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The Furies

The Furies


On a stormy July night in Tucson, Arizona, a crowd of locals cram into the Paramount Theatre and sweat through the world premiere of the movie “The Furies”. It is 1950 and the Paramount Theatre does not have air conditioning. It had rained on the parade before the premiere and the 2,500 people that crowded into the theater got to see Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey and Ms. America 1949, Jacque Mercer, a native of Arizona. Not present was actor Walter Huston, who died in April of an aneurysm. The Furies was his last film.furiescover

It was only a month before in June that Tucson Mayor Joseph Niemann had declared July 1st to July 22nd as the “Furies Festival of Tucson”. This launched a grand attempt between Paramount studios, the city of Tucson, and local businesses to bolster the local economy, and promote the film. The movie was shot in and around the Old Pueblo, Tucson’s nickname.

It was late 2009 when in a normal transaction at Old Pueblo Coin yielded an unusual find. There was a group of green notes with cancel punches through them. They were in $5 and $50 denominations. The backs say “Furies Money” and read, “GOOD ONLY AT FURIES AUCTION, JULY, 1950. World Premier ‘The Furies,’ Tucson, Arizona”. A giant “TC” is in the center. In the film, TC Jeffords creates his own currency (TC notes) and starts paying people with them! With 2 native Tucsonans and a third person on staff with 40 years here in Tucson, we were all surprised at these notes and unaware of the movie and its local consequences, until this point in time.

tc5revAt first glance they look like movie prop currency and in fact they were used in the movie and were an integral part of the story. The face of the note depicts a bare breasted woman riding a bull and the denomination in each corner as well as the words “IOU FIFTY DOLLARS” across the top. It is “signed” by TC Jeffords, the main character of the movie. The center of the note reads, “AMICUS HUMANI GENERIS”. This translates to “A friend of the human race”. All the notes are punch cancelled “PAID +7.22.50 91.11”.

The notes are both referenced and used in the movie, as “TC’s” and are used to pay people that TC and his family deal with. They play a major role in the overall theme of the movie. In the end … well, I won’t ruin the movie for you, but as you can guess, “TC’s” don’t hold their value.

IMG_5316The Furies Festival here in the Old Pueblo was a big deal. Tucson businesses were taking out full-page ads in the Tucson Daily Citizen, the local newspaper, advertising that they would give their customers Furies money with every purchase. They promoted “Furies Value Days”, “Furies Money-Saving Festival”, and don’t forget about the “Fabulous Furies Festival of July Values”! The Furies Money was being given out at a dollar-to-dollar ratio. If you bought a sofa for $59 from Rueben’s on Congress Street you got $59 in Furies Money. Although we only have seen the $5 and $50 notes, it is assumed that $1’s, $10’s and $20’s were made, possibly even $100.’s. In fact, the Furies Festival Committee pleaded in the paper “HELP! HELP! We cannot keep up with the demand for $1.00 Furies Bills . . all who have been able to collect a number of these can help us greatly, if you will take them to any store and exchange them for bills of larger denomination”.The Furies money and the Furies Festival were to culminate in the Furies Festival Auction, to be held July 22nd at Randolph Park. The happy consumers could bring their Furies Money to the auction and bid on items. The auction featured over 200 items; from household goods, clothing and watches, to the climax of the auction, with the main prize being a brand new Convertible Hillman Minx automobile sold by World Wide Motors.MinxMkIVcoupeAfter a wet and sweaty premiere, the people were looking forward to finally getting to spend their Furies Money in the auction, which started promptly at 7 p.m. Here are some excerpts from the Tucson Daily Citizen:“Furies Auction under heavy criticism. Boy’s Bicycle $4,000, portable radio, $4.000: man’s hat, $3,500… Those prices do not reflect the inflationary picture of some foreign country where it takes a suitcase full of money to buy a loaf of bread, but they do indicate the terrible amount of inflation that was rampant at the “Fabulous Furies Auction”.

Thousands showed up, many leaving right away and ‘’throwing their Furies money to the ground in disgust’’. The Minx car sold for $46,000. as well as “Every other price realized, equally out of reason for the average bidder…” . It was unlikely that average income locals spent many, many thousands of dollars during this 3 week period just to accumulate Furies Money. Although the bleachers were packed, they were empty by 10:30, even though the auction went well past midnight.

What caused all this inflationary bidding? It sounds as if there were some security issues with the notes. “Any number of employees of local business houses could be seen in the crowd flashing huge rolls of bills which could not have been collected during the three-week promotion with purchases. Sales girls with $19,000 in Furies Money, teen-age boys with $8,000 to $15,000– individuals with various amounts ranging upward from $10,000. Obviously – the average person does not purchase merchandise totaling such amounts in a year – much less in three weeks.”

To this day it is still unkown who paid for the Furies and how much they paid. Since they are cancelled as ‘’paid’’ the same day as the auction, some one was turning them in for Federal Reserve Notes. Our belief is that Paramount paid for the notes. They then gave a percentage of value for them when they were turned in at the auction. The only problem for the payer of these notes (presumably Paramount) is that the businesses had no incentive to keep them under wraps, as all notes that are brought back in during the auction, go to bolster the auction items price. In other words, the seller of the car possibly worked out a deal to have the other businesses bid up the items without any risk of them losing money on their item.

This neat piece of Old Pueblo history which ties together local business, politics, movies, actors, an actress, new cars, Mrs. America and scriptography ends with disdain and anger from a small community that felt like it was duped into taking TC dollars….just like in the movie!

Additional Notes

Victor Milner was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Theme Song- TC Roundup by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Listen Here.

You can see a Hillman Registry list here.

You can order the Furies movie here.


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Have a Plan for Collecting Coins

When you collect things, it is good to have a plan. Going to a coin shop without a plan is a lot like going grocery shopping without a list….when you are hungry.

You first need to know what you want to collect. Sounds silly, I know. But without a grocery list I tend to buy junk I don’t really need and am not happy later when I run out of money and didn’t buy any milk or eggs.  The same is true when you go to a show or a coin shop or even online. You may see something and impulse buy on it. If you buy Morgan dollars, do you only want certain grades? Do you only want to spend a certain amount on each coin? If you take the time to narrow your focus down, you are less likely to want to sell things down the road as a duplicate, (what honey, you bought toilet paper last week?), or a bad buy (I thought those $5 ALF DVD’s would be good viewing for years to come).

To set parameters for your shopping trip you will, of course, need to know your budget. But this goes beyond just looking in your wallet. It involves knowing what the market is for the coins you are looking for. It helps to have a list of the coins you want and price ranges for the grades you find acceptable. I say ranges intentionally. Buying coins is not like going to In-N-Out, where the prices are the same and the food is the same every time. It is a bit more like real estate. No two homes are the same, so you work with comparable pricing. This house had a pool, this one 3 car garage. This coin has less wear, but a rim nick. This coin is uncirculated, but  lacks eye appeal.  Knowing your price ranges will help you to say yes or no to a purchase and be satisfied with the results. This also means knowing what your must have items are. Number of rooms, location, size. What is more important, the grade, the price, the eye appeal?

It takes time to learn what is most important to you in a coin. It takes time to know what the market is. Part of the lesson here is to be in your hobby and you will be satisfied with your hobby. Lazy collectors are unsatisfied collectors. So take the time and have a plan with all your collecting.


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Coin Collecting at Any Price

One of the great pleasures of collecting coins is that you can collect at any price. If you start off young, you can find deals on world coins for a quarter each, or by the pound. You can collect wheat pennies for 4c each. You can buy paper money for 20c each. As you age and advance your collecting tastes may change, and hopefully your income advances as well. Perhaps you start paying hundreds of dollars for a coin. You may only actively seek out more rare or scarce coins or currency. You can still go to a coin shop and find an inexpensive coin that you had as a kid, or maybe something you’ve never seen before, and get just as excited about spending $5 as you do $500. The enjoyment comes from the hunt, from the mystery, the lesson learned, the art, the history and the camaraderie with other collectors.

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Bit Coin….

A lot has been made of Bitcoin over the last year. First, the overly verbose definition:

“An electronically derived unit of value exchanged anonymously between two parties to a transaction. An electronic version of paper currency but digitally signed/encrypted instead of being physical.”

What?!? Imagine trading a bond or a stock but without it being backed by a company or an entity. It is traded between companies or individuals and is like using your debit card, and having an amount subtracted from your account. The only difference between bitcoin and federal reserve notes is that bitcoin is completely fabricated, unlike US currency which is….hmmm….perhaps they have more in common than I  first thought.

You can find a buy and sell price for Bitcoin on mainstream websites. You can find the history of bitcoin here.

The amazing part of the history is that bitcoin has been deemed currency and has been seized in some cases, and yet more and more entities are looking at taking bitcoin in exchange for services. This is particularly interesting when you look at how volatile the ”currency” has been.

We will see where it all ends up. It has given us a lot to talk about and some companies have made copper versions of ”bitcoin”. I’m waiting for the second rendition to come out , so we can see what a 2 bitcoin looks like.


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When Rare isn’t Rare, or is it?!

When is a rare coin not rare? If you are trying to put together a set of coins, let’s say Lincoln cents, and you only want certified coins, you will eventually run into this problem. The rarest coin in the set is the 1909-S VDB. Although it is rare, it is readily available. Go to most any coin show and you’ll have several to choose from. But if you start to fill out your set and you are looking for a 1940’s penny that is certified in the grade you are looking for, good luck! Although Lincoln pennies for the 1940’s are common, they are rarely certified.

This is because most people are smart enough to not spend $30 to get a $5 coin certified. So they are very hard to find. They are in fact, much more rare than a 1909 S VDB! Of course, the coin itself is not more rare than the 1909-S VDB, just the certified version.  This takes you to the conversation about which coins to collect certified and which ones to collect raw (or shall we say organic!).  Is there a cut off date for each series? Is there a price point at which you only buy a coin certified?         There is nothing wrong with buying certified coins, but don’t let the mail order culture scare you away from organic collecting. You may find late night TV guys selling certified coins at big premiums, that doesn’t mean they are worth that price. It also doesn’t mean that you should shy away from raw coins of the same type of coin. The TV guys like to sell modern slabbed coins. They sell coins that do not need to be certified at all…they are not rare coins! Go ahead and go organic with most of your coin collecting. You get to hold, and see your coin completely unencumbered.

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QOTD Should I clean my coins?

Should I clean my coins? The quick answer is always “no”.

A lot of people who are new to coins think they are doing good to get some ”dirt” off the coin by taking a jewelry cloth to it or putting some chemical on it. Although this can add ”shine” to the coin, that does not add value. It actually detracts from the collector value.  Once you alter the original surface and luster, or the patina on a coin a collector will value it less. They prefer a ”dull” but original coin to a shiny one.

Think of it like art. There are professionals who can ”restore” a piece of artwork without damaging it, but you or I would never dare try to clean or restore artwork. The same is true of coins. They can be professionally restored, but when the average person tries to help them they often will do more harm than good. We have seen $100 coins turned into $10 coins really fast because someone was ”only wiping the dirt off”. If you want to keep your coins valuable, then keep them in the original condition. This is true of many collectibles, so before you clean anything, have them evaluated.

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QOTD – Highest Possible Grade

QOTD – Question of the day. Real Questions asked by customers.

“What is the highest grade possible on a coin”.

Coins can be graded verbally (Good, Very Fine et al) or by number (4, 20 et al). Based on the number grades the highest possible grade is “70”.  The verbal grade would be ”perfect”. On modern coins you will find coins graded Mint State or Proof 70. On older coins, like the Morgan silver dollar it is unusual to see coins graded higher than MS66.  It can be fun trying to find ‘perfect’ coins. Many collectors put together a Type Set. In a type set the goal is to get one example of each type of coin. For example, one Morgan dollar, one Peace dollar, one Eisenhower dollar. Most collectors will try to find the most common date coins in the highest grade possible. Others have preferred to put together a set with the rarest possible coins. For Example, 1893 -S Morgan $1, 1928 Peace $1. Some unconventional, and possibly disturbed collectors will try to find the lowest possible grade coins they can find!

Whatever grade coin you are looking for, and for more information on coin collecting give us a call 520-881-7200 or stop by our central Tucson location at 4255 E Speedway (85712).

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Coins 101 Indian Head Cent 1859-1909

After the Flying Eagle cent James Longacre was called on again, and this time created the Indian Cent. It was first issued in 1859, with a laurel wreath on the reverse. This design was only for one year. Starting in 1860 the coin had a new reverse with a shield added at the top of the wreath (and a new wreath style too).

The first 5 1/2  years the coin was produced of 88% copper, 12% nickel and were thick, like the Flying Eagle Cent. Before the first nickel 5 cent piece came out in 1866 this coins were often called ”nickels” or ”nicks”. Midway through 1864 the coins were made thin, like today’s cent, and the purity was changed to 95% copper and 5% alloy.

The design and composition stayed the same from 1865-1909. There was the addition of the mint mark in 1908 as the San Francisco mint struck it’s first cents. The mint mark is at 6 O’clock on the reverse of the coin.

Indian Cents from the mid 1880s and newer are very affordable, mostly costing a dollar or two in average condition. There are several more rare dates including the 1877 and the 1909-S. These rare dates are several hundreds of dollars in low grade.

The Indian cent has it’s name from the depiction of Liberty wearing a Native American Headdress. The design has stood up to the test of time.

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JFK and his Half Dollar

John Kennedy was the 35th president of the United states. Today (November 22, 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of the fateful day he was assassinated. The day is not lost in the realm of coins. In fact it created a coin we still have today- the Kennedy half dollar.

About 3 days after the assassination Mint Director Eva Adams called Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and instructed him to start looking into designs for a US coin with John F Kennedy’s visage on it. On December 10th President Johnson issued a press release recommending passage of a bill before congress, and on December 30th the congress passed the law issuing the Kennedy half dollar. During that short window Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts and his staff worked behind the scenes to get a design ready, even before they knew what denomination it would be on. They had the widow, Mrs. Kennedy approve of the design before the law was even passed.kennedy

On January 2nd, 1964 proof dies were delivered and the mint presses started on a coin that we still have today. Coins started to reach circulation around the end of March. Mass hoarding of the coins was taking place. Many people sought them for the historical significance. Others were grabbing them up as silver prices started to rise. Over 425 million of the coins were produced, over 4 times as many as the year before.

Not only did the Kennedy half dollar replace the Franklin half, it also was the final year the US mint put 90% pure silver into the coins. Silver quality was reduced to 40% purity in the half dollar from 1965-1970. Since 1971 there has been no silver in circulating half dollars. Today the Kennedy half dollar’s value is based on the current silver market. With silver around $20 per ounce, the half dollar has about $7.25 of silver in each coin.

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Coins 101 The Flying Eagle Cent

The Flying Eagle cent was a transitional coin. It was the stepping stone from the large cent to the Indian head cent. It was only produced for circulation for two years, 1857 and 1858. It is the same diameter as our current cent, but is about twice the thickness. It was a big step down in size. The previous cent (“large cent”) was 27.5 mm in size and the Flying Eagle cent is 19mm.

James Longacre designed the coin, as well as the Indian Cent. The name of the coin comes from the design. It has an eagle in flight on the front with the legend “United States of America”. The back of the coin has a wreath and says “ONE CENT” in the middle. Well worn examples of the Flying Eagle Cent start at about $20. Middle grades range from $75 to $100. An uncirculated example exceeds the $400 price barrier.


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