The New Orleans Mint ceased coining operations in 1909 after more than 70 years in the business of striking the nation’s gold and silver coinage. The Annual Mint Director’s Report of 1910 sheds light on the reasons underlying the suspension of coinage at the Louisiana facility:
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.
The 1909-O Indian half eagle is a curiosity within this popular series. Perhaps most importantly, the issue represents the final emission from the Southern branch mint. 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.
Mike Fuljenz writes in Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century:
In any grade higher than this [MS62], the 1909-O is extremely rare and Gems 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. 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.
It is our pleasure to offer one of the extremely rare Gems that Fuljenz refers to in our January 4-9 FUN US Coins auction; this NGC-graded coin is the first coin in the grade that we have offered since 2006. The surfaces are remarkably lustrous — frosted rather than the usual satin finish — and the color is deep reddish with a hint of brown. Predictably, there are no marks worthy of mention and there are just a few interruptions in the luster 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.
NGC-Certified Indian Head $10 Half Eagle Gold Coins Currently Available on eBay