Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The Miami Beach Mansion Currency Hoard

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on April 21, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.

By April 21, 2015

Pedigrees & Hoards: The Miami Beach Mansion Currency Hoard

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

I like to compare this story to the “Wall of Greed” story. It’s similar in many ways, and in many other ways it’s just the opposite.

Most of the information in this article was developed with the assistance of Marc Michaelsen of Marc Michaelsen Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida. Marc was one of the currency dealers participating in the acquisition of the find. I tried contacting PCGS to gather additional information about who submitted the hoard, when it was submitted and how much was submitted, but it’s been three weeks and counting with no response from them.

The Story

In 2009, a contractor was remodeling a 1920s’ home in the Miami Beach area when he discovered a hoard of approximately 2,000 notes hidden in the wall behind a bathroom sink. The currency was wrapped in a cheesecloth material that was almost completely decayed and while some of the bills were damaged, many were in remarkably good shape given that they were endured the Florida heat, humidity and hurricane season for approximately 80 years. The hoard consisted of 1930s-era small size notes and certificates, most having been printed at the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. Many of the packs of $5 and $10 notes and silver certificates still had the original bank seals and were in Mint State condition.

A little background for younger readers is probably in order.

In the late 1920s and throughout the ’30s, the USA was suffering from the Great Depression. People had little faith in the banks as they failed in record numbers and regular folks lost their life savings. Many people stopped using banks and hid their money in houses and barns and even buried it for safekeeping. As a result, several hidden treasures have been uncovered during recent remodeling as witnessed by the 2006 “Wall of Greed Hoard” and 2009’s “Miami Beach Mansion Hoard”.

In this case, the contractor notified the homeowner of the find and, surprisingly, the Miami house was still owned by the family of the original owner, but three generations removed. Apparently, the grandparents hid the money in the wall without telling their children, who later inherited the house. In time, the grandchildren became the owners and lived there, not knowing of the currency hidden in the bathroom wall until the contractor discovered the treasure.

The grandchildren realized that the currency might have a collectible value so they explored channels to sell the find. Ultimately, the Miami Beach find was purchased by David Manley (Currency House Inc. in Deltona FL) and Marc Michaelsen (Marc Michaelsen Inc. in Boca Raton FL). PCGS was the authenticating agency for the hoard and PCGS labeled one set as the “Miami Beach Mansion Hoard” and the other as the “Miami Beach Hoard”. Collectors should note that regardless of the difference in labeling, both sets of currency came from the same Miami Beach find–the only difference being the two dealers that were involved.

The homeowner rewarded the contractor for his honesty by sharing the proceeds of the find with him.

And now you can see why I like to compare the “Wall of Greed” and its confrontation with “Miami Beach” and its cooperation.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rick’s Pedigree Coins – Rare Binion Collection Silver Dollars offered in Heritage & GreatCollections Auctions

In my recent article in CoinWeek and in my blog about the Binion Collection, I stated:

“Assembling a set by date and mintmark has become more difficult as time passes, with the rarer coins residing in private collections–from which they may not resurface for many years. Most of the Binion coins available now are the most common of date/mintmark varieties; however, an experienced collector occasionally will dissolve their collection and rare varieties will suddenly appear at auction.”

I no sooner wrote those words than 3 of the most difficult to find silver dollars from the Binion hoard appeared in auctions.  In case you missed them, here is a summary:

  1. GreatCollections Auctions:  1882-O, MS63, Binion – Hoard population 16 silver dollars. 

(Photo courtesy of GreatCollections Auctions)

  1. GreatCollections Auctions:  1900, MS63, Binion – Hoard population 30 silver dollars. 

(Photo courtesy of GreatCollections Auctions)

  1. Heritage Auctions:  1886, MS66, Hot 50 VAM-1C “3+2” Clash, Binion – Hoard population 4 silver dollars.    

(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries)

Congratulations to the astute buyer who grabbed these rare examples.  And to those collectors that missed them, you might want to add Heritage and GreatCollections to your search list and check their auctions every week or so.  Both auction houses offer a wide variety of Pedigrees although you may have to do a bit of research to find them.   

Heritage Auctions = www.ha.com
GreatCollections Auctions = www.greatcollections.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rick’s Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The Cleveland Wall of Greed Hoard

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on March 18, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.

By March 18, 2015 

Pedigrees & Hoards: The Cleveland Wall of Greed Hoard

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek…

In case you have not figured it out yet, the reason I like “Pedigrees & Hoards” are because of the stories. For me, it is so much more fun to relate a story to coin collecting than to just try to fill holes in an album or slots in an NGC box. And now I am going to tell a story about the “Cleveland Wall of Greed Hoard” and in my next article about “The Miami Beach Mansion Hoard”. I am going to refrain from getting philosophical about the hoards and will let you draw your own inferences.

As the story goes, in 2006 a realtor in the business of house flipping purchased a home that was in need of remolding before it could be sold and she contracted an old school chum in the construction business to improve the eye-appeal. While renovating the bathroom, the contractor discovered several bundles of old currency wrapped in pre-WWII Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper with the name “P Dunne” written on it. After the money was retrieved from the wall, inspected and counted it came to $186,000 with an estimated numismatic value of approximately $500,000. Many of the bills were dated in the 1920’s and were rare Cleveland Federal Reserve notes.

Now the greed set in. Instead of splitting the money and going about their ways, the realtor offered the contractor a mere 10% of the find. And then to further stiff the contractor, she stopped returning his calls and ignored him. The contractor was forced to consult a lawyer and then things really spun out of control.

The first thing that was done was to find out more about this “P Dunne” and investigations found that he was a successful Cleveland business man in the 1940’s that previously lived in the house. Upon his death in 1968, he left his estate to his sister-in-law, Agatha Gannon, without any mention of the hidden money. Agatha lived in the house until her death in 1974 and had no clue about the hidden treasure. She was unmarried at the time of her death and lived alone. She left her estate to 21 nieces and nephews. From here, the lawyers tracked down 7 living nieces and nephews and 50 other relatives that wanted to file a claim for a share of the proceeds. And the lawyers got busy.
During this process, the realtor never relinquished the money. The case finally made it to court to determine who got the money. When asked about the money, the realtor explained that it was stored at her mother’s home in South Carolina and all but $18,000 disappeared. So the arguing by the realtor that the money belonged to her because she owned the house, the arguing by the contractor that the money was his because he found it, and the arguing by the heirs that it belonged to them – – well, it just did not matter much anymore. Almost all of it was gone and no one seems to know where – – or were not talking. And it looks like the remainder of the Wall of Greed currency would dwarf the expenses.

Fortunately, at some point the remainder of the Wall of Greed currency made it to a currency dealer and PCGS authenticated the hoard. I tried to contact PCGS to inquire as to who submitted the hoard for authentication, how much was submitted and when it was submitted. It has been three weeks and counting and no response from PCGS.

Interestingly, under the “finders keepers” law in Ohio the contractor was entitled to all the money if no rightful heirs claimed it. But if that had happened, we would not have had the “Wall of Greed” story to laugh at and shake our heads about.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The Binion Hoard

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on March 9, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.


Pedigrees & Hoards: The Binion Hoard

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

The Binion Hoard offers the collector a variety of ways to collect coins, currency, and memorabilia like ashtrays, dice, gambling equipment, photos, casino chips, etc. A collector could assemble a traditional date/mintmark set, or he could choose to assemble a set of the various souvenir items available. But first, who was Ted Binion, and what is the Binion Hoard? In case you missed the Court TV documentary about him and didn’t read any of the several books written about him or his father, here it is in a nutshell:

Recipe for Tragedy

Benny Binion: Father of Ted Binion.
Benny was involved in gambling and other racketeering activities in Dallas, Texas from around 1924 to 1946. In 1946 and just ahead of the law, Benny relocated his family to Las Vegas, where he became involved in gaming activities. In 1951, Benny purchased the El Dorado Club and Apache Club and opened them as Binion’s Horseshoe Casino.

Ted Binion: Youngest son of Benny.
Early in his life, Ted worked different jobs in Binion’s Horseshoe Casino and became well respected for his gaming knowledge. As he matured, he started associating with “undesirable” persons and eventually lost his casino license. This had a devastating effect on the younger Binion, as he loved the gaming industry and being part of the casino’s operations. Things got worse when Ted met Sandy Murphy, a stripper in Las Vegas, and he became more dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Ted had a fondness for silver bars and silver coins. He especially liked silver dollars, and stored them in the vault at the Horseshoe as well as at his residence. When he permanently lost his gaming license he was forced to remove his silver dollars from the Horseshoe.

Sandy Murphy
A California transplant to Las Vegas, she was working as a stripper in a popular Vegas club where she met Ted. Shortly after they made each other’s acquaintances, Sandy moved in with Ted and enjoyed all the amenities that his wealth could provide.
She was 23. Ted was 55.

During Sandy’s time living with Ted, she developed and maintained a romantic relationship with one Rick Tabish.

Rick Tabish
A traveling contractor (sometimes working, sometimes not) that befriended Ted. Tabish was married with two daughters while having a relationship with Sandy Murphy. When Ted needed a place to store/hide his silver dollars, Tabish was hired to bury the silver in an underground vault in Pahrump, Nevada, on property that Ted owned. As the story goes, Binion and Tabish met by chance–that “chance” having been arranged by Sandy.


July 4, 1998: The vault was completed and filled with 46,000 pounds of silver.
Sept. 16, 1998: During a telephone conversation, Ted told his lawyer that he wanted Sandy removed from his will. In later testimony, Ted’s lawyer stated that the younger Binion said:
Take Sandy out of the will if she doesn’t kill me tonight. If I’m dead you will know what happened.
Sept. 17, 1998: Paramedics were called to the Binion home. Ted was found dead of a suspicious drug overdose.
Sept. 19, 1998: Rick Tabish was caught at 2 A.M. digging up Binion’s buried treasure, estimated to be worth $7 million. Also found was a note from Sandy Murphy to Tabish, professing her love for him and revealing the combination for the underground storage vault.
Tabish and Murphy were eventually charged for the murder of Ted Binion.

What Happened to the Treasure?

Spectrum Numismatic International (SNI) purchased the coins in November 2001 for $3 million. Marketing of the coins was assigned to Goldline International, Inc. There were over 100,000 Morgan and Peace silver dollars, and an unspecified number of silver half dollars. The coins were authenticated and graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), and a unique white and green label was designed for the pedigree.

Population Statistics

Before I get into the technical features of population statistics, I’d like to offer a salute to NGC and the service they provide to the collecting public. PCGS, ANACS and ICG are also involved in the pedigree authentication process and provide valuable services to the collector. However, NGC seems to have the leading edge in this collecting niche. And because of NGC’s reputation in the industry, SNI selected the company to validate the Binion Hoard.
So with that having been said, we can proceed to the population reports. The last NGC Binion silver dollar population report that I’ve seen was contained in the October 2009 NGC Census Report and covered just silver dollars that received “hard” grades. No population reports were available for “soft” graded coins, or for coins merely authenticated as from the hoard and not graded. The 2009 report shows 28,788 Morgan silver dollars receiving official “hard” grades.
While population reports change over time (for a variety of reasons), I believe that the 2009 report is directionally correct and provides insight into the rarity of certain dates and mintmarks. It also provides the Binion collector with a valuable tool for determining the pedigree premium when purchasing a Binion coin.

Appearance & Grading

Eye appearance: Compared to other hoards, collections and general population coins, Binion silver dollars do not have great (or in many cases even good) eye appeal. This is largely due to the storage and handling of the coins received while under Binion ownership and their subsequent storage as evidence by the State of Nevada. In both cases, the coins were commodities (evidence) and not collectibles. They were transferred in work trucks, tossed about like lumps of coal and industrial equipment was used to load and unload the coins.
Grading: NGC-labeled Binion coins fall into three grading categories.
Coins in the first category were authenticated as being from the hoard and graded. Graded coins have a specific and defined grade–a “hard” grade–like MS63 or AU55.
Coins in the second category were authenticated and received “soft” grades. Examples of soft grades are “Uncirculated” or “Brilliant Uncirculated”. No numeric grade is assigned. Coins in this group are less desirable than “hard”-graded coins.
Coins in the third category were authenticated as from the Binion hoard but did not receive a grade. Many hard-to-find dates fall into this category. While they’re the least desirable to the refined collector, in many cases the rarity of the date/mintmark still creates a market premium for the coin.

Collecting Binion Silver Dollars

For clarification, there were other silver coins in the hoard besides silver dollars. Some very nice silver coin sets–with an example apiece of a Roosevelt dime, Washington quarter, Kennedy half and Peace dollar–have been assembled. But the most popular way to collect coins from the Binion hoard is the traditional way of assembling a set with as many date/mintmarks that you can find.
Assembling a set by date and mintmark has become more difficult as time passes, with the rarer coins residing in private collections–from which they may not resurface for many years. Most of the Binion coins available now are the most common of date/mintmark varieties; however, an experienced collector occasionally will dissolve their collection and rare varieties will suddenly appear at auction.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The Dr. Buzz Aldrin Collection

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on February 23, 2015.  Anyone interested in coins or currency should bookmark CoinWeek and read it weekly – great information and it is free.


Pedigrees & Hoards: The Dr. Buzz Aldrin Collection

By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….
Okay, so you collect pedigree coins and have a fairly nice assortment. Well, I might be going out on a limb here but I’m pretty sure you don’t have this one:
Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions
This 1923-S Peace dollar accompanied Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Normally, a 1923-S Peace dollar in this condition is worth melt, but with this kind of provenance it brought $31,070 in a Heritage coin auction in 2007. The Heritage auction description read:
Buzz Aldrin’s 1923-S Peace Silver Dollar Flown on the Moon Mission Aboard Apollo 11. This historic peace silver dollar flew to the moon with Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 as part of his Personal Preference Kit (PPK). The coin, minted forty years before Dr. Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963, must surely be one of the rarest peace dollars in existence. How many collectors can point to a 1923-S Peace Dollar that has been to the moon? The coin has been encapsulated (slabbed) by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) with the following wording: “1923 S S$1 / Flown On The Moon Mission / Apollo 11 – July 16-24, 1969 / Dr. Buzz Aldrin“. -From the personal collection of Dr. Buzz Aldrin, accompanied by a signed Letter of Authenticity from him.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins - Pedigrees & Hoards: The El Cortez Casino Collection

The following article is copied from an article I wrote for CoinWeek and was published on February 20, 2015.   


By February 19, 2015

Pedigrees & Hoards: The El Cortez Casino Collection 


By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

Probably no other state has brought as many “hoards & collections” into the hobby as the state of Nevada. Several have interesting stories, like the Binion and Fitzgerald collections, but all started out as hoards.  The El Cortez Casino Collection, however, was true to its name–it started as a collection.

The El Cortez Casino Collection once belonged to legendary gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan, the fourth owner of the El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas. The El Cortez Casino has an interesting pedigree of its own; mobster Bugsy Siegel was its second owner. For many years, Jackie assembled a collection from coins found passing through the casino. While most were silver Morgan and Peace dollars, a few gold coins resided in his collection. I was told that the collection was on display at the El Cortez Casino for many years.

Jackie was the cornerstone of gambling in Las Vegas, and at one time owned 25% of downtown real estate. He also owned, had an interest in, or operated 11 casinos in the downtown area: the Pioneer Club, Las Vegas Club, Golden Nugget, Showboat, Union Plaza, Sundance, Nevada Hotel, Club Bingo, Gold Spike, Western Bingo–and his jewel, the El Cortez.

With such an expansive career, there are many stories about Jackie, and one of my favorites revolves around the mobster Irish Green. While the story seems to have grown in the telling, the version I heard was that when Jackie purchased the El Cortez he inherited a non-paying guest, Irish Green. Apparently, Mr. Green “did right by Bugsy Siegel” and was offered free residency at the casino for life. When Jackie learned of his “guest” he contacted Benny Binion (owner of the Horseshoe Casino) to try to talk Benny into taking Green off his hands. Benny’s response was, “Hell no, I have to feed him – you can house him.” And Irish stayed at the El Cortez until his death.  Rumor has it that the ghost of Irish Green still wanders the floor where he resided and maids have heard unexplained noises and doors open and close for no reason…

An interesting aspect of Jackie’s collection is its dearth of duplicates.  In most cases you’ll find one date/mintmark for a coin. The only duplicates I’ve ever seen are common-date Peace dollars.
The collection also contained a few gold pieces, but they’re extremely rare and seldom seen at auction. The only gold piece I’ve seen is a 1924 Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle.

Gaughan sold his collection to Spectrum Numismatics International in December of 2007. NGC was selected as the authenticating agency to insure that the heritage of the collection was preserved and that collectors were getting the “real deal”. Over the next few years, pieces from the collection appeared in auctions and were quickly gobbled up by private collectors. Today, the coins are rarely on the market and command a healthy premium.

Jackie Gaughan died in Las Vegas on March 12, 2014, at the age of 93.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rick's Pedigree Coins – David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC)

David Lawrence Rare Coins has just released their new website for coin sales and auctions and for Pedigree collectors – well it just really simplified your search for coins on their website.  In past articles I have written how DLRC has had some of the more difficult to find Pedigrees (North Shore Collection and Gilded Age Collection) and now he has made finding these rarities even easier.

 The pictures are amazing quality but the great part is that as you drag your cursor over the pictures, the respective full slab for that coin appears.  So you can quickly see the slab and see if it is a Pedigree that you may be interested in.  Often times there is not enough room in the coin description to list Pedigree titles, so they are omitted and you are forced to click on the coin to see the full slab and then hit the back button to return to your search.  Well, not any more at the DLRC website!  They simplified it, have great pictures and are consistent in their presentations.

You can give it a try at: www.davidlawrence.com/

Also, while you are at it, check these pedigrees: 

And don't forget to check my "Pedigrees & Hoards" column appearing in CoinWeek on-line magazine.