(NEW YORK) -- A judge ruled that 10 rare gold coins worth $80 million belonged to the U.S. government, not a family that had sued the U.S. Treasury, saying it had illegally seized them.
The 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle coin was originally valued at $20, but sold for as much as $7.5 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2002, according to Courthouse News.
After President Theodore Roosevelt had the U.S. abandon the gold standard, most of the 445,500 double eagles that the Philadelphia Mint had struck were melted into gold bars. However, a Philadelphia Mint cashier had managed to give or sell some of them to a local coin dealer, Israel Switt.
In 2003, Switt's family, Joan Langbord and her two grandsons, drilled opened a safety deposit box that had belonged to him and found the 10 coins.
When the Langbords gave the coins to the Philadelphia Mint for authentication, the government seized them without compensating the family. The Langbords sued, saying the coins belonged to them.
In 2011, a jury decided that the coins belonged to the government, but the family appealed.
Last week, Judge Legrome Davis of the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, affirmed that decision, saying "the coins in question were not lawfully removed from the United States Mint."
Barry Berke, an attorney for the Langbords, told ABC News, "This is a case that raises many novel legal questions, including the limits on the government's power to confiscate property. The Langbord family will be filing an appeal and looks forward to addressing these important issues before the 3rd Circuit."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio