Auction preview: 1909-O Indian Head coin to be offered at FUN sale

Heritage Auctions is inviting collectors to “be a part of the largest numismatic event of the year,” the Jan. 4-9 Florida United Numismatists (FUN) U.S. Coins Signature Auction No. 1251.

Bidding begins on Dec. 16. Among the sale’s top highlights is an American 1909-O $5 gold coin graded Mint State (MS)-65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC). The first gem offered by Heritage Auctions since 2006, this 107-year-old coin is expected to bring big money: although no pre-sale estimate has been determined at this time, the NGC U.S. Coin Price Guide estimates a 1909-O $5 coin in MS-65 could bring upwards of $565,000 USD.

“The surfaces are remarkably lustrous – frosted rather than the usual satin finish – and the colour is deep reddish with a hint of brown,” reads the auction catalogue. “Predictably, there are no marks worthy of mention and there are just a few interruptions in the lustre at all over each side. The strike details are strong throughout with complete definition on the lowest feather of the headdress. This is a rare opportunity to purchase a blue-chip New Orleans Mint rarity, and an offer that is unlikely to repeated anytime in the near future.”

NEW ORLEANS MINT HISTORY

In 1909, the New Orleans Mint ceased operations after more than 70 years of striking gold and silver coinage. The following year’s Annual Mint Director’s Report sheds light on the reasons underlying the suspension of coinage at the Louisiana facility.

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The coin—the first gem to be offered by Heritage Auctions since 2006—was graded Mint State-65 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

“The amount of gold which is available for coinage at New Orleans is small, and the total coinage of the country can be done materially cheaper at three mints and with three organizations than at four mints and with four complete complements of officers and employees. The amount of coinage which could be given to the New Orleans Mint under these conditions did not warrant the continuance of operations there, and they were suspended April 1, 1909, and a large reduction of the force made at that time. At various dates in 1910 further reductions were made, and there appearing to be no likelihood that the mint could advantageously resume operations in the near future, the estimates for 1911 have been made for the conduct of the institution as an assay office only.”

According to auctioneers, the 1909-O Indian half eagle is a “curiosity” within the popular Indian Head series.

“Perhaps most importantly, the issue represents the final emission from the Southern branch mint,” reads the auction catalogue. “Additionally, the issue was struck to the extent of merely 34,200 pieces, claiming the lowest mintage among Indian half eagle by a wide margin. Consequently, the 1909-O half eagle is scarce even in lower grades, and most Mint State examples range only from MS60 to MS62.”

In Mike Fuljenz’s 2010 book Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century, the author states any grade higher than MS-62 is “extremely rare,” adding gems such as the one being offered by Heritage Auctions are “among the rarest and most coveted 20th century United States gold issues.”

“There are only two or three Gems known and these are off the market in tightly-held collections,” Fuljenz wrote. “For all intents and purposes, the collector of high-end Indian Head Half Eagles is going to have to make do with a piece in the MS62 to MS63 range.”

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