A rare stock certificate which tells the story of the Las Vegas mob is heading for auction this month.
The certificate is signed by the infamous gangster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a hitman-turned Hollywood fixer who helped establish organized crime in Las Vegas.
The document will hit the block at RR Auction this month, in a special sale dedicated to the memorabilia of ‘Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen’.
The stock certificate offers 75 shares in the Nevada Project Corporation – a company which served as a front for organized crime to invest in The Flamingo Hotel.
As both a rare example of Seigel’s signature, and a piece of organized crime history, the certificate is expected to sell for more than $30,000.
“This historic stock certificate not only represents the legend of Bugsy Siegel in Vegas but also the New York mob’s original interest in the Flamingo,” said the auction house.
“There may be no surviving document more crucial to the mob’s history in Vegas and the origins of the Flamingo than this.”
Siegel first made his name in the 1920s as a feared hit-man, and was one of the founding members of Murder Inc., the organization which carried out killings for both the Jewish mob and the Italian-American Mafia.
In the late 1930s he was sent to California to develop gambling rackets for the East Coast mob, and soon became the toast of Hollywood.
He threw lavish parties at his Beverly Hills home, surrounded himself with famous friends including Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Frank Sinatra, and made connections with movie studio executives across the town.
By the 1940s Siegel was desperate to become a legitimate businessman, and went into partnership with developer William Wilkerson to build The Flamingo Hotel.
He soon took over the operation, and convinced the East Coast mob to back him in the project, selling them on the huge potential for profits through gambling in Las Vegas.
But his extravagant plans quickly pushed the hotel behind schedule and over budget, and the mob began to suspect he was skimming from the spiralling construction costs.
When the Flamingo finally opened in December 1946, the casino quickly racked up large losses, and with the hotel still unfinished, the resort closed just a few weeks later.
Siegel’s investors were furious, having seen their money disappear, and at a secret mob meeting in Cuba there were calls for his head.
His old friend Meyer Lansky, one of the major figures in the National Crime Syndicate, persuaded his bosses to give Siegel a second chance to make the Flamingo a success, and after refurbishment it reopened in March 1947.
This time the casino began turning a profit, but in the end it proved too little, too late for Seigel.
On June 20, 1947 – just a few weeks after he signed this stock certificate – Seigel was murdered in his Beverly Hills home, shot several times through the window by an unknown assassin.
Whether he dreamed too big, or simply stole too much, Siegel was finally a victim of his own desires.
But he remains one of the most significant figures in the history of Las Vegas, and this signed certificate is an important artifact which perfectly represents the city’s shady origins.