Featured Murder She Collected: Numismatics in Crime Fiction

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by kaparthy, Feb 18, 2019.

  1. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    Few of the big name detectives are associated with much. Nero Wolfe, Miss Marple, Nancy Drew, even Sherlock Holmes – all failed to produce any evidence.
    Fourth Garrideb.jpg
    Holmes came closest. “The Third Garrideb” is a story set in 1902. In the plot, a man from Kansas with this unusual name has come to Holmes, seeking to find two others. His story is that he inherited $15 million dollars, but he must find two more people with the same unusual name in order to claim his legacy.

    The Fourth Garrideb is the name of a website dedicated to the numismatics of Sherlock Holmes. This is a fan site. Holmes fans are fanatical about details. They only recognize canon.

    This website, The Fourth Garrideb, presents coins, banknotes, bank drafts, and related materials from the times and places mentioned in the stories. But the stories themselves are rather lacking. In “The Third Garrideb” the original Garrideb, the real one, is a modest collector of antiquities, including bones and ancient coins. However, Holmes notes that nothing in the assemblage is valuable.
    Orosz Literature.jpg
    Coin World carried this article on May 15, 2015. The author is Joel Orosz, who is an active bibliomaniac. This article lists a few detective stories. Ellery Queen magazine had a story about a half disme connected to the burial of George Washington. Orosz also mentions a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe story about a Brasher Doubloon.
    Hawaii Five-O.jpg

    “The $100,000 Nickel” aired on December 11, 1973, in the sixth season of Hawaii Five-O. It has more holes than Swiss cheese. The featured coin is the Olsen specimen 1913 Liberty Nickel. It is named after Fred E. Olsen, an Alton, Ill., explosives expert who briefly owned the coin in the 1940s. It was the first rare coin to sell for $100,000. As for the holes in the Hawaii Five-O story, one fan site - MJQ Dot Net (http://www.mjq.net) – has a long list of them, beginning with the fact that this Mint State coin is handled by a lot of people and even dropped into a newspaper vending machine. Moreover, the plot hinges on the crooks intending to fool everyone by altering a 1903 Nickel. The Zero is removed and a 1 is engraved in its place and no one is supposed to know how funny that looks. And the switch is supposed to take place right in front of the auctioneer’s clerks at the convention.
    Cover Matlock.png
    The Thief was a two-part Matlock, running on Episodes 63 and 64 from the Third Season. They aired on March 28, 1989 and April 4, 1989. I have not seen them, and the plots that I found on-line were convoluted. All I know is that a coin dealer is accused of killing an employee who was stealing from him. Somehow, Matlock’s finding the coins clears the accused. But a lot more happens across the two episodes.
    Shaggie with Coin.png
    "Scooby-Doo and A Mummy, Too" first aired on November 29, 1969. It was Episode 12 in Season 1. While visiting a museum, the gang learn about the legend of Ankha, a 3000-year-old mummy. Legend had it that the mummy will come back alive and turn people to stone. Shaggy later finds a coin inside his pocket from the exhibit, and when the gang go back to return it, they find the mummy has come to life and turned the professors to stone, and now he wants Shaggy's coin.

    The coin cannot be from 3000 BC, of course. That is irrelevant because the story is that it is indeed a rare ancient coin and the crook who intended to steal it was the evil Professor Najib who is disguised as the mummy to scare his way to the coin.
    Cover Rare Coin Score.jpg

    This one took the brass ring like a hungry street urchin on a free merry-go-round. Richard Stark is a pen name for Donald Westlake. Like Stephen King, and several other major professionals, Westlake wrote different kinds of stories under different names.

    In this series, Parker is a thief. Sometimes he kills people, but only when he has to. He does not like to kill – and he avoids other criminals who do. He just steals, even if he sometimes has to shoot a Pinkerton’s guard to do it.

    This story is an easy read, but it has good detail about the coin business, about conventions, dealers, and collectors. It is amazing how little has changed in 50 years. The author obviously did his homework, probably attended a coin show, and certainly talked to dealers and collectors. In the book, after robbing the coin show, the newspaper story estimates the haul at “three-quarters of a million.” The fence says that they always over-estimate. He offers Parker half: $200,000. That gets split four ways.
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  3. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    Cover Repair to Her Grave.jpg Cover Black Jack Point.jpg
    Mostly, writers of mysteries are not much better than the people who worked on Scooby-do. In these two books, the coins are mentioned only in passing. In Repair to her Grave by Sarah Graves, the coin is one-sided, as large as a cookie-cutter, so like 3 inches across and irregular. It has some kind of sun image and some kind of French inscription, but details are lacking.

    In Black Jack Point, the coins are part of a treasure buried by Jean Lafitte on Galveston Island. The descriptions are much better. These are silver 8-reales and gold escudos. Apparently the large 4-escudos, but the description is not detailed. The coins are dated to 1811 and 1818, just before Lafitte’s death in 1823. So, that much is realistic. But not much of the story hinges on the coins. Also, buried with them is a large emerald which gets some attention.
    Cover Treasure.jpg
    Clive Cussler’s Treasure is about a ship of scrolls taken from the Library of Alexandria to be saved from the mobs of Christian rioters. Archaeologists find the ship and try to figure out why it is in a glacier. Among the clues are coins from the late Roman empire. One of them is identified as a gold milaresion. That series actually came from about 200 years after the looting of the library.
    Latent Prints Challenge Coin.png

    This challenge coin was created by the New York Police Department latent fingerprint crime scene technicians.
    Cheese It.png
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  4. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    I have read few crime storys of any kind that match the true King Farouk 1933 double eagle story, possibly Dashiell Hammett's 1929 novel The Maltese Falcon.

    Linda Fairstein's 2004 mystery novel The Kills is partly inspired by the King Farouk case.

    Linda Fairstein The Kills (2004) book cover

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  5. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the links in your sigline.
    I went to http://www.brianrxm.com and read the articles and features in
    "Coins in Movies" and "Coins on Television."
  6. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Derp, derp, derp!

    Television and book.

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  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Caveat Emptor is one in a series of whodunnits by Ruth Downie set in the Roman Empire. Coins play a large role in this crime fiction novel:

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  8. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    Thank you kaparthy for the recommendation of the Richard Stark book The Rare Coin Score which I just finished reading.

    The book was pretty good, but a little on the James Bond macho side combined with a caper story.

    The cover illustration is interesting, an ancient Roman coin of Nero. In the book, the crooked coin dealer tells Parker and the thieves that they will steal only US and possibly some Canadian and Mexican coins, "no foreign".

  9. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Lovejoy.......cool detective from the eighties........Ian McShane was fabulous as the trendy, unscrupulous antiques dealer.

    Didn't he appear later in Hercules?
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  10. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    Here's one I picked up because of it sounded like a cool idea, following and Eid Mar denarius through time with 4 different collectors and the mysterious stuff that happened to them.


    I actually didn't finish it, the writing was pretty weak IMO, and I moved on to something else. I gave it to a friend and he really enjoyed it however.
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