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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As seen on TV: 'Rockford Files' episode shot in real California coin store

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. 5: The Rockford Files, Sept. 24, 1976

An unseen 1838-O Seated Liberty half dollar played a key part in The Rockford Files show   The Fourth Man (season 3, episode 2). Interestingly, much of the show was shot in a real coin store - American Coin Co., 12164 N. Ventra Blvd., Studio City, Calif.

In the story, coin dealer Timson Farrell, played by actor John McMartin, is a hit man who uses his coin shop as a cover for his life of crime. His latest job is to eliminate four gangsters who were going to appear before a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating organized crime.

A friend of private investigator Jim Rockford becomes unwittingly involved when she recognizes Farrell at the airport returning from a Miami trip a short time after traveling to Detroit. Farrell figures he has to execute her, too.

The killer coin dealer maintained a trip to Miami to rub out a fink gangster was actually a buying trip. He said he traveled to Miami to try to buy an 1838-0 half dollar, but was beaten out by a rival dealer.  The coin, with only a handful known, is a major rarity. In 1974, a Specimen 64 piece sold for $43,000 at auction. That same coin, now labeled a Proof 64, sold for $732,500 at a Heritage auction in 2013. Fewer than 20 1838-O branch mint proofs were struck in early 1839, ostensibly “to test a press” in the early days of the New Orleans Mint.

Farrell’s fourth hit is thwarted when the target’s bodyguard kills him.

American Coin Co., which was established in 1959, advertised nationally in the 1970s, offering gold Bicentennial medals to non-collectors.  Today its building is home to Dilbeck Real Estate. The coin company’s large sign, visible in the television show, remains but has been repurposed for the new tenant. In the show, the store has ashtrays on the counters, coins in two-by-twos in the display cases and books and folders along the walls.

The episode can be watched free on Hulu.

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