HomeAuctionsExtraordinary Midwestern Family Collection of Indian Head Half Eagles

Extraordinary Midwestern Family Collection of Indian Head Half Eagles


Coin Rarities & Related Topics: News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #335

A Weekly CoinWeek Column by Greg Reynolds …..

On Monday, June 6, the Goldbergs auctioned a collection of classic U.S. coins that was consigned by a family from the Midwest. These coins had been ‘off-the-market’ for decades. The Midwestern Family Collection Indian Head half eagles (U.S. $5 gold coins) commanded the most attention and brought newsworthy prices at the auction.

All sessions of the four-day auction proceedings were held at the offices of the Goldberg firm in Los Angeles. A wide variety of other items were also offered, including U.S. coins for collectors on budgets, world gold coins, much early copper, and the “Tom Peterson Collection of Greek coins.”

Despite the attention captured by the PCGS-graded MS-66 1933 eagle ($10 coin) that brought $881,250, this sale will be best remembered for Indian Head half eagles. These are specified to be 90% gold and each contains slightly less than a quarter of a Troy ounce of gold. Indian Head half eagles were minted from 1908 to 1916 and again in 1929. These were struck at the Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco Mints.

Those who are unfamiliar with the series may wish to read an article on collecting Indian Head half eagles for less than $500 per coin. Several choice to gem quality Indian Head half eagles in this sale, however, are important condition rarities, which are worth many multiples of the values of lower grade representatives of the same respective dates.

Some Are Not Expensive

Not all the Indian Head half eagles in this consignment are tremendously expensive. Some of them sold for less than $1,500 each.

The 1913-S was auctioned for $1,351, a very strong price. This Midwestern Family Collection 1913-S half eagle is PCGS-graded as AU-58 and CAC-approved.

In January 2015, the Goldbergs auctioned another 1913-S with the same PCGS grade and CAC approval for $1,146, also a strong price. There are more than a few “AU-58” 1913-S half eagles around. Indeed, CAC has approved 26 of them. CAC was founded in 2007. Generally, the non-CAC coins currently retail for $750 to $850 and the CAC-approved “AU-58” 1913-S half eagles retail for around $920, possibly a little more.

The Midwestern Family 1908 Denver Mint five is PCGS-graded as MS-62 and CAC-approved. It brought $940, a somewhat strong price.

In August 2015, Heritage sold one with the same certifications for $881.25. In May 2016, an NGC-graded MS-62 1908-D, without a sticker, went for $822.50. The PCGS price guide estimate of $615 might be applicable to some, unimpressive “MS-62” 1908-D half eagles that trade among wholesalers. For years, these have tended to bring prices between $800 and $1,100 in mainstream auctions. In February 2015, a NGC-graded MS-62 1908-D, sans CAC sticker, was auctioned in Dallas for $1,057.50.

The current $940 result is somewhat strong, as market prices have fallen so much for classic and scarce U.S. coins overall since August 2015. The more appealing representatives of common coins really must be analyzed in a context apart from markets for generic coins, which are a different topic.

The Midwestern Family 1912 half eagle is common and is clearly generic in grades below MS-65. The PCGS-graded MS-62 and CAC-approved 1912 brought $646, a moderate price at best. In November 2015, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a PCGS-graded MS-62 1912, which has no chance of receiving a CAC sticker, for $646.25. For this exact same amount, Heritage sold a different PCGS-graded MS-62 1912 in January 2016.

Notable 1912-S

goldbergshalfeaglesThe 1912 San Francisco Mint issue is dramatically scarcer than the 1912 Philadelphia Mint issue. Probably only around 30 1912-S half eagles should be graded MS-63 or higher. Surprisingly, just six have been CAC approved at MS-63 or higher grade levels.

“A semi-important coin,” John Albanese remarks. John is the founder and president of CAC.

The Midwestern Family 1912-S is PCGS-graded MS-63 and CAC-approved. It realized $16,450, a strong price. The values in the Numismedia, NGC and Greysheet guides are all likely to stem from the era before August 2015 when prices for rare U.S. coins and condition rarities were much higher than they have been so far in 2016.

Over the last 10 years, PCGS-graded MS-63 1912-S half eagles have tended to bring prices between $10,000 and $12,000 at auction. It is true that, in March 2014, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned a NGC-graded MS-63 1912-S for $15,275. This was a strong to very strong price or, less likely, wholesalers figured that it was a candidate for a ‘MS-64’ grade. In any event, overall market levels were higher in March 2014 than in May 2016.

The $16,450 result for this 1912-S on Monday is certainly strong, perhaps very strong. The CAC sticker may be a substantial factor in the strength of this auction result.

Key 1909-O Brings $517,000

The 1909-O is the key date in the series. It is also the only Indian Head half eagle issue that was struck at the New Orleans Mint.

Although hundreds survive that grade from AU-55 to MS-62, the 1909-O is an important condition rarity in higher grades. This Midwestern 1909-O is PCGS-graded as MS-65 and CAC-approved. The Midwestern Family 1909-O brought $517,000, a strong price, and the highest auction result for any 1909-O except for the Eliasberg-O’Neal 1909-O that brought more than $640,000 on two occasions.

Before the sale, the PCGS price guide value was $400,000, though other guides listed higher amounts. The NGC price guide level is or was “$565,000.” The Greysheet “ask” value was “$500,000,” according to HA.com.

For a “MS-65” grade 1909-O, the Numismedia.com “wholesale” value was $392,500 and the “retail” level was $510,500, but the Numismedia.com estimate for a 1909-O with a CAC sticker was $590,000. These published estimates of market values, however, may have been formulated before markets for rare coins dropped from August 2015 to the present. In the current market environment, the $517,000 result is a retail price, in my estimation.

The Eliasberg-O’Neal 1909-O is much more famous than the Midwestern Family 1909-O. In addition to the Clapps, Louis Eliasberg and Jim O’Neal, other former owners include David Hall, Gordon Wrubel and Dr. Thaine Price, who assembled a major collection of early 20th-century gold coins. In conjunction with the Pittman II sale, the firm of David Akers auctioned Dr. Price’s coins in Baltimore in 1998.

Dr. Thaine Price and Dr. Steven Duckor were affiliated with the same hospital. Dr. Duckor encouraged Dr. Price to collect early 20th-century gold coins.

When the Eliasberg-Price 1909-O sold for $374,000 in May 1998, the collectors and dealers in the room were stunned. Jay Parrino was the successful bidder.

In January 2011, O’Neal’s primary set of Indian Head half eagles was auctioned at the FUN Convention. That 1909-O then brought $690,000, a record though less than the price privately paid by O’Neal. It is widely believed that the Eliasberg-O’Neal 1909-O has failed to receive a CAC sticker.

The Eliasberg-Price-O’Neal 1909-O is exceptionally attractive with wonderful natural tones. Even so, some scratches and many contact marks are bothersome. Its grade could be fairly said to be on the border between 65 and 66, and it is likely to be of higher quality than the Midwestern 1909-O that just brought $517,000, which I have never seen.

The Eliasberg-O’Neal 1909-O emerged again in January 2014, at which time it was auctioned for $646,250. Over the last 10 years, two different NGC-graded MS-65 1909-O half eagles have traded privately for undisclosed amounts. One is in the inventory of a dealer in the Western U.S.

NGC and PCGS have each graded seven 1909-O half eagles as “MS-64.” These 14 submissions probably amount to around nine different coins, if that many. CAC has approved zero at the MS-64 level. NGC and PCGS each report two as “MS-65.” The Eliasberg-Price-O’Neal 1909-O is the only 1909-O five to ever be certified as grading MS-66.

Information gathered from reliable sources, and my prior research, leads to an assertion that that it is extremely likely that the Midwestern Family 1909-O is one of the four finest known. There is a notable chance that it is the second finest.

Undergraded 1910-D ?

The $43,475 result for the Midwestern 1910-D is not interesting or newsworthy. Although it is PCGS-graded as “MS-65,” experts at CAC, and probably bidders as well, figured that its true grade is MS-66. It has a ‘CAC gold sticker’ that indicates that experts at CAC find its grade to be at least in the middle of the range pertaining to the next increment in grade, a step above the grade indicated on the label inside the holder.

John Albanese agreed when he heard my conclusion that this 1910-D in a ‘MS-65 holder’ brought a “wholesale price for a MS-66” grade 1910-D of the same type and date. If leading bidders figure that a certified coin has been undergraded, it is not unusual for such a coin to sell for an amount that is related to the next grade increment

Finest 1910-S ?

Only six 1910-S half eagles have been graded at PCGS as MS-65 or higher, and NGC has graded just one. These seven probably amount to five different coins and only one of them is CAC-approved. This is it!

“This is the only true gem 1910-S I have ever seen. It was the steal of the auction,” Albanese declares.

The Midwestern 1910-S half eagle is PCGS-graded as “MS-65+.” More so than other prices for the other Indian Head half eagles in this sale, the price realized for this lot provides circumstantial evidence that two people are assembling sets of CAC-approved Indian Head half eagles at high grade levels.

It could also be true that there has been dormant demand for a certified “MS-65” 1910-S five. O’Neal had a PCGS-graded MS-64 1910-S, with a CAC sticker. The O’Neal 1910-S brought $37,375 in January 2011. In July 2005, when coin markets were booming and levels were rising, Heritage auctioned a PCGS-graded MS-65 1910-S for $49,450.

Before this auction, the PCGS price guide value for a “MS-65+” 1910-S, this coin, was $65,000, and the PCGS guide value for a “MS-66” 1910-S was $95,000. The Numismedia.com wholesale value for a “MS-66” 1910-S is or was $51,500, and the retail estimate was $69,530.

This Midwestern Family “MS-65+” 1910-S garnered $123,375. More than four thousand 1910-S half eagles exist.


The 1911-D is scarcer than the 1910-S overall, and is more famous. Only a very small number grade above MS-65. PCGS and NGC each report one as being graded “MS-64+.” The Midwestern Family 1911-D is the PCGS-graded MS-64+ coin and it has a CAC sticker. NGC reports two as grading “MS-65.”

PCGS has graded one as MS-65 and one as MS-65+, the O’Neal coin. It realized $299,000 in January 2011. Neither PCGS nor NGC report a 1911-D five as having been graded above “MS-65+.”

CAC has approved six at the MS-64 level, including this Midwestern 1911-D, and one at the MS-65 level, the O’Neal 1911-D. Experts at CAC ignore the plus aspects of plus grades assigned by PCGS or NGC.

There are six 1911-D half eagles that are CAC-approved at the MS-64 level, including this Midwestern Family coin. Some of those may not have been resubmitted since so called ‘plus grading’ was implemented in 2010. At least one of them may receive a “64+” grade assignment in the future.

The Midwestern, PCGS-graded MS-64+ 1911-D brought $152,750. It is fair to theorize that the O’Neal 1911-D now has a retail value of $220,000, more or less. A 1911-D that grades in the middle of the MS-64 range may now have a retail value of around $72,500. All auction records and logical estimates of market values provide evidence that the $152,750 result for the Midwestern Family 1911-D is very strong.



Like the Midwestern Family 1910-S, the Midwestern Family 1914-S is more highly certified than the corresponding O’Neal coin, which is PCGS-graded ‘MS-64+’ and CAC-approved. The Midwestern Family 1914-S is PCGS-graded as “MS-65” and is also CAC-approved.

A certified “MS-65” 1914-S has not been publicly offered in a very long time, as far as I know. So, bidders jumped at this one! The $146,875 result was strong.

While the $146,875 result for the Midwestern “MS-65” 1914-S half eagle is consistent with the $92,000 result for the O’Neal “MS-64+” 1914-S in 2011, overall market levels for rare coins are lower now than they were in 2011. Since so few gem quality, better-date Indian Head half eagles exist, however, it is especially difficult to gauge changes in market values for these. Changes in values of coins in a particular category may markedly differ from trends in values for scarce or conditionally rare classic U.S. coins overall.

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Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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