USA Coin Album: I’ll Take the Radio

Posted on 2/11/2020

One entrepreneur traded merchandise for coins.

I grew up in the 1960s, a time when the coin hobby had a very high profile and insinuated itself into the popular culture in a big way. Coin-themed scripts were frequently featured on television, particularly in the many situation comedies so fondly remembered today. Much of that enthusiasm was based on the get-rich-quick principle, and this resulted in the publication of countless pulp guides to finding a fortune in one's pocket change. One individual, however, took this concept further than anyone else, and it makes for a very interesting tale.

Penny Treasure Hunt 1C Cover
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David A. Christianson, a coin dealer in New York City, published coin folders priced at 50 cents in which each coin entry is assigned a Treasure Point (TP) value. Embedded within the folder is a booklet that provides brief histories of the various coin types and also features a broad assortment of popular merchandise. These are likewise given TP values. As was explained within this booklet, the coins could be exchanged for the non-numismatic items by matching up point values. For example, the key date 1909-S V.D.B. cent (TP 3600) was worth enough to trade for pearl earrings (TP 3015) but not quite enough to secure an Airguide Biscayne barometer (TP 3630). Of course, most of the coins carried much lower point values. A photographic guide was provided that showed what sort of coin was acceptable for redemption and what was not.

Penny Treasure Hunt Inside
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The concept of trading points for merchandise was a familiar one in the 1960s. My parents always received either Blue Chip or S & H Green Stamps with most purchases of gasoline and other products. These stamps were issued in sheets and had gummed backs. All one had to do was give them a lick and paste them into books furnished for that purpose. When filled, these books were exchanged for the same sort of items that Christianson was offering. I recall that my mother acquired her home hair cutting kit this way, and memories of the horrifying results are still fresh after 50 years.

Penny Treasure Hunt Inside
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To date I've found just two of these Treasure Hunt coin folders, one for cents and the other for nickels. Whether or not folders for other denominations actually were produced is unknown. The November 11, 1960 issue of Coin World related that Christianson's Treasure Hunt Redemption Corporation planned to produce a total of four books annually, the other two being for dimes and quarters. The proposal was to update these each year as values and merchandise selections changed, but it's doubtful that the scheme lasted that long. The coin folders/books I have are labeled "1961 EDITION" and copyright dated 1960. They state that the point values were good from September of 1960 until September of the following year, when the 1962 editions would be issued, but I suspect these inaugural publications may be all that came of his enterprise.

Penny Treasure Hunt Inside
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One intriguing feature of these books is the address given for the company's office: 509 Fifth Avenue, New York City. When I read that, it immediately triggered a recollection. My 2007 book about antique coin boards features the products of Colonial Coin & Stamp Company, and that business was located right next door at Number 507. It seems that there must have been a "coin dealer's row" on that block, though both buildings were wiped away some years ago to be replaced with a modern high-rise.

Penny Treasure Hunt Inside
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Penny Treasure Hunt 5C Cover
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David W. Lange's column, “USA Coin Album,” appears monthly in The Numismatist, the official publication of the American Numismatic Association.


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