1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition gold $50 coin stars in 'Dragnet'

Sgt. Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon investigate report of a stolen coin
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 02/20/16
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This is the third in a series of articles from Gerald Tebben's cover feature about coins starring in television programs, published in the March 2016 issue of Coin World Monthly. This article focuses on an episode of Dragnet, airing Nov. 27, 1969.

The round 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition gold $50 piece, the rarest U.S. commemorative coin, drives the story told in the “Internal Affairs: Parolee” episode (season 4, episode 10) of the revived Dragnet series, but makes only a cameo appearance toward the end.

The Jack Webb cop drama ran from 1951 to 1959 and was revived in 1967 for four more years. 

Other articles in series:

The parolee episode begins with Sgt. Joe Friday (Webb) and Officer Bill Gannon (Henry Morgan) assigned to determine if 15-year-old theft and check-kiting charges against Lyle Thompson (who is never seen) are still prosecutable.

Thompson, 65, has been in prison in Canon City, Colo., for 14 years and is eligible for parole, provided California does not extradite him on the old felonies.

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He was charged with the Jan. 3, 1956, theft of a 1956 convertible from a rental agency, cashing a bad $300 check and stealing a “commemorative coin valued at $400” from his former employer.

Thompson, it turns out, invented the high-pressure valve that accounted for 90 percent of Wentworth Industries’ business, but was fired after 18 years by the founder’s jealous son two days after Thompson’s wife and son died in an auto accident.

In investigating the old charges, Friday and Gannon determined the rental car was left at the airport a few hours after it was taken and the store stiffed with the bad check does not want to prosecute such old charges. George Wentworth (Howard Culver), though, still wants blood from the man he said stole the coin on the day he was fired.

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