The Great Silver Dollar Hoards
— Danny Freeman
Perhaps no other United States coin ever made stirs the human imagination more than the silver dollar. Images of the old west, poker tables, saloons, and bank robbers all come to mind when the silver dollar is the subject of discussion. This will be part of a series that examines the “Hoards” of dollars that have become famous and are known to the collector.
The Binion Hoard
This is possibly the most famous of the silver dollar hoards, not just because of the over 100,000 Peace and Morgan dollars involved, but the representation of sex, drugs, Las Vegas nightlife, and murder of Ted Binion that made this tabloid and TV fodder.
Ted was the son of “Benny Binion,” owner of the Las Vegas landmark “Horseshoe Casino.” He grew up at the casino and ended up managing the day to day operations; he had it all. There were no limits to his life; he had everything. He loved to party, and he loved the women too. This was to be his downfall. Ted, age 55, met a 23 year old vixen named Sandy Murphy at a Vegas strip club in 1995. She moved into Ted’s home where for the next few years she indulged in his lifestyle of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Physical abuse between them often took place. In 1998 Ted met and became fast friends with a building contractor named Rick Tabish. Rick was not very good at managing his business and was always in financial trouble. Ted felt sorry for him and moved him into his mansion. “Two’s a couple, three’s a crowd” is an old saying that would depict this situation. This would ultimately lead to Ted’s demise.
While all of this was going on, Ted had neglected his duties at the casino and was in hot water with the gaming commission. They barred him from running the casino, and his sister took over his position. Now we get to the “silver” part of this story. All through his years at the casino, Ted had hoarded vast amounts of silver dollars and other silver coins in the casino’s vaults. Ted now had to move his private stash and had nowhere to hide it. He came up with the idea to have his friend Rick build him a secret vault underground on some property he owned out in the desert at Pahrump. In July of 1998, Rick moved over 46,000 pounds of silver coins to the location.
Rick, along with Sandy tried to get Ted to sell the silver, but Ted felt the price was going to go up and wanted to keep it. Just barely two months later Ted Binion would be found dead in his Las Vegas home. He died from an overdose of heroin, xanax, and valium. Two days after his death, Rick and two associates were caught by sheriff deputies hauling silver out of Ted’s secret vault in the desert. The Binion family hired investigators to find out what was really going on. Now you can see this “made for TV” movie unfolding. Rick and Sandy became lovers under Ted’s nose, planned his murder and the robbery of his hoard of silver. They were tried and convicted in May of 2000, but after several appeals they were acquitted of the murder charge. They did however still have to serve time for the theft.
After all of this, the silver was finally sold in 2001. Spectrum Numismatic International purchased the hoard for over $3 million dollars. The coins were authenticated and graded by NGC and then marketed by Goldline over a period of years. The silver dollars were marked “Binion Collection” on the holders and the other silver coins were marked “Nevada Silver Collection.”
The Laguna Journal News
The Las Vegas Sun
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
The Continental-Illinois National Bank Hoard
A much lesser known hoard than Binion, this one had a much larger impact on the numismatic community due to its sheer size, over 1.5 million silver dollars. Let’s take a look at the bank’s history first.
The Continental-Illinois National Bank & Trust Company was formed by the merger of two Chicago banks in 1910. The Commercial National Bank, founded during the Civil War and the Continental Bank, founded in 1883 pooled their assets of $175 million to form the Continental & Commercial National Bank of Chicago. In 1932, during hard times, the bank was restructured and renamed the Continental-Illinois Bank. The bank blossomed after the depression and grew even stronger after World War II, but got in serious trouble in the early 1980’s due to risky loans it purchased from a failed Oklahoma bank. A majority of the loans involved gas and oil service companies in Oklahoma and Texas. The negative press that was generated caused depositors to withdraw over $10 billion dollars in May of 1984. The bank was doomed, but due to its size, the Federal Reserve stepped in and the FDIC placed $4.5 billion into the bank to protect account holders. After this government bailout, the bank was renamed the Continental Bank, and continued to operate with the federal government owning 80% of the stock until 1991. In 1994 the banks assets were purchased by Bank of America. Now, let’s jump back to the 1960’s. A bank has to keep a “set amount” in cash reserves at all times. The Federal Reserve and the FDIC determine this amount for each bank. During the early 1960’s, silver dollars were readily available from the Federal Reserve. Several of the board members of the Continental-Illinois Bank thought it would be a good idea to keep some of their required reserves in silver dollars. In the early 1980’s when the bank was about to collapse, they had an estimated 1.5 million silver dollars they could sell at a profit.
Ed Milas of Rarcoa bought the dollars and with the help of Leon Hendrickson of Silver Towne, and George Vogt of Colonial Coins, the large hoard was marketed very quietly over a period of several years in a manner that would not overwhelm the market. Most dealers and almost all collectors knew nothing of this hoard until it was all over. Ed, Leon, and George did a good job of “keeping it close to the vest.” The terms of the purchase have always been shrouded in mystery.
It has been estimated that almost 1 million of the dollars were high grade UNCS of the following dates and mintmarks – 1879-S, 1880-S, 1881-S, 1882-S, 1883-O, 1884-O, 1885-O, 1885-P, 1886-P, and 1887-P. Before I knew of this hoard, I always wondered where all of the 1880 and 1881 S Mintmarked Morgans came from.
In our next series, we will begin with the GSA/Carson City Dollar Hoard.
Professional Coin Grading Service
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation