Wednesday, December 14, 2011

“The Brasher Doubloon”

From The Associated Press, Published: December 12
NEW ORLEANS — An exceedingly rare 1787 gold Brasher doubloon has been sold for $7.4 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a gold coin.
Blanchard and Co., the New Orleans-based coin and precious metals company that brokered the deal, told The Associated Press the doubloon was purchased by a Wall Street investment firm. Identities of the buyer and seller were not disclosed.
Minted by Ephraim Brasher, a goldsmith and neighbor of George Washington, the coin contains 26.66 grams of gold — slightly less than an ounce. Worth about $15 when it was minted, the gold value today would be more than $1,500.
The Brasher doubloon is considered the first American-made gold coin denominated in dollars; the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia didn’t begin striking coins until the 1790s, and foreign coins of various currencies were in use in the nation’s early years.
The Brasher coin was called a doubloon because it is approximately the weight of a Spanish gold doubloon, a common coin in colonial America.

Seven point four million bucks! Not bad, considering that in 1942 a character in Raymond Chandler’s “The High Window” wants Philip Marlowe to track down a stolen Brasher doubloon:
“What was taken was a coin. A rare coin called a Brasher Doubloon. It was the pride of my [late] husband’s collection. The coin is said to be worth more than ten thousand dollars. It’s a mint specimen.”
From ten grand to seven million in 70 years represents a decent return on your investment, although I’m sure any amateur economist could quickly come up with even better ways to have invested $10,000 in ’42. Still, $7.4 million for a coin is obviously for the one-percenters out there. I wonder if the doubloon will be donated to a museum or the Smithsonian Institute. Doubtful.
“The High Window” was Chandler’s third novel, following “The Big Sleep” and “Farewell, My Lovely” (see below). Chandler packs the novel with interesting characters and his lauded style, that hardboiled patois honed from observing the passing parade of glamour and grotesquery that made up southern California—and still does. Here’s Marlowe meeting his rich client, Elizabeth Bright Murdock:
“She had a lot of face and chin. She had pewter-colored hair set in a ruthless permanent, a hard beak and large moist eyes with the sympathetic expression of wet stones. There was lace at her throat, but it was the kind of throat that would have looked better in a football sweater.”
Take a look at last Sunday’s Times Book Review bestseller lists and tell me if any genre writer writes as well. Hell, forget genre writers. Just look at the fiction lists. I doubt you could make a case for more than two or three authors with distinctive, original styles, and none would be called genre writers. Have you ever read a book by James Patterson?
“The High Window” was made into a 1947 movie called “The Brasher Doubloon.” George Montgomery played Marlowe. I’ve never seen the film, never seen TCM schedule it, but I’d love to catch it and compare Montgomery to all those other actors who took at shot at Marlowe, including Bogart, Dick Powell, Robert Montgomery, James Garner, Elliott Gould, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Danny Glover and Powers Boothe.
There’s something about Marlowe that appeals to multiple interpretations on film, despite Chandler painting a clear portrait of his tough yet philosophical hero over the course of seven novels. Check out, say, an excellent Dick Powell in 1944's “Murder, My Sweet” with Gould’s equally excellent but unique approach to Marlowe in “The Long Goodbye.” Surely some Hollywood producer is down there peddling yet another Marlowe. How ‘bout George Clooney? Johnny Depp? Tom Hanks? The possibilities are limitless. All I’d ask is that Marlowe remain in his period of the late 1930s to mid 50s. It’s where he belongs, with all due respect to Robert Altman and Elliott Gould, who set their film in 1973.


Blogger P. Doe said...

Gee, that looks just like the one in grammy's drawer !!!

6:01 PM  
Blogger P. Doe said...

Don Kagin of Tiburon was part-owner of the coin sold for $7.4 million. He is a highly placed dealer whose father was in the same general business, numismatics.

6:03 PM  

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