This is the fourth 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 is about an episode of Dennis the Menace airing 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 (Jay North) 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 Indian Head, Rounded Rims, With Periods gold $10 eagle. At the start, Dennis’ long-suffering neighbor, “good old Mr. Wilson (Joseph Kearns),” buys the rare coin from big-time dealer Mr. Hathaway (Michael Fox) for $250.
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Meeting at Mr. Wilson’s home, Hathaway baits the hook with a pair of moderately rare coins — a 1909-O Barber quarter dollar and a 1901-S Barber dime in Capitol Plastics holders, but says he has already committed his rarest coin to another collector.
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Mr. Wilson encourages him to pull it out of its velvet bag. Mr. Wilson is ecstatic as he looks at the coin.
“Oh, Great Scott, a 1907 $10 gold piece. Beautiful!” Mr. Wilson says.
Mr. Hathaway says to Mr. Wilson, “Rolled edge. With periods.”
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.