Irregular Postings on Coin Collecting & Numismatics - Both Canonical & Conanical

A Scion Society of The Baker Street Irregulars

Numismatists Do Not Fear Change

Data! Data! Data! – The Golden Pince-Nez

Data! Data! Data! – The Golden Pince-Nez

“‘Data! Data! Data!‘ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.’”

– The Adventures of the Copper Beeches (COPP)

It was young Stanley Hopkins, a promising detective.
It was young Stanley Hopkins, a promising detective.

This column is composed of material (Data!) developed for a short course called Appreciating Sherlock Holmes that I teach twice a year in the Community Education Life Enrichment Program for the Community College of Baltimore County.  It is composed of “points of information” that are common to many / most / all of the 60 Canonical stories.

The information here has been researched by me or borrowed / stolen from many efforts of other Sherlockians.

Ahhh, it’s September:  The summer heat is gone and the kids are back in school.  A little time to sit down, relax, have your favorite beverage, and actually read the entire column.

HERE GOES      This month’s story The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez


“It was a drenching November night when Stanley Hopkins came to consult Holmes, bringing a pair of nose glasses that had been found by the body of the victim.  Holmes comforted Hopkins with a cigar and a hot toddy, but the mystery was really solved by smoking cigarettes.  The case, dealing with political exiles, seems quite contemporary in tone.”

DUMMIES SHORT SUMMARY (From Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle & David Crowder)

“When a bedridden scholar’s personal assistant is murdered, Holmes solves the case by smoking cigarettes and looking into the killer’s dropped eyeglasses.”


  • This is the 36th of the 60 tales published
  • The Strand Magazine in July, 1904
  • Collier’s Weekly on October 29, 1904
  • It is part of The Return of Sherlock Holmes collection published (in book form) in 1905.
  • The British illustrator is the famous Sidney Paget. In the United States, Frederick Dorr Steele was the illustrator.


According to C. E. Lauderback, 1960 – – found on SHERLOCKIAN.NET website of Chris Redmond

At 8,989 words The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez has the 39th most words (#1 is The Veiled Lodger – 4,499, #56 is The Naval Treaty – 12,701)

THE BEST OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (How do Sherlockians rate this story?)

This month’s tale is fairly far down the favorites list.

  • 1999 – The Baker Street Irregular members voted it as 48th of the 56 short stories
  • 1999 – Sherlock Holmes Society of London voted it as 52nd of the 56 short stories

CLASSIFYING THE CASE (From the Wandering Gipsies of Grimpen Mire of Decatur, Alabama)

This case is one of 23 classified as a MURDER and one of 14 where the perpetrator was either killed, arrested, or otherwise satisfactorily handled.    Question: Was the perpetrator satisfactorily handled?


Doyle was often very vague about stating WHEN the tale took place and included few contemporary references to help.  Whether this was done intentionally or unthinkingly, the dating of events in the Canon is a very popular pastime pursued by several of our “scholars” researching and justifying their results to no end.  We will again default to William Baring-Gould’s dating of  Wednesday November 14 and Thursday November 15, 1894.   This means that Holmes is 40 and Watson 42


It is always interesting to see what else in happening at the same time as the stories.

GREAT BRITAINPortrait of Britain 2014 - Tower Bridge

  • Gladstone retires; Rosebery becomes prime minister
  • Tower Bridge opens
  • Turbinia, first steam-turbine ship launched
  • Merchant Shipping Act: Masters, mates, and engineers to hold Board of Trade certificates


  • Sino-Japanese War (1894 – 95)
  • French take Madagascar
  • Alfred Dreyfus found guilty of treason
  • President Carnot of France assassinated by Italian anarchist
  • Hawaii becomes a republic
  • Sicilian bread riots lead to martial law and suppression of Italian socialist societies
  • Italians defeat Dervishes at Kassala
  • Kurds massacre Armenians at Sassoun
  • Alexander III of Russia died; Nicholas II (last Romanov Tsar) accedes to the Throne


  • Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book
  • Debussy, L’Apres Midi d’un Faun
  • Toulouse-Lautrec, Les Deux Amis
  • Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda
  • Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


  • Escalators introduced (U.S.)
  • William Stewart Halstead (U.S.) details his operation for breast cancer (mastectomy)
  • Oliver and Schaefer discover the nature of insulin
  • James Henry Northrop (U.S.A.) invents automatic loom
  • Louis Lumière invents the cinematograph


As in the majority of the tales, this “dynamic duo” is residing at 221b Baker Street.


  • PROFESSOR SERGIUS CORAM, The center of our story, a reclusive professor of religion, invalid, and chain smoker.
  • ANNA CORAM, The murderess. Coram’s wife and Russian political radical.
  • WILLOBY SMITH, secretary to the professor and the murder victim.
  • STANLEY HOPKINS, of the Yard who solicited Holmes’ help.
  • IONIDES, a tobacconist that we never meet who supplied Coram with Alexandrian cigarettes (1000 every 2 weeks! – that’s over 3-1/2 packs per day)


I have 4 quotes for this issue (note that I have listed by who and to who)

  • Holmes to Watson on the arrival of Stanley Hopkins

“Run down, my dear fellow, for all the virtuous folk have long been in bed.”

  • Holmes to Stanley Hopkins upon his arrival

“Now draw up and warm your toes.  Here’s a cigar, and the doctor has a prescription containing hot water and a lemon, which is good medicine on a night like this.  It must be something important which has brought you out in such a gale.”

  • Willoughby Smith’s dying words to Susan Tarleton, the maid

“The professor – – It was she.”

  • Coram’s comment on the maid’s testimony

“Susan is a country girl, and you know the incredible stupidity of that class


There is no mention. It is likely another case where Holmes was consulted (and presumably paid) by the Yard. Of the fully recorded cases there are at least nine, REIG, BLAC, SIXN, GOLD, ABBE, CARD, DYIN, STUD, VALL, in which Holmes participated solely in order to assist the police…For Holmes there can have been little reward save the experience, and the privilege of paying his own expenses in following up on clues .


There are only 2 “visual” performances of The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez and you can probably guess who they were.

  • 1922 Eille Norwood did The Golden Pince-Nez as 1 of his 47 movies based on the Canon. The National Film and Television Archive at the BFI has viewing copies of this film but it is yet to be restored for release.
  • 1994 Jeremy Brett did The Golden Pince-Nez as the 37th of the 41 episodes from the Canon.  They are played all the time by PBS stations.

UNRECORDED CASES (That involved Holmes)

Watson would tease / torture his readers with “I know something you don’t.”  Oh my, how Sherlockians love this category.  This month’s story is a gold mine of “Untold Tales.”

  • The repulsive story of the Red Leach
  • The Terrible death of Crosby the banker
  • The Addleton tragedy and the singular contents of the ancient British Barrow
  • The Smith Mortimer succession case
  • Huret, the boulevard assassin.  Holmes later won a letter of thanks from the French President and was elected a member of the Legion of Honour

FAINTING IN THE CANON (courtesy of Sherlockian Karen Murdock)

Fainting is extremely common in the Canon, appearing, in some form, in 37 of the 60 tales.  In 21 cases someone actually faints.  In 22 cases someone almost faints.  And in 5 cases someone pretends to faint.  In this month’s story . . . .

But, in this tale, no one faints, almost faints, pretends to faint, or even mentions fainting.


The 60 Sherlock Holmes stories used English as spoken in England from the 1880’s until the 1910’s.  Some words are foreign to us today and need a “contemporary translation.”.  For example:

  • love-gages – An item offered as a token of a pledge. More specifically, it is used to refer to the glove thrown down as a challenge to a duel.  Here, it is used in it’s secondary meaning as a sign of the affection one lover pledges to another.
  • Nihilists – the term “nihlism” has been around since he Middle ages – for definitions from “skepticism to rejection of morality. From the Latin “nihil” or “nothing.”  At his time, they were people dedicated to the rejection of aestheticism and destruction of the existing social order.
  • Palimpsest – A palimpsest is a manuscript page, whether from scroll or book that has been written on, scraped off, and used again. The word “palimpsest” comes through Latin from Greek παλιν + ψαω = (“again” + “I scrape”), and meant “scraped (clean and used) again.” Romans wrote on wax-coated tablets that could be smoothed and reused, and a passing use of the rather bookish term “palimpsest” by Cicero seems to refer to this practice. (Wikipedia)
  • Bath chair – A bath chair is a rolling chaise or light carriage with a folding hood, which can be open or closed, and a glass front. Used especially by invalids, it is mounted on three or four wheels and drawn or pushed by hand. It is so named from its origin in Bath, England. and possibly also after its similarity in appearance to an old-fashioned bathtub. If required, the chair can be mounted on four wheels and drawn by a horse, donkey or small pony with the usual turning arrangement. James Heath, of Bath, who flourished before the middle of the 18th century, was the inventor.

WEAPONS (from A Compendium of Canonical Weaponry by Dettman and Bedford)

So many things can be considered “weapons” that only 2 or 3 of the 60 tales fail to have at least one.  There are several general categories to classify “weapons” that include:  firearms, human agents, cutlery, animals, blunt instruments, extortion, toxin, blackmail, and miscellaneous.  In our story, which is short, you will find all of the following:

  • Small Sealing-Wax Knife – In the study of Prof. Coram’s home, Which Anna used to kill Willoughby Smith, the professor’s young secretary.
  • Small Vial of Poison – Used by Anna to poison herself, when Holmes discovered her hiding place in Prof. Coram’s bedroom.
  • Information – Dealing with a group of Nihilists in Russia, which Sergius (Prof. Coram) turned over to the authorities in exchange for his own freedom, as he was a member of that group.
  • Weapon (unspecified) – Used by a group of Nihilists in Russia to kill a police official.
  • Gallows – Where many of the Nihilists in the above-mentioned group met their deaths, owing to the information given to the police officials by Sergius, erstwhile Nihilist.


Not really “odd” but we have another great example of Holmes’ deductive (or inductive) reasoning.  Other great examples can be found in the walking stick in The Hound of the Baskervilles and the “battered billycock” in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.  Our important piece of evidence was found in Willoughby Smith’s hand: a pair of golden pince-nez glasses. Holmes examines these and from them alone deduces several things about the murderer:

  • It is a woman
  • She is of some good breeding
  • She dresses like a lady
  • She has a thick nose
  • Her eyes are close together
  • She has a puckered forehead, a peering look, and likely rounded shoulders
  • She has been to an optician at least twice over the last few months
  • She has a lot of money

2015-03-30 10.41.54Frank Mentzel, aka Merridew of Abominable Memory, is the current Gasogene of the Six Napoleons of Baltimore. His Appreciating Sherlock Holmes classes for the Community Colleges of Baltimore County, MD meet four times each during the spring and fall semesters, which would make it the second most active Sherlockian group in Maryland.

Leave a reply