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Dallas oilman’s rare coins net $20 million for North Texas nonprofits in initial sale

One extremely rare half eagle coin accounted for more than $4.6 million of the total.

The initial sale of a collection of rare U.S. gold coins and die patterns assembled by late Dallas oilman and philanthropist Harry W. Bass Jr. brought in $20.5 million for dozens of Dallas-based nonprofits.

One coin alone — an 1821 capped head left half eagle — accounted for $4.62 million of the total in what Heritage Auctions described as “furiously competitive bidding.” It drew 70 bids in Thursday’s auction in Long Beach, Calif.

“This is an extraordinary coin that brought an extraordinary result,” said Heritage Auctions executive vice president Todd Imhof in a statement. The coin is one of only two known to exist, with the other being part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Bass’ collection, which he began assembling in the 1960s, has been on display at the American Numismatic Association’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo., since October 2000. Earlier this year, his foundation’s trustees voted to sell the collection in order to boost its annual charitable giving from $2 million to at least $5 million.

Benefiting from the sale will be organizations supported by the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation, with an emphasis on early childhood education and literacy in Dallas. Among the four dozen recipients are Frazier Revitalization in South Dallas, Head Start of Greater Dallas, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, the Momentous Institute, Bachman Lake Together in northwest Dallas and Readers 2 Leaders in West Dallas.

The full collection includes 450 gold coins estimated to be worth more than $60 million and Heritage Auctions plans other auctions next year. The next is Jan. 4-9 in Orlando, Fla.

“The Bass Trustees are thrilled with the results,” said foundation executive director David Calhoun in a statement. Two additional coins sold Thursday topped $1 million. Others drew bids ranging from $264,000 to $702,000.

Bass and his brother, Richard, inherited the Goliad Oil and Gas Corp. in 1970 from their father, Harry W. Bass Sr. In addition to amassing a rare coin collection, Bass also invested in Colorado ski resorts in Aspen and Vail, and was the main developer of Beaver Creek Resort. He died in 1998.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, founded in 1976 by Steve Ivy and Jim Halperin, bills itself as the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the U.S. and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer.

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