Recently, a dealer offered “rolled gold” for sale to other dealers.
A search on the internet for “rolled gold” provides a variety of different interpretations. In this case, however, the gold was “rolled” by the Secret Service.
Several decades ago, gold coins were involved in a court case and were deemed counterfeit. As a result, the Secret Service rolled the coins such that they had an elongated appearance. They then gave the flattened gold back to the original owner.
The coins no longer had any numismatic value, either real or perceived. As gold, though, the elongated coins helped pay the gentleman’s legal fees.
After all these years, the lawyer finally sold those pieces of gold. Now, perhaps someone would pay a premium for their history, but this dealer is selling them for current melt prices. At a total weight of over 2.6 ounces and the current price of gold, those pieces of rolled metal do have value.
Today, we think of the Secret Service in terms of protecting the President and Vice President (both current and past), their families, other important federal positions and visiting dignitaries. But, the Secret Service actually began in 1865 to suppress counterfeiting operations for our currency. The first Chief of the Secret Service was sworn in on July 5 by the Secretary of the Treasury.
In 1877, it became illegal to counterfeit coins, gold or silver bars. The 44th Congress, Second Session, Chapter 24 stated:
“An act to amend Section fifty-four hundred and fifty-seven of the Revised Statutes of the United States relating to counterfeiting
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Section fifty-four hundred and fifty-seven of the Revised Statutes of the United States be, and the same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:
“Every person who falsely makes, forges, or counterfeits, or causes or procures to be falsely made, forged, or counterfeited, or willingly aids or assists in falsely making, forging, or counterfeiting any coin or bars in resemblance or similitude of the gold or silver coins or bars which have been, or hereafter may be, coined or stamped at the mints and assay-offices of the United States, or in resemblance or similitude of any foreign gold or silver coin which by law is, or hereafter may be, current in the United States, or are in actual use and circulation as money within the United States, or who passes, utters, publishes, or sells or attempts to pass, utter, publish or sell, or bring into the United States from any foreign place, knowing the same to be false, forged, or counterfeit, with intent to defraud any body politic or corporate, or any other person or persons whatsoever, or has in his possession any such false, forged or counterfeited coin or bars, knowing the same to be false, forged or counterfeited, with intent to defraud any body politic or corporate, or any other person or persons whatsoever, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment at hard labor not more than ten years.
Approved, January 16,1877.”
Going back further, the Albany Law Journal by Isaac Grant Thompson (1880) included the following:
“Making counterfeit coin was by the ancient common law treason, and subsequently a felony, while uttering or passing it was only a misdemeanor. … The act of 1790 declares counterfeiting the public securities a felony and punished it with death. The act of 1825 reduced the punishment to hard labor not exceeding ten years. The act of 1806, the first to protect the coin, declared counterfeiting a felony punishable by imprisonment at hard labor. The act of 1825 declared counterfeiting the coin a felony punishable with imprisonment at hard labor not exceeding ten years. The act of 1873 declared counterfeiting treasury notes a felony, as did the acts of 1847 and 1861. Counterfeiting postage stamps was declared a felony by the acts of 1851 and 1853. Counterfeiting three cent pieces was by the act of 1865 made a misdemeanor.
“The Revised Statutes drop this classification, as does the act of 1877, and these offenses are no longer declared felonies.”
More current, Chapter 25, of the United States Code states:
“485. Coins or bars
“Whoever falsely makes, forges, or counterfeits any coin or bar in resemblance or similitude of any coin of a denomination higher than 5 cents or any gold or silver bar coined or stamped at any mint or assay office of the United States, or in resemblance or similitude of any foreign gold or silver coin current in the United States or in actual use and circulation as money within the United States; or Whoever passes, utters, publishes, sells, possesses, or brings into the United States any false, forged, or counterfeit coin or bar, knowing the same to be false, forged, or counterfeit, with intent to defraud any body politic or corporate, or any person, or attempts the commission of any offense described in this paragraph—Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than fifteen years, or both.”
As for the “rolled gold” case, what was the charge? What was the outcome? And, why did the Secret Service return the gold? Unfortunately, without knowing names and locations, we cannot research newspapers, books or other web sites to satisfy our curiosity.
In the meantime, we took an interesting short trip through the annals of Congress and of law to view counterfeiting through the years as it was considered by Congress.