US Coins

Coins star on television programs like Hardy Boys

Lost coins, stolen coins, fake coins — they all turn up on television, grist for murder, mayhem and comic misunderstandings. 

Coins make for great drama. They’re ubiquitous, hideable, portable, liquid and potentially valuable. A plot can twist on a tiny bit of easily lost, easily hidden metal no bigger than a fingernail.

Collectors notice coins on television, and everyone has a favorite story from Sheriff Andy Taylor’s famous backwards buffalo to Hawaii Five-0’s $100,000 nickel. Collectors cringe a bit, too, when watching coins on TV shows. The coins are often abused to the point that they would lose much of their value to scratches and wear.

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For example, the 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent piece featured in the Hawaii Five-0 episode was placed in a vending machine, thrown in two cash register tills, carried in pockets and plunked down on a bar.

God only knows what kind of condition it would be in after all that. Coin collectors, though, can be thankful that a stunt double was used for the Olsen specimen. The Numismatic Guaranty Corp. has certified the real coin as Proof 64.

Here is a look at a few of the more interesting coin appearances. (Most of the images are screen shots taken from the episodes, most of which are viewable online.)

Gold doubloons and pieces of eight

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 piratish 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 novel The Tower Treasure.

Applegate’s pirate chest has been missing for a decade when Frank (Tim Considine) and Joe Hardy (Tommy Kirk) are given a gold doubloon by Perry Robinson (Donald MacDonald), a troubled child who had been taken in by tower-owner Mr. Applegate (Florenz Ames).

Perry gives it to Joe Hardy and asks him to “Please keep it for me and not say anything,” before giving himself up to police.

Later, at home, Joe shows it to his older brother, who exclaims, “Hey, you know what? That’s gold — solid gold.”

At the library the next day, they determine that it’s an “ancient Spanish doubloon” issued by Ferdinand VII.

The librarian, Mrs. Snodgrass (uncredited), tells them, “That’s what a doubloon is — pirate gold” and makes the first connection to the missing Applegate treasure.

“I guess the Applegate treasure is dead and buried by this time,” she says cryptically.

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-escudo piece 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 Extremely Fine condition today.

The series can occasionally be found online. The theme song is at this location.

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