The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 9, February 27, 2022, Article 14


Mike Kodysz submitted this article on numismatics in episodes of the old Dennis the Menace television show. Cool - thanks! -Editor

To Howard Berlin's list of TV episodes with coin plots, I would like to add three episodes of Dennis the Menace. However, it would be more accurate to call these episodes numismatic," because two are about coins and one is about paper money. Spoiler alert: in all three episodes Dennis's neighbor, the hapless Mr. Wilson, gets arrested.

Dennis' Penny Collection, 1961
Dennis's father finds a 1911 Lincoln head cent in his pocket change. He gives it to Dennis to encourage his son to start a penny collection. They enlist the help of Mr. Wilson, a knowledgeable coin collector, who gives Dennis some Whitman folders.

Several misadventures result from Dennis's attempt to fill all the holes in his folders, such as bothering the local grocer by asking him for penny rolls. In the end, Mr. Wilson gets arrested while stopping Dennis from trying to break inside an armored vehicle to look for pennies.

  Dennis the Menace Numismatics penny-collection_01
  Dennis the Menace Numismatics penny-collection_02
  Dennis the Menace Numismatics penny-collection_03

To watch the complete episode, see:
Dennis The Menace - S02E14 - Dennis' Penny Collection (

The Treasure Chest, 1962
Dennis and Mr. Wilson attend an auction where Mr. Wilson spends $50 to buy an antique seaman's chest with missing key and unknown contents. Later in his garage, Mr. Wilson tries unsuccessfully to open the chest. When Mr. Wilson is away, Dennis picks the lock and finds only a spyglass, hat, and an old captain's coat, all apparently worthless. Planning to entice his friends to pay him for a peek inside the chest, Dennis draws a treasure map, folds it up, and stuffs it into the pocket of the coat. Later, Mr. Wilson finds the map, and thinking that it's genuine, gathers investors to fund an expedition to find the buried treasure.

Mr. Wilson looks foolish when Dennis interrupts the investors' meeting and tells them who drew the map. Suffering from a terrible shock, Mr. Wilson allows Dennis to take the contents of the chest to show his friends. But when Dennis lifts the coat the lining tears, and bundles of paper notes tumble out onto the floor! The excited Mr. Wilson declares them to be old-fashioned currency. After Mr. Wilson uses the cash to pay his debts and cover the cost of the chest, he's arrested by the local police sergeant for passing stolen money.

  Dennis the Menace Numismatics treasure-chest_01
  Dennis the Menace Numismatics treasure-chest_02
  Dennis the Menace Numismatics treasure-chest_03

To watch the complete episode, see:
Dennis The Menace - S03E28 - The Treasure Chest (

A Quiet Evening, 1962
Mr. Wilson plans to spend a quiet evening at home enjoying his favorite pastime, coin collecting. But his plan is interrupted when his wife Martha commits him to babysitting Dennis and friends. 

Mr. Wilson is proud of his new, valuable 1919-D dime that he says is worth $100. After Mr. Wilson shows his dime to the children, Dennis's younger friend Seymour borrows it to buy candy from a vending machine. Mr. Wilson breaks into the machine to retrieve his dime, but the entire inventory of dimes spills onto the ground. As Mr. Wilson sorts through the pile of dimes looking for his 1919-D, a policeman arrests him for stealing.

A close-up shot of the 1919-D dime shows not a winged liberty (Mercury) type as it should be, but a 1913 Barber dime. The coin has been heavily circulated, so even if it were an actual 1919-D it would have been worth a lot less than $100. $100 in 1962 is equal to around $930 today, but a worn 1919-D dime on eBay can be had for under $20!

Certainly, the writers meant the 1919-D as a stand-in for the much scarcer 1916-D. Maybe they wanted to avoid the expectation of showing an actual 1916-D dime on screen. But the fact that the prop master decided to show such a mediocre specimen of the wrong design type does contribute to the silliness of the plot.

  Dennis the Menace Numismatics quiet-evening_01
  Dennis the Menace Numismatics quiet-evening_02
  Dennis the Menace Numismatics quiet-evening_03

To watch the complete episode, see:
Dennis The Menace - S03E21 - A Quiet Evening (

I shared this with researcher David Lange, author of Coin Collecting Albums, A Complete History & Catalog: Volume Three, Whitman Publishing Company Folders and Albums 1940-1978 . -Editor

Dave writes:

"Yes, coin collecting was all over the popular media between 1960 and 1966. The folder Dennis is holding in the first photo is from Whitman's Third Edition (1959-64). The title is LINCOLN HEAD CENT / COLLECTION STARTING 1941 / NUMBER TWO. It is one of two possible Lange varieties: W1¢E3a or W1¢E3b, depending on whether the mint sequence is P-S-D or P-D-S, respectively (the transition occurred during 1960-61).

"The image mismatch in which a 1913 Barber Dime stands in for a 1919-D Mercury Dime would be repeated in the series My Three Sons. There's a 1966 episode in which youngest son Ernie (played by Barry Livingstone) is collecting pennies and is especially proud of his rare 1914-D specimen. When older brother Chip (played by Barry's real-life brother, Stanley) needs some change to pay the paper boy, he takes it from a pile of pennies left lying on a nearby table. You guessed it---among the seized coins was Ernie's prized 1914-D, or so Ernie believes when he can't find it. Only later does he stumble across the missing rarity on his bedroom floor. A close up is inserted of the recovered coin, and the camera clearly reveals an Indian Head Cent. It's likely the producers either didn't know that 1914 cents carry a portrait of Lincoln or simply thought that the audience would not be suitably convinced of the coin's value if they showed a familiar Lincoln Cent that looked just like the coins still in production.

"The popular coin message boards include several old threads describing television shows and movies that include coin themes or simply shots of now-old coins that were still circulating at the time. I've posted new entries to these messages myself on several occasions."

Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing writes:

"Delightful numis-hijinks! From time to time Hank Ketcham also depicted Mr. Wilson in the act of coin-collecting in the comic strip. If anyone is interested in the history of Dennis the Menace and the life of its creator, I recommend his autobiography, The Merchant of Dennis."

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: FEBRUARY 20, 2022 : TV Episodes with Coins in the Plot (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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