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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: O’Neal Collection of Indian Head $5 Gold Coins

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #30

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. FUN Auctions

During the Jan. 2011 FUN Platinum Night auction in Tampa, Heritage will offer Jim O’Neal’s set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins). This set is the “All-Time Finest” in the PCGS Registry and contains many individual coins that are at or near the top of the condition rankings for their respective dates. Many other rare U.S. coins, including some Great Rarities, will be auctioned during the Platinum Night event and I will cover those soon.

Since 2005, the Heritage FUN Convention auction has been the leading auction of the year for U.S. coins. Indeed, four of the last six January FUN auctions have been phenomenal.

A few days before the start of the FUN Convention at the Tampa Convention Center, B&M will conduct a pre-FUN auction at a nearby hotel. The Malibu collection will be included. Traditionally, pre-FUN auctions have featured especially choice and rare coins as well.

While the winter Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention is typically in Orlando, it was in Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and will be in Tampa in January 2011. The Fort Lauderdale area is a more sensible location, as Southern Florida is densely populated. Fort Lauderdale is close to especially affluent areas in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Plus, there are many snowbirds in Southern Florida, people who otherwise live in the Northeastern States.

To attain a better understanding of FUN auctions, or at least to get a flavor for them, please see my articles relating to 2009 and 2010 events: The Jan. 2010 Platinum Night, $3,737,500 for a nickel, the O’Neal Collection of Indian Head Eagles, Queller Collection of Patterns, and Jay Brahin’s $20 gold coins.

When the Jim O’Neal collection of Indian Head (or Saint Gaudens) Eagles ($10 coins) was the opening feature of the Jan. 8, 2009 Platinum Night event, the room was packed. Afterwards, a few experts in attendance indicated to me that prices were higher than expected. Prices were much higher than I expected, as I was not overwhelmed by O’Neal’s Eagles. My preliminary impression is that I will be much more enthusiastic about O’Neal’s Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 pieces), which will be sold during the Jan. 6, 2011 Platinum Night event.

II. O’Neal’s Half Eagles

It now seems that Jim O’Neal’s set of business strike Indian Head Half Eagles is the most famous collection that will be auctioned at the Jan. 2011 FUN Convention. For years, this has been the “finest” such set in both the PCGS and NGC registries. Although the PCGS ranks it ahead of the Dr. Thaine Price and Dr. Duckor sets of Indian Head Half Eagles, my belief is that the Duckor collection was finer. I have yet, however, to see most of the coins in the O’Neal set. The Duckor set of Indian Half Eagles was auctioned by the firm of David Akers as part of the Auction ’90 event, in the Chicago area.

Dr. Thaine Price’s collection was also auctioned by Akers’ firm. All of the Price collection was sold on the evening of May 19, 1998, and it was overshadowed by the epic Pittman II event that was held the same week at the same location. In most other situations, the offering of the Thaine Price collection would have been considered an amazing event of epic proportions. Dr. Duckor admits that he takes his Thaine Price catalogue with him on vacations to Hawaii, “probably fifteen times” so far. “Akers did a great job.”

The sets of Thaine Price and Steven Duckor were assembled during an era when grading standards were tougher than standards were in the late 1990s and in the early part of the 2000s. Even so, there is no doubt that this O’Neal set contains some of the greatest and most important Indian Head Half Eagles. (more…)