US Coins

Coins star on television like The Andy Griffith Show

This is the second in a series of articles from Gerald Tebben's cover feature about coins starring in television programs that appears in the March 2016 issue of Coin World Weekly. This installment focuses on an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, first airing Feb. 13, 1961.

A running gag involving a fictional mint error plays a major part in the “Mayberry on Record” episode (season 1, episode 19) of The Andy Griffith Show and caused perhaps a few of the more gullible among us to check our change for a certain supposedly misstruck Indian Head 5-cent piece in the early 1960s.

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At the beginning of the episode, Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) says he’s looking for an investment “that zooms overnight.” 

“It happens, you know,” he says, plopping himself down on top of a table. “Oil stocks and uranium.”

Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) cautions, “You better watch this investing business. The woods are full of con men. You’d be just ripe for the plucking, too.”

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Barney, calling himself “old eagle-eye,” says that’s not likely, providing an intro for the joke that falsely foreshadows the drama to come. 

Andy, sitting at his desk, says, “Well now, I’ll tell you. If you’re really considering investing, why don’t you try coin collecting?”

“Coin collecting for investing?” Barney asks.

Andy replies, “Well sure, its a good hobby, and you can’t never tell when you’ll come across a rare old coin that might bring you a whole lot of money.”

“A coin? Cut it out,” Barney says.

“Well sure. Look here. Look right here,” Andy says opening his desk drawer and taking out a coin. “See that nickel right there. Now I paid $10 for that nickel. A month later a fellow offered me 50 for it. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if I was to advertise I’d get, oh, a couple hundred dollars.”

“For a nickel. How come,” Barney asks.

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Andy replies, “Well, they made a mistake at the mint. Look right here. See that buffalo right there?”

“Yeah,” Barney affirms.

“Facing the wrong way,” Andy explains.

“Facing the wrong way?” Barney question as he tries to grab coin. 

Andy pulls it away, saying, “And that makes it valuable. Yeah, I don’t suspect there’s more than two or three in the whole country.”

Andy tells Barney the coin keeps increasing in value because there are so few of them.

Hooked, Barney offers to buy it. “I couldn’t give you no 200, but might go 50 – 75.”

They agree on $75 and shake hands. Andy hands the coin to Barney.

“Thank you. Andy. How about that! Let me just compare this to a regular nickel,” Barney says.

“Let’s see there,” Barney says as a frown spreads across his face. “Hey, Andy. The buffalo on this nickel is facing the same way”

Andy explains, “I was just trying to show you how easy it would be for you to get taken.” 

Record producer Mr. Maxwell (Hugh Marlowe) from New York then enters the sheriff’s office looking for local talent to record.

Later as Mr. Maxwell, Barney, Floyd the barber (Howard McNear) and others gather at Floyd’s barber shop (Haircuts ... $1, says a sign in the background), Maxwell explains that he makes 25 cents profit on each record — $25,000 on a record that sells 100,000 copies.

Barney and Floyd clamber to get in on the deal, with Barney investing $40 in a Music From Mayberry album.

Andy smells a rat, but Barney insists everything is on the up and up, until Mr. Maxwell unexpectedly checks out of the hotel.

“I shoulda sold him that nickel,” Andy mutters. “Then at least he’d own something worth a nickel.”

The town turns against Mr. Maxwell — with Barney planning roadblocks and an all-points bulletin. However, Maxwell soon returns with a distribution contract and a $5,000 advance. He gives the check to Andy’s girlfriend to distribute as a dividend to local investors, leaving Andy to eat humble pie.

Besides the numismatic connection, the show is notable as the one of the few in the series’ eight-year run in which Andy ends up on the wrong end.

No wrong-way Buffalo nickels are known, but Indian Head 5-cent piece errors are highly collectible. In 2010, a 1913 Bison on Plain 5-cent coin struck on a dime planchet sold for $46,000 at auction.

The episode can be viewed online.

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