United States v. One Solid Gold Object In The Form Of A Rooster
Photo credit: Coeur D’alene Art Auction
In July 1960, the US government issued an arrest warrant for a rooster—not a living one but a 6.4-kilogram (14 lb) rooster made of 18-carat gold. The rooster was exhibited in a glass display case at Nugget Casino, Sparks, Nevada. It had been sculpted in 1958 at the behest of the casino owner, Richard L. Graves, to advertise a fried chicken restaurant inside the casino.
The sculpture happened to have been commissioned at a time when the US needed more gold. Years earlier, the federal government had passed the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, which required Americans to surrender their gold to the Department of the Treasury. Secret Service agents met with Graves to inform him that he had violated the Gold Reserve Act but left him alone after confirming he’d received permission from the San Francisco Mint.
Things took a turn in July 1960, when federal agents arrested the rooster and sent it to a bank vault in California. The rooster appeared before a jury in July 1962, and Graves and the Treasury Department argued over whether it was an art or a tool of commerce.
The Treasury Department argued that the rooster was a tool of commerce since it was used for advertisement. Paul Laxalt, Graves’s attorney and future lieutenant governor, governor, and senator, argued that it was art. Laxalt won, and Graves got his golden rooster back. Had Laxalt lost, the rooster would have been melted down and added to the Federal Reserve.
Now, I have a couple of questions about this whole thing. Why does the government need more gold...and who in their right mind would use 14 lbs. of gold to make a rooster? Crazy all around, if you ask me!
Coffee in the kitchen again this morning!