by Bianca Bart | June 07, 2024

Cash Hoard from Public Enemy Number One: Baby Face Nelson

Untouched since the Great Depression, sat Hyman S. Lehman’s bank box containing a cash hoard waiting to be discovered by his grandson. Lehman’s Western Store was recognized for being an accomplished gunsmith and leather worker in the 1930s. Acquiring small arms and customizing pistols for his customers, Lehman often converted them into fully automatic weapons. Lehman sold his machine pistols and other modified automatics to big time gangsters and their associates across the country.

His most famous customer was the FBI’s Public Enemy Number One, Baby Face Nelson, an American bank robber and partner of John Dillinger. Lehman’s relationship with Nelson was so strong, he invited Nelson and his wife, Helen, to Thanksgiving dinner in 1933.

Nelson was born Lester Joseph Gillis in Chicago, IL in 1908 and became one of America’s most notorious bank robbers. In his teens, Nelson joined the “strippers,” a group of young tire thieves and drove bootleg alcohol throughout the Chicago suburbs. In 1932, he escaped from police custody after being sentenced in jail for a year on a bank robbery charge. 

He identified as a member of Dillinger's gang, participated in multiple robberies , and murdered numerous police officers and FBI agents.

The day after Dillinger was ambushed and killed, the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, announced Nelson as the new "Public Enemy No. 1" on July 23, 1934 as he and his wife fled to California.

Four months later on November 27, Nelson and Helen were spotted by FBI agents driving a stolen car near Barrington, IL. After a car chase, Nelson pulled over and a gun battle ensued. Nelson killed two FBI agents and was hit by 17 bullets before he escaped. The damage from his injuries were too severe, and the next day, Nelson succumbed to his injuries at 25-years-old.

In Executive Currency's five decades of operation, we have had the pleasure and privilege of handling some exciting pieces; however, this is the first (and likely the only) opportunity to connect America's most wanted criminal to collectible currency. 

During his time as the nation's preferred weapons dealer, Hyman S. Lehman met many gangsters and their associates during the four decades he operated Lehman’s Western Store just a mile from the Alamo Mission in Texas.

Seeing Lehman and Baby Face Nelson were quite close, we're excited to offer notes that traded hands with one of the nations most notorious criminals.

The established provenance remains above question with PMG providing a pedigree on the label within the encapsulation that reads, Hyman S. Lehman Cash Hoard.

We have note remaining that is available for purchase for $295:

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