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18-Karat Gold Rooster At Centre Of 1960s Nevada Casino Dispute

Kitco News

(Kitco News) -- Gold’s long and unparalleled history in the U.S. is highlighted in a bizarre court case when U.S. marshals confiscated a 14-pound solid gold rooster in 1960 under the justification that it violated the 1934 Gold Reserve Act.

This is but one of the stories highlighted in Inc. editor James Ledbetter’s recently released book dedicated entirely to the yellow metal’s U.S. history -- One Nation Under Gold.

“On a blazing hot afternoon in July 1960, three armed US marshals raided a casino lobby in Sparks, Nevada, and proceeded to seize a golden statue of a rooster. Invited onlookers jeered and hissed as the agents confiscated the statue, whose attorney decried a ‘colossal miscarriage of justice,’” Ledbetter wrote in a recent article for Quartz, which has been adopted from his latest book.

In 1958, the gold rooster was displayed in a glass case at the Nugget Casino in Nevada in order to promote The Golden Rooster Room, a new restaurant that specialized in fried chicken.

The complaint against the metal bird, brought up by Treasury Department, was titled ‘United States of America v. One Solid Gold Object in Form of a Rooster.’

“Unbeknownst to the bird, he had become the latest –and most severe– action taken by a federal government that was terrified of running out of gold,” wrote Ledbetter.

Image courtesy of Reno Tahoe.

The reason for the U.S. confiscation of the rooster, according to Ledbetter:

“Since 1933, it had been illegal for most Americans to hold gold in any form except jewelry and tooth fillings,” wrote Ledbetter. “Because federal law required about half of the gold stock to be held in reserve to shore up the dollar, that meant that if all the foreign claims were redeemed at once for gold, the United States would not be able to make all the payments—a scenario that was universally considered a global economic doomsday,” he said.

The man behind the idea of the gold rooster was Richard L. Graves, a Nevada entrepreneur known for his publicity stunts.

At the end of the day, after spending nearly two years locked up until an exciting trial in 1962, the golden bird was saved from being melted down and stored with the rest of the federal government’s gold reserves by the jury, which ruled in favor of the rooster.

At current prices, the 18-karat sculpture is worth nearly $200,000.

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