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The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 1, January 5, 2003, Article 12

FRANK LAPA

  Following up on last week's discussion, Bill Rosenblum adds:
  "Frank Lapa was convicted of murder and has passed away.
  (I believe while he was in jail.)  If my brain was working at a
  better pace I could come up with more details, such as who
  he murdered. It's a shame that we remember the criminal and
  not the victim (who was a customer of mine!).  My excuse,
  other than the aging process, is that my two grandchildren
  (2 & 5) have been visiting the past week and I'm into Dr.
  Seuss, dinosaurs and bunny rabbits this week rather than
  numismatics.

  Happy New Year to you and all the E-Sylum readers."

  Neil Shafer writes: "Just a few comments about Frank Lapa.
  I knew him rather casually for a number of years- sometimes
  stopped into his shop in Chicago I believe, bought some coins
  and a little paper from him.  He was certainly knowledgeable
  in several areas of numismatics.  But  I never saw an
  individual who could get so furiously angry at something or
  someone in a twinkling; Frank could do that.  He was
  convicted of killing Ray Yablun and spent years in prison.

  Hobby New Year to all!"

  Rich Hartzog writes: "His wife, Joan, was an early member
  of TAMS, and on the 1966 ANA Convention Committee,
  in Chicago; as well as a graduate of the Roosevelt University
  Numismatic courses; and a contributor to French Emergency
  Tokens, 1914-22.  I believe she is still alive, in California."

  Tony Tumonis writes: "Regarding Frank Lapa the Counterfeiter,
  one of his more common counterfeits was the (1345-1382)
  Silver Denar of Poland/Lithuania featuring the Spearpoint and
  Cross on the obverse and Columns of Gediminas on the reverse.
  To an experienced numismatist it was an obvious fake, for the
  artistry was not near an original.  However, someone new to
  the field could possibly be duped.  I don't think his fakes were
  that good."

  Scott Semans writes:  "I've heard a number of secondhand
  stories about Frank Lapa, his behavior at coin shows, the
  murder, and his time in jail, but perhaps others can relate
  these.   While in prison, he produced a revised version of
  his Kandy Kings of Ceylon,  1986, in 8.5x11 spiral bind,
  though I'm not sure he ever marketed this edition.

  I have a 3x scan showing 5 Lapauanian items from my black
  museum and would  be happy to send the scan to anyone
  wanting a copy.  The Russian piece is Feodor Alexievitch,
  not a particularly rare item.  The clumsy Lithuanian wire
  piece is Vytautas, 1384-92, Vilnius Mint and I'm not sure
  if this is a fantasy or a known type.  The others are modern:
  Cambodia, Danish E India Co. and British E. India Co.
  The last is actually a fairly common type.  He also produced
  and actively marketed an Andaman Islands token.  When
  visiting another dealer I saw a roll of Thailand 4 Att 1876
  that had come from Frank,  all brilliant UC and with edges
  so sharp you could have shaved with them.  The dealer
  returned them, and I have never seen this piece on the
  market, but  they must still be out there somewhere, and
  it's a very scarce type in UC.

  He liked to copy things that were obscure, not necessarily
  of great value.   None of the pieces in this scan are
  particularly deceptive to someone familiar with the real items,
  but I do recall the Thai pieces as being pretty good, except
  for the sharp edges.

  [Scott's email address is SSemans@aol.com. -Editor]

  Paul Schultz writes: "There was an article on  Lapa's
  activities in The Numismatist several years ago.  From the
  note I wrote in my copy of his Russian Wire Money book,
  it was November 1996, p1346-1348, "The Other Side of the
  Coin" column by Ed Rochette.  The heading for the column
  was "Murder Most Unconventional."

  There is also a postscript in a letter to the editor, February
  1997, p127.   I seem to remember that Lapa spent less time
  in jail than one might have expected (a few years?) and then
  died relatively soon after being released from prison."

  [A search of the Numismatic Index of Periodicals (NIP) at
  the Harry Bass Foundation web site brought up the following
  listings for Lapa
  (see http://www.harrybassfoundation.org/search_numlit.asp).
  One reference is to the Numismatic Scrapbook, and the others
  are to The Numismatist.

  BOOK REVIEWS\ Vatican City 1929 (Frank A. Lapa)
        \ANA\Vol.82\1969 SEP\Pg.1241
  BOOK REVIEWS\ Russian Wire Money (Frank A. Lapa)
        \ANA\Vol.80\1967 SEP\Pg.1143
  BOOK REVIEWS\ Check List Of Siege And Necessity
        Issues, 16th-20th Century (Frank A. Lapa)
        \ANA\Vol.81\1968 MAY\Pg.607
  BOOK REVIEWS\ Kandy Kings Of Ceylon (Frank A. Lapa) ]
        \ANA\Vol.82\1969 FEB\Pg.174
  [SHIPWRECKS & TREASURE TROVE].\ The other side of
        the coin: the unlucky oysterman of Willapa Bay (Edward C.
        Rochette) \ANA\Vol.104\1991 OCT\Pg.1632-34\ill.
  GENERAL\ Lapa, Frank \Scrapbook\Vol.35\1969 SEP\Pg.1348
  -Editor]

  Bob Leonard adds "I attributed some Roman coins for Frank
  Lapa when he had an office in downtown Chicago around
  1964-5, and still have a number of foreign coins that I
  purchased from him at various times (including some Russian
  wire money which I believe to be genuine).  Frank was an
  artist and had a drawing board and drafting instruments, etc.
  in his office.  A number of his paintings are still around.  He
  issued several price lists.

  As far as his other forgeries are concerned, the only one that
  comes to mind is a square copper piece purporting to be from
  the Andaman Islands, which he "discovered" in the early 1970s.
  But I believe there are others, as Bill Rosenblum says.  Perhaps
  a list is available somewhere; if so, it should be published.

  The story of his arrest is rather long, but briefly, Chicago coin
  dealer Ray Yablun disappeared August 13, 1975 after leaving
  Chicago, on his way to Los Angeles to attend a coin convention.
  I can't find clippings on the balance of the story, but a body was
  discovered a few weeks later which was identified as that of
  Yablun by a finger ring, and informants appeared who said that
  Lapa killed Yablun with an ashtray stand.  Lapa sold a 1795
  eagle that was supposedly Yablun's property in a Wilshire
  Boulevard coin store the same day Yablun vanished, and
  Yablun's "denim leisure jacket" (old-time coin dealers were
  such fashion plates!), empty wallet, and several business
  checks were found in a trash can in the same block as the
  coin shop the same day.

  On the basis of this evidence and testimony from Lapa's
  "accomplices," he was convicted of Yablun's murder and
  sentenced to prison in California.

  But I have always wondered whether Lapa was framed.
  My friend Bob Greinstein, who now works for Harlan Berk,
  visited Yablun's store the day after his disappearance and
  found "no coins" there (there must have been some coins).
  Lapa claimed that the 1795 eagle was consigned to him
  (he was Yablun's "employee and West Coast agent, having
  moved his office to Beverly Hills from Chicago) and not stolen.
  Yablun was accompanied on the flight by a "Mr. Van Cleef,"
  though he was supposed to be traveling to Los Angeles to
  meet with a customer of this name; L.A. police concluded
  that the name was phony.  Was the battered body, identified
  only by Yablun's ring, really his?  Were the "witnesses" to
  his murder truthful?   Did Yablun clean out his store, arrange
  for a body and witnesses -- then ditch his wife, frame his
  employee, and skip?  Who was Van Cleef?

  Lapa is the author of three booklets, Russian Wire Money,
  Check List of Siege and Necessity Issues, and Kandy Kings
  of Ceylon 1055-1295 A.D., all self-published and nicely
  illustrated by him personally.  He thus joins a short list of
  authors of numismatic books who have served time in prison,
  others being Walter Breen, Robert H. Burnie, and Lynn Glaser.
  Perhaps there are more.

  Lynn Glaser is an especially sad case; the dust jacket of his
  Counterfeiting in America (1968) says that he published his
  first numismatic article when he was 15.  In the early 1960's
  he was a frequent contributor to the Numismatic Scrapbook
  and Numismatic News.  But according to Miles Harvey's
  The Island of Lost Maps (Random House, 2000), Charles
  Lynn Glaser served seven months for map thefts around 1975;
  in 1978 he was arrested for further thefts, pled guilty, and
  served six months more; he pled guilty again in March 1992
  to mutilating a copy of the 1628 edition of Munster's
  Cosmographica, by cutting a map out of it; out on probation
  less than a month later, he was discovered in the stacks of
  Lehigh University, wearing surgical gloves and carrying a
  hammer -- not the usual accouterments of a library researcher.
  (We fervently hope that he does not return to numismatics!)."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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