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Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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Archive for 'January 2015'

    As seen on TV: 'Hawaii Five-0' episode likely the most famous coin-themed show

    January 30, 2015 12:22 PM by

    Over five weeks, ​ I’m highlighting shows from the golden age of television that featured coins in pivotal roles.

    What we've covered so far:

    No. 4: Hawaii Five-0, Dec. 11, 1973

    An Hawaii Five-0 episode titled,  The $100,000 Nickel  is probably the most famous television show with a coin theme.  Producers built the episode (season 6, episode 14) around the Olsen specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece. In late 1972 the coin was the first coin to hit $100,000. The coin, graded Proof 64 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., sold for $3.3 million at the 2014 FUN show.

    The show opens with a forger altering a 1903 nickel to look like a 1913. The action then shifts to a courier taking a locked briefcase to the security room at the Pacific Coin Convention Coin Bourse and Auction. He takes out a box holding the coin. “It’s insured for $100,000. There are only five like it in the world,” he says. The actual coin is show full screen before it is locked in a safe.

    The action then shifts to an oceanfront park. The forger is holding the altered coin with his fingers and says, “Virtually undetectable without high magnification. I think you will find it well worth $1,000.” A killer then takes the coin in a gloved hand, places it in his pocket and pulls out a pistol. He plugs the forger and walks away.

    A con man is then hired for $10,000 to switch coins. At the coin show, the carnival slight-of-hand expert casually asks to look at the coin, which is promptly handed to him. Wearing a white glove, he picks it up and switches it out. As he’s leaving the show, an alarm sounds. The con man uses the coin to buy a 15-cent newspaper, effectively stashing the coin until he can retrieve it; only he doesn’t get back to it in time.

    The coin bounces from the vending machine to a child’s pocket to a candy store before ending up as change at a bar after the con man buys a drink.

    The coin, which is still known for its TV exposure more than 40 years later, benefited from the publicity. In 1978 Superior Galleries paid $200,000 for the coin, double its 1972 price.

    The video can be seen free at YouTube.

    Next: The Rockford Files

    As seen on TV: Murderous coin dealer in 'Streets of San Francisco' strikes fake double eagles

    January 22, 2015 10:40 AM by

    Over five weeks, ​I’m highlighting shows from the golden age of television that featured coins in pivotal roles.

    What we've covered so far:

    No. 2 : Streets of San Francisco, Feb. 1, 1973

    Actor Jamie Farr (later Klinger on MASH) is offed at the beginning of this episode of The Streets of San Francisco after smuggling blank double-eagle size gold planchets into the country. (From the Great Depression until 1975, private ownership of gold was highly restricted in the United States.)

    In A Collection of Eagles  (season 1, episode 18) murderous coin dealer Vincent Hagopian Jr. uses the planchets to strike fake double eagles, including a 1907 Ultra High Relief, in the basement of his coin shop in Maiden Lane off San Francisco’s Union Square.

    Hagopian, played by veteran character actor John Saxon, strikes his counterfeits on a small screw press after hand-engraving the dies himself. He’s careful not to leave any “hair lines,” which he says are telltale casting flaws, on his fakes. His plan is to substitute the counterfeits for real coins in a 40-coin collection that his late father, an honest coin dealer, had built for client John R. James.

    The episode has several shots of James’ collection, but no close ups of individual coins. James, according to the story, had purchased the 1907 coin for $22,500 in 1962. With about 15 known, the coin remains a rarity today, often topping $2 million when it appears at auction.

    After killing yet another of his accomplices, Hagopian makes the switch. Later he’s captured after a fight at his coin store and the attempted murder of one more associate.

    At the end, collector James sends a pair of uncirculated 1882 Morgan dollars to detectives Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas) as a thank you. Keller looks them up in A Guide Book of United States Coins and says, “We’re rich — $4 apiece.” Today, they’re $50 coins.

    It can be watched free on YouTube.

    Next: Hawaii Five-0

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    As seen on TV: 'Dennis the Menace' tosses away rare gold coin

    January 15, 2015 11:39 AM by

    Over five weeks, ​I’m highlighting shows from the golden age of television that featured coins in pivotal roles.

    What we've covered so far:

    No. 2: Dennis the Menace, Jan. 17, 1960

    Dennis the Menace, the early 1960s television version of Hank Ketcham’s comic strip, frequently had a numismatic theme. In one episode Dennis can be seen placing cents in a Whitman folder. The writers knew coins, giving a sense of authenticity to the stories.

    Dennis and the Rare Coin  (Season 1, Episode 15) revolves around a 1907 Rounded Rims with Periods Indian Head $10 gold eagle. At the start, Dennis’ long-suffering neighbor, “good old Mr. Wilson,” buys the rare coin from big time dealer Mr. Hathaway for $250.

    The coin is a notable rarity that comes with a great story, but the Dennis the Menace episode does not go into the coin’s history. Philadelphia Mint Superintendent John Landis said 31,500 were minted but all but about 50 were melted. The coin, an early version of Saint Gaudens’ design, is a great rarity worth $100,000 and up in Uncirculated condition.

    The condition of Mr. Wilson’s coin isn’t mentioned, but it gets some rough treatment. Mrs. Wilson inadvertently brushes it onto the floor where Dennis finds it. “Finder’s keepers?” Dennis asks Mrs. Wilson. “Loser’s weepers,” she affirms. The coin is briefly visible on the floor and is clearly an Indian Head eagle.

    Dennis puts it in his pocket where it jostles with other coins until he throws it in a wishing fountain.

    When Mr. Wilson and Dennis try to retrieve the coin from the water, they’re arrested and taken to the police station to sort things out.  While they’re there, Mr. Hathaway is led in in handcuffs.  An officer says coin dealer Hathaway is actually con man John Higgins.  “He’s flooding the town with phony old coins,” the officer says.

    The episode is online at Hulu and can be viewed at no charge. 

     Next: Streets of San Francisco

    As seen on TV: 'Mickey Mouse Club' series enthralled young collectors

    January 7, 2015 11:06 AM by

    Since antiquity, coins have played a part in theater. The ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes referred to the owls of Athens (tetradrachms showing an owl on the reverse) in his fifth century BC comedy, The Birds. Shakespeare mentioned coins so many times in his plays that a whole book - Coins in Shakespeare by J. Eric Engstrom - has been written about it.

    Though Aristophanes’ and Shakespeare’s plays have been staged for centuries, they never had the reach of television in the 1950s, ‘60s and  ‘70s.  In the days before cable, the three main television channels pretty much split the nation.  If a person wasn’t watching NBC, he was watching CBS or ABC. The most popular shows in the era drew as many as 100 million viewers. Today popular shows are happy to hit 20 percent of that number.
    For the next five weeks, I’m going to highlight shows from the golden age of television that featured coins in pivotal roles.
    No. 1: The Mickey Mouse Club, Oct. 1, 1956
    The Mickey Mouse Club was must-see TV for baby boomers in the 1950s.  Every school day afternoon Walt Disney’s mouse led a parade to start the show, which featured dancing and singing Mouseketeers, words of wisdom from Head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd and a really old cartoon or a serial adventure.
    One of the serials, The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, revolved around a missing pirate treasure and enthralled a generation of budding collectors.
    Each of the 19 10-minute episodes began with a pirate-ish theme song backing bony hands ruffling through a treasure chest filled with coins.
    The theme song jauntily stated the serial’s premise: a pirate treasure that had been handed down to Bayport’s Silas Applegate had gone missing.
    “Gold doubloons and pieces of eight, handed down to Applegate? From buccaneers who fought for years for gold doubloons and pieces of eight.  Handed down in a pirate chest, the gold they sailed for east and west.  The treasure bright that made men fight, till none were left to bury the chest.  So now the gold and pieces of eight all belong to Applegate.  The chest is here but wait ... now where are those gold doubloons and pieces of eight?”
    The story is a reimagining of the Hardy Boys mystery, The Tower Treasure. Applegate’s pirate chest has been missing for a decade when Frank and Joe Hardy stumble across a gold doubloon. Over the next few weeks, the boys follow red herrings and real clues to eventually end up in an old water tower with a couple villains. After a fight in which the bad guys fall through the tower’s rotten floor, the boys celebrate the discovery of the treasure chest.
    The treasure chest appears to be filled with stage coins showing a portrait surrounded by stars on the obverse and a sold line on the back.  The one real coin shown – the one the boys stumble across -  is a lustrous 1808 Mexico City gold 8 escudos showing Ferdinand VII on the obverse and the Spanish coat of arms on the reverse. A common coin, the piece retails for about $2,250 in Extra Fine condition.
    The episodes are not online, but the theme song can be found on YouTube here
    Next: Dennis the Menace

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