The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 48, November 20, 2011, Article 17


Philip Mernick writes:

The hoard of US double eagle coins found in East London in 2007 (and recently discussed in The E-Sylum) will be auctioned by Morton & Eden later this month (Lots 212 to 222).

Putting bullion coins into auction is usually a bad idea as the auction house's commission will probably exceed the profit a respectable bullion dealer might take. These coins, however, have a history, so it will be interesting what they, and in particular, the bulk lot make (after deductions), compared with their bullion value on the day.

Below is an account of the hoard's history from the auction catalog. -Editor

Martin Sulzbacher In 2007 a glass storage jar containing eighty gold US double eagles was unearthed during excavations for a new pond in gardens at the former site of 126 Bethune Road, Hackney. The find duly became the subject of a formal Treasure enquiry as well as research by local historians, with the most unusual result that the heirs of the original owner, Martin Sulzbacher, were traced and the coins restored to them. One coin of 1908 has been donated to the Hackney Museum (where it is displayed with the jar in which the hoard was found), whilst two further coins dated 1888 S and 1913 have been retained by the Sulzbacher family. The balance of 77 pieces is offered here.

In October 1938, shortly before Kristallnacht, Martin Sulzbacher left Germany with his family to join his brother Fritz, who had emigrated to England some 5 years earlier, in London. A German Jewish banker from Frankfurt, Martin held some of his savings in gold and was able to buy a house in Bethune Road to which he moved with his parents, wife Hannah and their four young children in early 1939. He was able to help other family members too, notably his sister and her children after her husband had been sent to Dachau and who was never to be seen again. An unknown quantity of gold coins was kept in a City safe deposit box as savings.

On the outbreak of war in September Martin Sulzbacher a recent refugee from Germany - was classified as an enemy alien and was embarked for Canada aboard Arandora Star. She was torpedoed by a U-Boat off the coast of Ireland but Martin, a strong swimmer, survived. He was sent instead to Australia whilst his wife and their two youngest children were interned on the Isle of Man, later to be joined by the two older sons who were sent to school in Bedfordshire. Martin's parents and widowed sister were allowed to remain in London with Fritz and his family, Fritz having successfully obtained British citizenship early in 1939.

Fritz took the decision, on his brother's behalf, to withdraw Martin's gold coins from the safe deposit box and to bury them in the garden at Bethune Road. Nazi invasion was a sufficiently real threat in the summer of 1940 for this to seem prudent, and the five family members then resident in London all knew the secret of where the gold was hidden. As Fritz told a family friend, it seemed impossible that this knowledge would be lost but so it was to prove, with all five individuals being killed during the Blitz in September, 1940 when the Bethune Road house was completely destroyed.

In due course Martin and all the surviving members of the Sulzbacher family were released from internment and were able to settle in London. On finding the safe deposit box bare apart from a single gold sovereign, he naturally arranged for a metal detector search for the coins but this proved fruitless. The money seemed lost until, in 1952, a single jar of coins was recovered during the final demolition and clearance of the bombed house. The family's lasting view that there was probably more gold was confirmed when Terence Castle discovered this jar, some 2 feet down in the ground, in 2007.

Several accounts of the Sulzbacher family's story exist and the hoard has been the subject of a filmed documentary. Plans for the sale proceeds include the restoration of memorials to the five family members who were killed in 1940.

To view the complete auction catalog, see:

Stephen Pradier forwarded a Daily Mail article about the hoard and its expected sale price. -Editor

Hackney Hoard jar A jar of gold coins dug up in a London garden nearly 70 years after it was buried to hide it from the Nazis is set to sell at auction for £80,000.

A family of Jewish refugees who fled Germany for England before the start of World War II buried the coins because they feared their money would be seized in a Nazi invasion. However, the family was later killed by a direct hit in an air raid during the Blitz and the exact location of the coins was lost.

But after nearly 70 years in the ground, the so-called 'Hackney Hoard' of U.S. Double Eagle gold coins was unearthed when householder Terence Castle dug a pond in his garden. Realising the significance of his find, honest Mr Castle notified the local representative of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), Kate Sumnall, who in turn passed them on to the British Museum.

An inquest by the coroner for Inner St Pancras in April this year ruled that the gold should be returned to its rightful owner.

Amazingly, a descendent of the original owner was found and Max Sulzbacher, 81, was proved at the inquest to be the rightful owner of the coins. Now that ownership has been established, Mr Sulzbacher is selling the collection of $20 coins at auction.

Auctioneers Morton and Eden is selling the coins in association with Sotheby's in London on November 29-30. One of the coins has been presented to the Hackney Museum and the family are keeping two of them.

To read the complete article, see: (

Philip Mernick adds:

Having seen a copy of the Morton & Eden catalogue I find that the buyer pays 22% on top of sale price and presumably they take something from the seller as well. Definitely not the way to sell bullion.

No, but the auctioneers are selling the story in addition to the bullion coins. The story has already brought international attention to the sale and these coins in particular. I wouldn't be surprised if some marketer buys the lots, slabs them in "Hackney Hoard" holders and remarkets them at still higher prices.

There are 77 coins being offered. A U.S. double eagle contains almost one ounce of gold (0.9675 troy oz according to a quick internet search). Another lookup shows a troy ounce of gold selling at $1,732. At those numbers I calculate a value of $129,000 At today's exchange rate, one GBP is worth 1.5807 dollars, so the 77 gold coins contain about £81,000 in gold. I don't know If the article's £80,000 estimate is before or after the 22%+ fees, but a 22% premium isn't out of the question for coins with an interesting story behind them. We'll see how this all plays out, but perhaps they'll be offered one day at a 100-200% markup over bullion value. -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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