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Updated on November 17, 2010

Ron Palillo as Arnold Horshack

Diminuitive actor star of new coin!

In a maneuver that turned the movers and shakers of world currency on their ears, the United States Mint recently announced that it will soon unveil a new American fifty-cent piece emblazoned with the face of Welcome Back, Kotter alumni Ron “Horshack” Palillo. The sitcom was loosely based on the high school memories of the show’s star, stand-up comedian Gabe Kaplan, and it ran on NBC from 1975-1979. The show concerned a group of remedial students and their smart ass U.S. History teacher. The teacher was cleverly named Gabe Kotter.

The coin—made from 98% copper with a silver coating--will feature the former Sweathog in his signature “Oooh! Ooooh! Oooh!” gesture, with one arm raised in inquiry, usually when the wormy little character had a particularly annoying question to ask Mr. Kotter. The back side will feature the classic expression “E Pluribus Unum” and a picture of Horshack’s ubiquitous trenchcoat and striped scarf.

According to Maurizio Cavassa, vice-president of General Coinage at The Mint, the choice came down to career achievement and social relevance.

“We chose Mr. Pallilo,” Cavassa explained, “in an effort to acknowledge his enduring contribution to culture through his work in the television medium.” Cavassa then cleared his throat and added,” Of course, Laurence Hilton Jacobs (who played Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington on the show) was our first choice, but he refused to signed the proper papers.”

The coins are expected to be released in early 2011 and will slightly smaller than the old JFK fifty cent pieces in a nod to the actor’s diminutive status.

“Of course I’m honored and humbled,” Mr. Pallilo said in a phone interview from The Shady Acres Motel and Laund-O-Mat, where he currently works the front desk. “Any chance you gotta couple rolls on you right now, though? My whites are nearly done.”

Unsurprisingly, Kotter alum John Travolta was unavailable for comment.

The new Horshack Fifty Cent piece comes at a good time for The U.S. Mint, as they are still smarting from the last year’s debacle of issuing a new quarter coin featuring the face of rapper Fifty “Fitty” Cent.

“People were confused,” Cavassa explained. “They would catch me on the street and ask ‘Is it a quarter? Is it fifty cents? I don’t get it.’ When I explained that it was a quarter made with Fifty Cent, I was met with blank stares. Have you seen my Zoloft?”

Cavassa went on to explain that the final decision for the new coin was not an easy one, resulting in many heated discussions and a handful of resignations. Pallilo was chosen over other finalists from acting world, including Kenneth Branaugh, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Nell Carter from NBC’s Gimmee a Break.


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