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The Flipside with Robert R. Van Ryzin

'Coins' Hit the Big Screen in 'The Truman Show'
October 10, 2007



Here's a fun bit of trivia I'll bet few in the hobby know. What coin-related magazine appears on a newspaper kiosk in the Golden Globe-winning movie, "The Truman Show," starring Jim Carrey?

It's Coins magazine - the October 1996 issue to be exact.

In 1996, well before "The Truman Show" reached theaters, I received, by fax, a Legal Script Clearance from Beth Unger Morrison, representing Paramount Pictures Corp., asking me, as Coins' editor, to approve the use of Coins magazine in the movie.

The cover letter noted that:

"Our film is directed by Peter Weir ("DEAD POETS SOCIETY", "FEARLESS") and stars Jim Carrey ("ACE VENTURA") and Dennis Hopper ("SPEED"). "THE TRUMAN SHOW" is about Truman Burbank (played by Carrey), whose whole life is a television show, only he is the only one who doesn't know it. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week people across the country tune in to watch Truman's every move but when he finds out that his life is not real, Truman tries to escape the show. A confrontation occurs between the show's producer, Christof (played by Hopper), who ultimately loses Truman to the real world."

Paramount wanted to use the cover of the October 1996 issue of Coins in scenes at a newspaper kiosk that Truman passes every day on his way to work. The magazine would appear as set dressing in the background. Provided also by Morrison were two pages of a Sept. 8, 1996-dated version of the script, detailing Truman's visit to the newspaper kiosk in downtown Seahaven in scene 10.

She advised that:

"We hope to use your magazine in the scenes at the newspaper kiosk that Truman passes on his way to work. Truman always stops and looks at the magazines, then curiously picks one up and tears a portion of a page; we see this same routine happen twice in the film (for example, see attached scene 10). Your magazine will be seen ONLY as set dressing on the rack and will not be used as the one Truman tears. Also, no dialogue reference will be made towards it."

Filming was slated to begin on Dec. 2, 1996, and Paramount wanted me to grant permission and provide extra copies of the October 1996 issue of Coins for the kiosk.

Permission was granted, and the copies were sent to Nancy Haigh (set decorator for the movie and frequent Academy Award nominee and an Oscar recipient for her work on the 1991 film, "Bugsy") in Seaside, Fla. Seaside was the town that was the inspiration for Seahaven in the movie. And, according to one Internet site, principal photography for The Truman Show began on Dec. 9.

However, it took until June 5,1998, for the film to come out. By that time Dennis Hopper had been replaced by Ed Harris in the role of Christof, and I feared that the magazine would be forgotten. So I didn't go to see the movie in the theater - waiting until it came out on video.

Admittedly, it is a bit hard to see (easier with a DVD and zoom), but Coins made it onto the kiosk and appears in two scenes. The most popular item at the newspaper kiosk is a magazine called "Dog Fancy." However, on at least two occasions, Truman buys a fashion magazine. On his first visit to the kiosk, you see him reach for a copy of She magazine. Coins is on the rack just above. However, it's really hard to make out.

A much better view comes later in the movie, just after the camera focuses in on a Seahaven resident reading a copy of The Island Times newspaper with the headline "Crackdown on Homeless." You can make out Coins on the top shelf, outside of the kiosk at the right of the screen. At one point, they are just over Truman's shoulder. Clearly visible is the Coins masthead, which was for that issue in yellow, as the lead headline was "Going for the gold" with the subhead "Affordable ways to begin a gold coin collection" below it.

In the corner, next to COINS, is the obverse of a 1996 Smithsonian commemorative gold $5. However, on my small screen, all that could be made out was its circular form. Same was true of the headlines below it.

The cover also featured a one-ounce gold American Eagle in a Capital Plastics holder, which is partially obscured by the masthead. Lower on the page, in the capsules they were issued in, are a silver Eagle and another gold Eagle.

Why the set decorator wanted this particular issue of Coins, I'm not certain, unless she was attracted by the 'Going for the gold" headline and at some point it was thought this would be in a position where it could be read by movie viewers. If it was just the Coins masthead that was liked, any issue of Coins would have worked. Perhaps you can read the headlines better on the big screen.

"The Truman Show" was nominated for three Oscars and six Golden Globes, winning three Golden Globes, including Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama honors for Carrey. It also won the 1999 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. I'd like to think Coins helped. Too bad there's no award for best supporting set dressing.

"And the award goes to..."

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About the Author
Robert R. Van Ryzin has been a coin collector for 30 years. He has served as editor of Krause Publications Coins and Coin Prices magazines since 1994. He joined the firm in 1986 after obtaining a master of fine arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Prior to becoming a magazine editor, he worked on World Coin News as a staff member and later served as managing editor of Numismatic News. Van Ryzin, whose specialty is U.S. coinage history, is also the award-winning author of the book Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection (Krause Publications, 2001), as well as two earlier titles, Twisted Tails: Sifted Fact, Fantasy and Fiction from U.S. Coin History (Krause Publications, 1995) and Striking Impressions: A Visual Guide to Collecting U.S. Coins (Krause Publications, 1992).

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