Coin Lore column from April 18, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:
The cover story “Coins on Television” that I wrote for the March issue of Coin World Monthly elicited several emails about readers’ favorite numismatic episodes, including one from public relations pro Donn Pearlman.
He wrote, “The 1951 pilot episode for the Amos ‘n Andy television series (based on the radio program that started in 1928) centered around a rare nickel.”
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The Amos ’n Andy TV show, set in New York’s Harlem, followed the exploits of cabdriver Amos, who narrated most episodes, and his gullible pal Andy. Invariably, the Kingfish, a fast-talking con man, talked Andy into trouble.
The pilot for the TV show, which ran through 1953, ran as the 28th episode of the first season. It was titled “Rare Coin.”
As the camera focuses in on John Wilton’s coin store, Amos sets up the episode, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Amos. I just wanted to tell you about something that happened to my friend Andy and the Kingfish. They found a nickel in an old trunk. It was dated 1877 so Andy wrote a letter to Mr. Wilton, a coin dealer.”
Inside the store at 137 E. 47th St., Wilton dictates a letter to his secretary: “The current market of this coin is $250. If you bring the coin in, we will be happy to pay you this amount.”
The date of the coin and the location of the coin shop indicated a more than passing familiarity with coins by the show’s writers.
The 1877 Shield 5-cent piece is a Proof-only issue with a mintage of just 900 coins. Only a collector would know about the issue. Despite its low mintage, it is not wildly popular, cataloging for just $3,500 in Proof 63.