A rarity unearthed after 98 years
Metal detector finds Chaplin token tied to Snohomish
SNOHOMISH — A Snohomish County resident found a rare Lon Brown’s Theatre token that is nearly 100 years old while metal detecting on the shore of Lake Stevens.
Kevin, who prefers not to have his last name publicized, took up the hobby of metal detecting about two years ago to spend quality time with his wife as well as being outside in nature.
“I saw that there was a pretty large community of people that were out doing this and finding some things, you know, very significant. And I thought, well, maybe I'll buy a nicer one and give it a try and I was looking for a new hobby. My wife and her brothers and sisters, they were always very adventurous, lived on farms… So for her, it was easy to say, ‘yeah, let me jump in,’” said Kevin.
After metal detecting for some time, Kevin went on a trip he will never forget. Instead of finding old change, lost jewelry and metals, Kevin found a rare piece of history tying back to Snohomish.
“On my way back to the shore, in about two feet of water I got another strong
coin-like tone on the detector. It took a couple of scoops with my sand shovel, but out popped a token. I have found several tokens these past couple years but this one was different... It had age to it, you could tell by the appearance it had been in the water for a long time,” said Kevin.
After finding the token Kevin decided to do some research to unlock its origins.
He discovered it was from the Lon Brown’s Theatre in Snohomish and the token was specifically produced to promote the movie "The Gold Rush” starring Charlie Chaplin, dating to 1925.
Tons were made for individual theater premieres. Few survived.
Metal detecting can be a fun hobby but it also has its challenges. Kevin describes getting used to the equipment and navigating the different elements.
“I went to a local lake with swimming access and started to detect. It was awkward at first trying to manage the gear, your footing and the occasional wave. But after a while you do get the hang of it,” Kevin said.
Kevin also said metal detecting isn’t about the money. It’s more of an outlet to get outside and enjoy the different waterfronts in our community.
“I've never sold anything that I found and if you talk to, you know, 10 people that do what I do and go out metal detecting. I'm sure all 10 would say I've never sold anything. I mean we're not in it for the money,” said Kevin.
The inscription on the front of the token was a picture of Chaplin in his Little Tramp character with the words, “See me in The Gold Rush” inscribed around him. The back of the token had the Lon Brown’s Theatre logo along with three dates: Dec. 17, 18 and 19.
The theater’s owner, Lon Brown, negotiated to have it be shown in his theater.
In “1925, he went to Charlie Chaplin directly and said, ‘look, you know, we're an up and coming city. We'd like to be able to show this, premiere it.’ And they agreed. And the price he paid was a record price in the State of Washington to display the movie at that time, a little home, less than 2,000 people,” Kevin said according to his research.
Today, the Lon Brown Theatre has been remodeled into the Pegasus Antique Shop. The Lon Brown Theatre opened on Oct. 16, 1924 as highlighted in a Snohomish Tribune article. It was later remodeled into an antique shop in about 1999.
“I took my kids there when they were young to get ice cream and walk around the town. I had no idea it was ever the Lon Brown Theatre and had such a rich impact on the community over the years,” said Kevin.
After visiting the Duvall Historical Society and touring some of the sites Kevin would like to see it displayed, it could be at the Duvall Historical Society's museum after talking with a volunteer there.
“ I would like more people to see it,” Kevin said.
A page in the November 28, 1925 Tribune.
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