Some of the most prized coins in any individual's collection are those that
have a story attached to them. Ask any Coin Collector who owns a coin from
the Treasure Ship the Atocha or the El Cazador. Ask a Coin Collector who
owns a coin from the Redfield Hoard or the Illinois Continental Bank Hoard.
Any one of them will show you their coins, and tell you the story behind it.
The story is as important and sometimes more so then the coin itself. It
seems the juicier the story, the more the Coin Collector values the coin.
There is a modern day hoard of coins, whose story is full of twists and turns.
As a matter of fact, all the litigation involved with the story will not be
completed for years. The group of coins of which I am writing is known as
the Binion Hoard, and the story behind the coins is fascinating,
and if you are a news junkie, then you will remember either reading about it in
newspapers and magazines, or watching the actual trial on Court TV.
The story begins in 1995 with Lonnie (known as "Ted") Binion of Las Vegas who
was the 55 year old heir to Binion's Horseshoe Casino. During that time,
there was also a young, southern California, blonde, surfer, named Sandy Murphy
(age 23) who made her first trip to Las Vegas. There she lost over
$10,000.00, her life savings, playing blackjack at Caesar's Palace. It was
initially reported, that in order to cover her losses, Ms. Murphy took a job as
a topless dancer at a Club called Cheetah's, but Murphy claims that she was
working at the club as an Independent Contractor selling costumes to the dancers
who worked there. Cheetah's was one of Ted Binion's favorite night spots,
where he was known for picking up topless dancers. That is where Binion
and Murphy met. Sandy Murphy's profile on the Court TV's
website quotes Ms. Murphy as saying, "I really didn't know who Ted Binion was or
what the Binion family was."
It is reported that Binion and Murphy grew quite close, and on March 7, 1995,
Binion moved her into his home on Palomino Lane. It was not long before
Murphy quickly fell into his rich Las Vegas lifestyle, which seems to have
included violence, sex, drugs, physical and verbal abuse. Sandy Murphy
claims that she was never after Binion's money or that she had any knowledge of
his reputation on the local scene.
Early in 1998, Ted Binion met and befriended a struggling contractor by the
name of Rick Tabish, in the restroom of one of Las Vegas' high-end restaurants.
Apparently Tabish was not a very savvy businessman because he continually lost
money through weak business dealings, and what seemed to be a sandpit and
trucking company on the verge of failure. It appears that for some years,
Binion had been amassing a hoard of silver coins and bars which he stored in an
old freezer in the basement of his casino. Binion wanted to retire.
The efforts of his new friend Tabish and his girlfriend Murphy in talking him
into liquidating the silver were not well received. Binion felt the price
of silver was too low and he wanted to wait for a more advantageous time.
So, before his sister Becky took possession of the casino, Tabish was hired to
construct an underground vault on the property of his desert ranch in nearby
Pahrump, Nevada. The vault was constructed, and on July 4, 1998, Tabish
filled the vault with 46,000 pounds of silver from the basement hiding place of
Binion's Horseshoe Casino. About two months later, Binion was found dead.
On September 17, 1998, paramedics found Ted Binion dead in the den of his Las
Vegas home that he had shared with Murphy for about 3 1/2 years. Initially,
investigators thought Binion, who struggled with an drug addiction, passed away
from a overdose of tar heroin, Xanax and Valium, drugs he had purchased a day
earlier. The 911 telephone call to police to report the death was made by
Murphy an estimated four to ten hours later, and she was reported to have cried
to the 911 operator that her "husband" was not breathing (Binion and Murphy were
One day after the death of Binion, Murphy is seen on a videotape pointing out
which possessions she wants from the estate; accusing the Binion family of
removing items from the house in her absence; and, pocketing a wine glass that
investigators believe may have contained the drug mixture that was forcibly
poured down Ted Binion's throat. Two days after Binion's death, at 2 a.m.,
sheriff deputies caught Tabish and two assistants, excavating the last of
Binion's estimated $7 million of silver coins and bars from the underground
desert vault. Their report also stated that they found Tabish's briefcase
at the scene containing a safe combination and a handwritten note from Murphy
proclaiming her love for him.
These events along with private investigations begun by the Binion family,
initiated an additional investigation by police. What was thought to be an
overdose now became a murder probe. The police probe into the death of
Binion led to the arrest of Murphy and Tabish about nine months later, and gave
the prosecutors the following evidence to present at trial:
- Murphy and Tabish began an affair during the summer of 1998.
- Tabish bragged about the affair.
- Both Murphy and Tabish knew about the $7 million of silver; tried to
convince Binion to sell it; and, knew of the underground desert vault.
- The prosecution's medical examiner, Dr. Michael Baden, theorized that
Binion was force-fed the drug mixture which disoriented him, and allowed him
to be suffocated.
- Tabish's involvement was reinforced by his attempt to excavate the
- Murphy was listed as a beneficiary in Binion's will.
- Binion's estate attorney filed a petition stating that Binion told him over
the telephone, "Get Sandy out of the will if she doesn't kill me tonight.
If I'm dead, you'll know what happened to me." Binion was dead before the
will could be changed.
- Tabish needed money because he was cash-strapped.
- Tabish had previous run-ins with the law. He was convicted twice in
Montana, once for burglary and once for conspiracy to possess narcotics.
In addition, he was also charged (along with two associates) in the kidnapping
and torture of business associate Leo Casey in July 1998.
Murphy and Tabish were tried and convicted on May 19, 2000, after an eight
day deliberation by the jury. Tabish was sentenced to 25 years in prison,
and Murphy received a minimum 22 years. In July 2003, in a 4 to 3 decision
the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Murphy and Tabish because
of improper courtroom procedures. This led to a retrial, and in November
of 2004 a seven-man, five-woman jury returned a verdict after 19 hours of
deliberations. Murphy and Tabish were acquitted of the most serious
charges of which they were prosecuted. The Las Vegas jury cited a lack of
medical evidence for their decision. Through a provision in Binion's will,
Murphy may be able to claim $1.2 million pending the outcome of a wrongful-death
suit brought against her by the Binion family.
So, what happened to all of Ted Binion's silver? In November 2001,
Spectrum Numismatic International purchased the coins from the Binion Hoard for
$3 million, and the 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 NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation). A
special tag and designation was created by NGC to make these coins stand out as
coins with a pedigree. In addition to the special tagging, the silver
dollars were marked with the words Binion Collection and the half
dollars were marked with the words Nevada Silver Collection.
The coins were sold in a variety of grades up to and including MS-68, and there
was a wide array of price points originally starting at $50.00.
The story and court trial over Ted Binion's death has kept America buzzing,
and the coins from the Binion Hoard have given Coin Collectors a
piece of modern day history that will live long in the annals of numismatics.
The complete story is far from over, but once the last chapter is written, these
pedigreed coins will have a story like no other.
Editor's Note: Being the final chapter of this story is not yet
written, I have reported this story as accurately as space will allow.
There was no intent to show bias, or to liable or slander any of the parties
involved. Sources for my research are:
www.klas-tv.com, the Los Angeles Times
The article is about the coins, and the story associated with the coins.