BrianRxm Coins on Television 17/24
Perry Mason - The Case of the Wooden Nickels (1964)
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This episode of the CBS television program "Perry Mason" shows several early American and foreign coins,
including an 1861 Confederate half dollar, a 1776 Continental silver dollar, and some wooden nickels.
 
The "Perry Mason" program ran from 1957 to 1966.
Perry Mason is a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who specializes in defending murder suspects.
Some stories were adapted from mystery novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner and others were
written for the program.
 
The program followed a formula where Perry's clients are always innocent, and the "real killer"
confesses at the end.
 
This episode is titled "The Case of the Wooden Nickels", and was first broadcast on December 10, 1964.
 
The daughter of a rare coin dealer who is accused of killing her former lover who has involved her father
in a crooked scheme involving counterfeiting rare coins and then selling them.
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
1. Title
 
Perry Mason has a law office in Los Angeles, and working with him are his administrative assistant
Della Street, and the private detective Paul Drake.
 
Miss Minerva Doubleday enters Perry's office talks to Drake.
She wants Drake to pick up a large sum of money at a street corner where he is to use the name
"Jefferson Davis".
 
She shows Drake a Confederate half dollar which is worth $50,000.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
2. Drake examines the coin while Della watches
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
3. The Confederate half dollar obverse
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
4. The Confederate half dollar reverse
 
Copies of Confederate half dollars have been around for many years and one was used as a
prop coin in this episode.
 
A copy of a Confederate half dollar:
 
Confederate half dollar copy
5. Confederate half dollar Copy
 
This coin is a common replica which is still sold as a souvenir at Civil War historical sites.
 
Homer Doubleday runs a small coin shop "The Numismatist" in downtown Los Angeles.
He owns the Confederate half dollar that his daughter is selling.
 
Vivian Norman enters, she works for a wealthy fanatical coin collector named Howard Hopkins.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
6. Vivian visits Homer at his coin store
 
Homer and Howard do not like each other, Vivian offers $60,000 for the coin which Homer declines.
Vivian proceeds to threaten Homer with Howard's wealth and power.
Homer tells her that he is selling the Confederate half dollar to someone else.
 
Vivian leaves and Homer heads for the back room where George Parsons waits.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
7. George Parsons and Homer at his coin store
 
Homer has a sideline of manufacturing replicas of rare coins and he has discovered that George
has sold some of his replicas as original coins.
 
George has sold replicas of "an undated J. Conway five-dollar gold piece",
"a Baldwin and Company ten-dollar gold horseman", "an 1884 trade dollar with chop marks",
"a 1776 Continental silver dollar", and "a gold Fugio cent".
These are all real extremely rare United States coins.
 
Minerva enters, sees George, a former boyfriend, and tells him to get out.
She tells her father that Paul Drake is handling the half dollar transaction.
 
At a restaurant, Perry, Della, and Paul are having lunch.
Drake shows Perry the Confederate half dollar and Della produces a book "American Numismatic Guide"
which on page 166 has an article on the coin.
 
Due to shortage of silver bullion only four originals struck in 1861 at the New Orleans Mint
making it one of the rarest US coins.
The coins were made on a hand press using United States silver half dollar planchets.
One was presented to Jefferson Davis, one to Professor Biddle of the University of Louisiana,
a third was kept by Chief Coiner B.F. Taylor and the fourth was eventually acquired by a
Doctor H. Doubleday of New Orleans.
 
They all wonder if Homer Doubleday is related to Doctor Doubleday.
Perry signals a waitress and holds up a Franklin half dollar.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
8. Perry Mason holds Franklin half dollar
 
Perry takes the Confederate half dollar to a "coin expert", he picks Howard as the expert and
heads out to Howard's mansion where Howard receives Perry in an ornate office.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
9. Perry Mason and Howard Hopkins in his home office
 
Howard shows Perry a 1913 Liberty Nickel, one of the original five owned by Colonel Green,
son of the famous Hetty Green, he paid $22,000 for that in 1952.
(The coin here is too small to identify)
 
He then shows Perry some wooden nickels, one used by miners at Sutters Mill in 1849,
one issued at Vicksburg during the Grant siege, both worth $1000 now.
 
Perry shows Howard the Confederate half dollar, Howard examines it under a magnifying glass.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
10. Howard Hopkins's coin tray with Confederate half dollar magnified
 
Some unidentifable tokens appear in the tray.
 
Howard immediately offers Perry $60,000 for it, Perry refuses, and has a hard time getting it
back from Howard.
 
Paul heads to the coin shop and discovers Minerva searching a recently shot George Parsons.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
11. Minerva and the late George Parsons
 
The police and Perry arrive, then police search George's apartment and find love letters from
Minerva, she becomes the prime suspect and is arrested, with Perry becoming her attorney.
 
Homer admits he has the Confederate half dollar from his grandfather, he tells Perry he was going
to sell it to a secret buyer to keep the sale out of news. He continues that George was selling copies
to museums as originals.
 
Homer's copies can be recognized as they have an altered center of gravity and won't stand on edge.
Homer was going to sell the Confederate half dollar to raise funds to buy back the copies.
Minerva tells Perry that she gave Drake a replica to sell and was searching Parsons for the real one.
 
The preliminary hearing begins with District Attorney Hamilton Burger prosecuting Minerva.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
12. The courtroom and DA Hamilton Burger
 
A witness produces some wooden nickels.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
13. Wooden nickels
 
The coin next to the wooden nickels appears to be a copy of an ancient coin.
 
Perry and Paul head to a San Francisco museum to examine one of the coins that George sold.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
14. The De Young Museum of San Francisco (in 1964)
 
This building has been torn down and a new modern building now houses the museum.
 
Perry and Paul head for the museum coin exhibit (which the museum doesn't have now).
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
15. Museum coin room
 
Perry asks to see the "Ten dollar horseman", for some reason it is in a British coin holder.
 
The coin is portrayed by the reverse of an ordinary United States $10 gold coin.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
16. United States $10 gold coin and British coin holder
 
The coin case reads "By Appointment to H.M. the Queen (or King)...
Perry discovers that the museum coin is authentic.
 
Perry has now guessed at what has happened, and several players head to Howard's mansion.
 
Howard's Continental dollar is discovered to be a replica.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
17. Howard's Continental dollar
 
Now occurs the traditional scene where the suspects and police are gathered in a room.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
18. Suspects
 
Perry announces that George and Vivian were stealing Howard's rare coins and substituting copies.
George would then sell the originals to museums.
 
Howard discovered the thefts, then hired a safecracker to get Homer's safe combination.
He then went to Homer's coin shop, opened the safe, George walked in, and Howard shot him.
 
Howard holds a bunch of coins that he will not see any more.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
19. Howard holds his coins
 
They appear to be two United States Morgan silver dollars, the Continental silver dollar,
a Italian copper 10 centesimi of Victor Emanuel II, and a Mexican bronze Josefa 5 centavos coin.
 
Minerva is released from jail and, back at Perry's office, Drake pulls out some change and
announces that he is looking for wooden nickels.
 
Perry Mason Wooden Nickels
20. Drake looking for wooden nickels.
 
Notes:
 
Cast:
Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
William Talman as Hamilton Burger
Will Kuluva as Homer Doubleday
Phyllis Love as Minerva Doubleday
Nancy Berg as Vivian Norman
Murray Matheson as Howard Hopkins
Jack Betts as George Parsons
 
Director: Arthur Marks
Writers: Erle Stanley Gardner, Jonathan Latimer, Samuel Newman
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