Those watching television in the evening had the opportunity to watch two shows were numismatics played a role in the story. On Monday night, CBS’s Hawaii Five-0 had a story that included Spanish gold escudos and the Hawaii over-print dollars.

After a child found a disembodied hand floating in the water, the fingerprints identified its former owner. When they went to search his home, the Five-0 team found Spanish gold coins soaking in a tank of water. McGarrett and Danny Williams went to a local museum to learn that a Spanish galleon carrying a cargo of gold coins sunk near the islands. Being good detectives, Five-0 traces the search for the galleon to a diving company that specializes in searching for lost treasure. As part of looking for the rest of the body, Five-0 and the Coast Guard finds an abandoned boat—or what they thought was abandoned. This leads them to go diving to see what was below the surface.

In an underwater wreckage, they find a body. When the body was examined, the wallet contained currency that was washed out. Using whatever forensic techniques they used to identify the note, they enhanced the image to find that it was a Series 1934A Federal Reserve Note issued in 1942. The forensic scientist explains how the Hawaii overprint notes were issued in case the notes were captured by the Japanese during an invasion. If that happened, the notes could be demonetized, making them useless.

The note was used to help identify the body and the gold escudos were used to trace who was responsible for the murder.
To see the full episode of “Mea Makamae,” you can watch it on CBS’s website here.

One of my favorite shows is History Detectives on PBS. For those who have not seen the show, History Detectives explores the history behind artifacts that people find or are handed down by family members to discover its history and the history behind the objects. Anyone who loves history may want to add History Detectives to your must see list.

This past week, Gwen Wright, who is also a professor of architecture at Columbia University, investigate a stock certificate issued by the Harlem Associated Heirs Title Company.

The person who initiated the investigation was a collector of stock and bond certificates, a part of numismatics called scripophily. Those who collect these certificates have interests in financial history, the signatures, or artwork on the certificates. Early certificates were hand autographed by the presidents and treasurers of the companies making them more desirable. Today, stock certificates are a thing of the past since stocks are transacted electronically.

In this investigation, Wright traces the certificate to the history of Harlem. Originally, the area we know as Harlem was a remote area of Manhattan island, far away from what we know today as downtown where most of the people lived. The area was dotted with exclusive vacation homes of the rich with a section of land that was granted to a group of people. By the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, New York City grew so much that Harlem was no longer a remote area and the city worked with developers to develop the land regardless of alleged ownership. The Harlem Associated Heirs Title Company was a group who tried to reclaim the property after the turn of the 20th century.

Of course I left out some details. Watch the segment from this week’s show:

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

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