The Hype Has Landed

Just in time for the media blastoff of articles commemorating the 25th anniversary of the moon landing comes one small souvenir for a man, courtesy of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

An ad in the current Robb Report magazine for the affluent offers "Buzz Aldrin's 25th Anniversary First Men on the Moon Watch."

The $79.95 watch "contains actual historic metal flown" on the Apollo 11 spacecraft Columbia and Eagle.

Aldrin, the ad says, "created and now offers" 25,000 limited-edition watches and is selling a chance to "literally own a piece of history."

The Case of the Missing Coins

In a potentially embarrassing development for securities giant Merrill Lynch, some 399 coins purchased for $3.3 million are mysteriously missing from the inventory of a rare coin limited partnership it formed in 1990 with Los Angeles sports mogul Bruce McNall.

A cryptic one-paragraph reference to the missing coins is contained in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made earlier this month by limited partnership NFA World Coin Fund, which Merrill Lynch formed with McNall's Numismatics Fine Arts International.

The filing says McNall and his companies--which managed the partnership--severed their ties to the fund in May. McNall, who recently sold a majority interest in the Los Angeles Kings hockey team but remains the club's president, is in personal bankruptcy proceedings and is being investigated by a federal grand jury looking into whether he falsified bank loan documents.

As a result, a Merrill entity, MLL Collectibles, has taken over the running of the partnership.

In a statement to The Times, Merrill said it has reported the disappearance of the coins to insurance carriers as well as the Los Angeles Police Department.

Merrill declined to comment further until the investigation is complete, except to say: "We have no facts which would cause us to suspect any entity or individual to be responsible for this currently unaccounted-for shortage. We are continuing to try to locate the coins and to research this matter through our accounting procedures."

An attorney for McNall declined to comment. A source close to McNall said McNall did not personally handle the coin inventory and would have no knowledge of what could have led to the inventory shortage.

The Duke Not Included

Last year, Great Western Bank put its former Beverly Hills headquarters up for sale, asking $30.7 million for the building.

The bank hardly got the price it wanted, nor exactly the buyer it expected.

Purchasing the 10-story building for $18 million is LFP Inc., a company owned by controversial Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.

Great Western retains one part of the property: a 21-foot-tall bronze statue of John Wayne riding a horse at the building's entrance. The statue, created by noted artist Harry Jackson, was unveiled in 1984. Great Western plans to handle all maintenance of the statue as well.

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