Ever since I was a kid I have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes stories. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels about the detective hero. One of them, “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs,” has a numismatic context. Set in London in 1902, the story is as follows, as summarized by Wikipedia:
Holmes receives a letter from a Nathan Garrideb of 136 Little Ryder Street, asking for help in a most peculiar quest. He is looking for another man with his unusual surname, for it will mean a $5 million inheritance for him. He has been approached by another man, John Garrideb of Kansas, who says that he needs to find others with the same last name.
The American Garrideb comes to see Holmes and Watson at 221B Baker Street, and is apparently not very pleased that Nathan Garrideb has involved a detective. Garrideb, who claims to be a lawyer, spins a ridiculous story about Alexander Hamilton Garrideb, a millionaire land tycoon he met in Kansas. Hamilton Garrideb bequeathed his $15 million estate to John Garrideb on the provision that he find two more Garridebs to share it with equally. He came to England to seek out people with the name, having failed in his own country. So far, he has found only Nathan.
During the interview, Holmes detects many discrepancies in John Garrideb’s story, ranging from the time he has spent in London being obviously longer than he claims and his knowledge of a completely fictitious mayor of the town where Garrideb claims to have lived in before coming to England, but decides not to confront him. This piques Holmes’ interest, and he decides to contact Nathan Garrideb to investigate further. Upon arrival at Little Ryder Street, Holmes observes Nathan Garrideb’s nameplate outside the house. It has obviously been there for years; so Holmes concludes that Garrideb is at least his true surname.
It turns out that Nathan Garrideb is an elderly eccentric who collects everything from ancient coins to old bones. Garrideb’s rooms look like a small museum. He is obviously a serious collector, but has nothing of great value in his collection. Holmes finds out that John Garrideb has never asked for any money, nor has he suggested any course of action. Nathan Garrideb has no reason, it seems, to be suspicious of John Garrideb. This puzzles Holmes.
During Holmes’s and Watson’s visit, John Garrideb arrives in a most jolly mood. He has apparently found a third Garrideb, as proof of which he shows a newspaper advertisement purportedly placed by a Howard Garrideb in the course of his everyday business. Holmes sees instantly that John Garrideb has placed the advertisement himself from various Americanisms in the spelling and wording.
Despite Nathan Garrideb’s objections — for he is a man who very seldom goes out, much less travels — John Garrideb insists that Nathan go to Birmingham and meet this Howard Garrideb. It has now become clear to Holmes what the “rigmarole of lies” is all about. John Garrideb wants Nathan Garrideb to be out of his rooms for a while.
The next day brings fresh information. Holmes goes to see Inspector Lestrade at Scotland Yard and identifies John Garrideb as James Winter alias Morecroft alias “Killer” Evans, escaped prison after shooting three men in the States. In London, he killed Rodger Prescott, a Chicago forger whose description matches the former occupant of Nathan Garrideb’s room.
Holmes and Watson go to Garrideb’s home armed with revolvers. They do not have to wait long before Winter shows up. From their hiding place, Holmes and Watson see the criminal use a “jemmy“ to open a trapdoor revealing a little cellar. They capture Winter, but not before he manages to shoot twice, striking Watson in the leg. For once, Holmes shows his human side; he is distraught over Watson’s injury, and strikes Winter on the head with the butt of a gun hard enough to draw blood, vowing that the villain would have never left the rooms alive if he had killed Watson. Fortunately, Watson’s wound is superficial. The little cellar contains a printing press and stacks of counterfeit banknotes, hidden there by Prescott, the man that Winter killed.
Winter is sent back to prison. Nathan Garrideb ends up in a nursing home, so great is his disappointment, but many CID men are pleased that Prescott’s equipment has at last been found. Watson seems the happiest at the adventure’s outcome despite being hurt, declaring, “It was worth a wound, it was worth many wounds, to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask”, from the sight of Holmes’s panic and rage over his friend’s shooting.