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Lucky 'double eagle' coin lands in Ireland

ONE of the most expensive coins in the world -- and among the luckiest -- arrived in Ireland under heavy security yesterday.

The 1933 double eagle coin is possibly the most valuable ounce of gold in the world. It is just one of almost half a million such coins struck in 1933, but just a handful remain.

The vast majority of the 450,000 double eagle coins were later melted down -- before they were released into circulation -- as part of a strategy to stabilise the American economy at the height of the Great Depression.

Two of the $20 coins were saved from the smelter and sent to the Smithsonian Institute in New York -- one of which is on display in Dublin's Irish Museum of Modern Art for today only.

At least 11 others are now known to be in existence, after they were lifted by some light-fingered workers.

Double eagles are so named because the largest US coin until the time of the California gold rush was a $10 gold eagle. When the $20 gold coin then came into being it was called the 'double' eagle.

"The coin on display here is the coin that almost never was," said Tim Banks, director of the Dublin Mint Office which is behind the exhibition.

It was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was born in Ireland, and based on an ancient sculpture called 'The Crouching Venus'.

The designer, whose mother was Irish, died before he had an opportunity to see the finished product.

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