One of my favorite television shows is History Detectives, the PBS show where four people who have interests in various areas of antiques, history, and sociology research the background and history of artifacts people have found or had handed down to them by family members. Rather than determining the worth of an item like they do in Antiques Roadshow, the concentration is to learn about the item and its significance, or insignificance in history. Two of the History Detectives, Elyse Luray and Wes Cowen, have appeared on Antiques Roadshow.
Now in its fifth season, my local PBS television station showed the new second episode. One of the investigations was Dr. Gwendolyn Wright researching a Continental Currency $6 bill found by an Omaha, Nebraska family in a book. The story allows Dr. Wright to step outside of her area of architectural history to learn the historical significance of this note.
Rather than recap the segment here, you should visit the episode information on the History Detectives website to watch the eight minute video and read the transcript. I think you will find it as fascinating as I did.
When History Detectives are aired, the segments are concluded with another history detective giving more information about the general topic with more information. After the Continental Currency segment, Wes Cowen talked about the interesting history of US coins. Unfortunately, the two stories they used provided incorrect information.
The first mistake was saying that there was a public outcry from the public regarding the nudity on the Standing Liberty Type 1 Quarter. This myth was debunked by researcher Roger Burdette in his book Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921. Burdette writes that according to records from the US Mint and National Archives, designer Hermon A. MacNeil requested the change to make Lady Liberty look stronger in the face of the Great War (World War I).
The second mistake was the claim that the only legal 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle was smuggled out of the country. Although the coin was smuggled out of the Philadelphia mint, the State Department issued a legal export permit for a representative of King Farouk to carry the coin to Egypt. The State Department might have made a mistake, but that does not mean the coin was smuggled out of the country. To read more about this coin, I highly recommend the book Illegal Tender by David Tripp.
Even with these mistakes, I will continue to watch and recommend this show.