On August 10, 1969, the Los Angeles couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were found murdered at their home by Rosemary's adult children. Leno LaBianca was a wealthy coin collector who owned a large collection of rare United States coins
The unknown killers had left a violent crime scene with words carved onto the two bodies with knives and written on the refrigerator in their blood the words "Helter Skelter", the title of a song.
The police found a metal case full of coin collector items and a gallon jar full of coins.
Police photograph (1) of Leno LaBianca's coin collection
The book is A Guide to the Grading of United States Coins
by Martin R. Brown and John W. Dunn, Fourth Edition published in 1964. The book below it appears to be a " Red Book
" or A Guide Book of United States Coins
by R. S. Yeoman, which has been published yearly since 1947.
Police photograph (2) of Leno LaBianca's coin collection
The coin albums appear similar to the "Library of Coins" albums with plastic inserts. Also seen are some modern United States Mint proof sets.
The LaBiancas were a wealthy couple, Leno owned a grocery store while Rosemary owned a dress shop. Both had adult children from previous marriages.
The police did not connect the LaBianca murders with murder the previous night of five people including actress Sharon Tate, Polish writer Wojciech Frykowski, Folger's Coffee heiress Abigail Folger, hairstylist Jay Sebring, and a teenage boy named Steven Parent. Reporters and others did connect the two crimes due to the savagery of the killings and the writing on the walls in blood and they were given the name the "Tate-LaBianca Murders".
Leno LaBianca was a serious coin collector who owned a collection valued at over $20,000. The fact that Leno was a numismatist was widely known by his friends and relatives.
The police concluded that theft was not a motive for the murders as many valuable and easily fenced items were left by the intruders, but they had to investigate Leno's coin collecting activities anyway.
In 1967 Leno showed another friend the collection including three suitcases full of uncirculated silver dollars which had a face value of $3,000. Leno also had several books full of various coins. $400 in uncirculated nickels were recovered from the trunk of Leno's vehicle.
The police found notes and business cards at the LaBianca home from numismatic organizations and coin dealers. They contacted the secretary of the American Numismatic Association of which Leno was a member. Also visited were several Los Angeles coin dealers.
The Coin Gallery Coin Shop owner told police that he had no transactions with Leno LaBianca.
The Superior Coin and Stamp Shop owner told police that he had numerous business transactions with Leno LaBianca. Leno had purchased many thousands of dollars of coins and the last purchase was in 1965 or 1966. This transaction involved approximately $5,000 worth of coins.
The Los Feliz Coin Shop owner was an acquaintance of Leno LaBianca. He stated that he went to the LaBianca residence in January 1969 and appraised a part of Leno's collection at $10,000 and described Leno's collection as "mint coins", both foreign and domestic. He sold a very rare 1909-S Indian Head penny
to Leno for $250.
The police found that Leno's neighbor was being investigated by the IRS for tax evasion of more than $100,000 and they found at his residence a collection of foreign coins and off-set [error?] minted coins.
In October 1969, the LaBianca detectives checked with the Los Angeles Sheriff's office about possible similar crimes. They learned of the murder of a Gary Hinman where there was also writing on the walls in blood. They also learned that the Hinman detectives had spoken with the girlfriend of one of the Hinman murder suspects who had been arrested a few days earlier with members of a group called the "Manson Family" for automobile theft.
The "Manson Family" was a group of young people who lived on a motion picture ranch in Los Angeles. The group was named after their leader, a 34 year old ex-convict named Charles Manson. Police later connected the "Manson Family" to the Hinman, Tate, and LaBianca murders, as well as many others.
It was found that some members of the Family had visited the house next door to the LaBianca's house several times in 1968 as the then resident was a friend.
Charles Manson appears to have been acting as a coin dealer as he sent two family members to London in 1968 to sell some rare coins and silver dollars. One returned to the United States and the other was found murdered in a London hotel room, again with blood messages on walls.
A Family member told police that after she returned from the LaBianca house, Leslie Van Houten, one of the LaBianca suspects, showed her eight dollars in change in a plastic sack. Because of Leno LaBianca's coin collection, the detectives were interested in the bag of change. The member told them that some of the coins she saw were from Canada.
The "Manson Murders" dominated the news for months. The story had everything from the movie industry to coin collecting. The criminal trials of the alleged killers went on for years. Charles Manson and Family members Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten were convicted of committing the LaBianca murders. Charles Manson died in prison in 2017 and the other three are still in California prisons.
Somewhere the LaBianca 1909-S Indian Head cent
is still out there. As professional coin grading and serial numbered slabs were far in the future in 1969, it would be almost impossible to locate. Some coin collector probably has the coin without knowing it's history.*** Moved by Staff moved to a more appropriate forum. ***