US Coins

Guest Commentary: 'Fugitive' can only watch as betrayed spouse tosses coins

I recently watched a 1967 episode of the popular television series, The Fugitive, which starred actor David Janssen. The segment was titled “The One that Got Away,” and it co-starred Anne Francis, Charles Bronson and Charles Drake.

The plot was somewhat quirky and yet simple. According to the script, Drake is married to Ms. Francis, and he has embezzled $250,000 from the firm he worked for. Before fleeing from the authorities, he entrusts the ill-gotten gain to his wife (who plans to lay low) for safekeeping. The scheme involves the two later rendezvousing at a small coastal village in Mexico, where she will duly arrive with the money.

Ms. Francis subsequently charters a boat (captained by fugitive Janssen) along with a deckhand (Bronson) who turns out to be an undercover cop who has been watching Ms. Francis in hopes of locating and apprehending her husband and recovering the stolen loot. Initially, Bronson is totally unaware that Dr. Richard Kimble (Janssen) is the long-sought fugitive who has falsely been accused and convicted of murder. The boat eventually docks at the little Mexican village where Ms. Francis’ criminal husband (Drake) has been staying at a hotel, patiently awaiting his wife’s arrival with the stolen money. Ms. Francis then sends Janssen to the hotel to announce her arrival. There, inadvertently, Janssen discovers the wayward husband has checked into a room with his blonde, shapely, former secretary, who has registered as his wife.

Drake soon rushes out to the boat to meet his betrayed, unsuspecting wife, and they emotionally embrace. He then instructs Ms. Francis to give him the stolen money. She reveals she has since converted the entire $250,000 into a group of extremely rare United States coins. Janssen, sensing a monumental double-cross, tells her about her husband’s philandering with his secretary who is waiting in their hotel room.

Turning livid with anger, Ms. Francis grabs one of the loose, unprotected rare coins out of her change purse (alas, placing her fingers directly upon its surfaces) and scornfully announces that it is “an 1894 Liberty Head dime, worth about $12,500,” and promptly tosses it into the dark sea! Her husband (Drake), attempting to deny the steamy liaison with his secretary, watches in horror as she removes a second coin from the purse, identifying it as “an 1875-P $3 gold piece, worth about $19,000.” Much to the chagrin of her cheating spouse, she likewise casts it (and all of the remaining rare coins), into the ocean depths!

As a noncollector, Ms. Francis would have been unaware of the proper way to hold valuable coins (by their edges), and that the 1894 dime she referred to, valued at that time for $12,500, had to have been one of the storied, esoteric “S” Mint marked examples. The 1967 20th Edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins (the “Red Book”) references the sale of an 1894-S dime from the 1961 Hydeman Collection at auction for $13,000. It also notes that a Proof 1875 gold $3 piece sold at auction for the sum of $17,000 in the Wolfson Sale. Unfortunately, the television script never mentioned what the grades were of the two coins Ms. Francis relegated to the bottom of Davy Jones’s locker.

Let us fast-forward now to January of 2012 when a Proof 64 Certified Acceptance Corp.-stickered 1875 Indian Head gold $3 piece (graded by Professional Coin Grading Service) was sold for $218,500 (buyer’s fee included) by Heritage Auction Galleries. Also, let us consider that an 1894-S Barber dime, graded PCGS Proof 64+ and offered recently this year by David Lawrence Rare Coins, traded hands at a private sale in excess of $2 million.

My, my, my — how numismatic values have changed since 1967. Interestingly, the value of an 1894-S dime has currently surpassed, many times over, the value of an 1875 gold $3 piece. It really makes one want to consider chartering a boat, renting some scuba gear and diving off of the pier in that little Mexican coastal village. Who knows? Maybe someone will be lucky enough to locate and retrieve those two extremely rare coins (along with the others) that were tossed overboard by Anne Francis, 46 long years ago. A fantasy dream, perhaps?

Sam Lukes operates Sam Lukes Numismatics in Visalia, Calif., and has been active in a modern-day treasure hunt on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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