins as payment for her groceries; they told her to exchange them at a bank, and she took that advice. Banks deal in face value, and that's what she received.

Police and bank officials say anyone who knows the identity of the coins' owner should contact their local Zions Bank branch, which can put them in touch with the proper authorities.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com