What’s the Incentive for the Further Exploration of Titan?

Chesley Bonestell’s oil on board Saturn Viewed from Titan, circa 1952, realized $77,675 at a May 2010 Heritage auction. Bonestell’s paintings are credited with helping to inspire the U.S. space program.

By Jim O’Neal

In addition to mighty Jupiter, there are three outer planets: Saturn, Neptune and Uranus. Astronomers generally call them gas giants, though they consist mostly of liquid and have solid cores.

The four have a lot in common including numerous moons, deep stormy atmospheres and rings that consist of rock or ice flakes. Today, we take a brief look at one of them, Saturn, since we’ve gained a lot of valuable scientific information about it in the past 10-plus years.

For starters, it is the second-largest planet (after Jupiter) and about 10 times the size of Earth’s diameter. It shines like a bright yellow star and its most famous feature is a magnificent ring system that is easily seen with a common telescope.

What makes Saturn even more interesting is information gathered from the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting the planet since 2004. On Jan. 14, 2005, a probe from Cassini landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The Huygens probe marked mankind’s first landing on a body in the Outer Solar System.

The mission was to monitor Titan’s atmosphere and surface.

Titan turns out to be one of the most Earth-like worlds we’ve found to date, with a thick atmosphere and organic, rich chemistry. Cassini has revealed that Titan’s surface is shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane (the main component of natural gas). It appears volcano-like with perhaps liquid water under an ice shell playing the role of lava.

It is analogous to a frozen version of Earth … before our cyanobacteria began pumping oxygen into our atmosphere. Scientists speculate there may be a huge liquid ocean beneath the surface. All we would need then would be to find there a few sunken Spanish galleons loaded with gold coins to spark a new numismatic frenzy!

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

No Team Has Matched the Brilliance of John Wooden’s Bruins

The John R. Wooden Award Player of the Year perpetual trophy – presented to every winner between 1977 and 1984, including Larry Bird and Michael Jordan – realized $35,850 at a July 2015 Heritage auction. After each presentation ceremony, winners would receive their own copies of this award.

By Jim O’Neal

John Wooden had an extraordinary basketball career prior to his days as coach at UCLA. He was a three-time All-State player in high school as his team won the state championship for three consecutive years. He went on to play at Purdue, where he was the first player ever to be a three-time consensus All-American.

Later, he would become the first person to be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach (Lenny Wilkins, Bill Sharman and Tommy Heinsohn now share this distinction).

Wooden went to UCLA in 1948 and took over the head coaching duties. During his tenure, he guided the Bruins to 10 National Championships, including seven in a row. At one stage, they won 88 straight games and in four separate seasons they were 30-0.

In 1964, UCLA sailed through the regular season without a defeat and wound up on top of both the AP and UPI polls. However, in the prior six seasons, not a single team that ranked No. 1 had won the championship.

The Final Four match-up was in Kansas City and featured Duke, Michigan, Kansas State and UCLA … all blue-chip contenders.

UCLA beat KS, and Duke had a surprisingly easy win over a Michigan team that featured the great Cazzie Russell and Bill Buntin.

In the championship game, the Duke Blue Devils hoped their height advantage and high-scoring machine (they were averaging 93 points per game) would be enough to counter the unique UCLA full-court press.


The Bruins were at their best, their fastest and most accurate, ringing up 50 points in the first half and another 48 in the second. Duke was never in the game, losing badly 98-83.

UCLA would win all the marbles again in 1965 and then return in 1967 to start a remarkable seven-year National Championship streak. They set records that will never be broken.

On and off the court, John Wooden was simply the best … ever.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Winston Churchill Rallied Britain to Its Finest Hour

This Winston Churchill inscribed photograph sold for $17,925 at an April 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In June 1940, Great Britain was in mortal danger. Germany had captured all of Western Europe and had begun preparations for an invasion of Britain. It was the most serious threat to their security since the Spanish Armada in 1588. If Hitler’s panzer divisions were able to cross the channel they would overwhelm the British Army.

The new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, knew his county faced a daunting challenge. On June 18, he stood before the House of Commons: “The Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon it depends our British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

“Hitler knows that he will have to break us on this island or lose the war … Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say … ‘This was their finest hour!’ ”

Operation Sea Lowe or “Sea Lion” was the Nazi plan to invade Great Britain. The United States had not yet entered the war, so if successful, the Fuhrer’s “Thousand Year Reich” might become a reality.

German war planners fixed the invasion date for mid-September, despite Britain’s powerful navy being a serious threat to any invasion. The plan was for the German air force, the Luftwaffe, to clear the skies and then destroy the Royal Navy. Then the invasion could begin unimpeded.

The Luftwaffe was stationed in Norway, Belgium and France. It comprised 2,670 fighters and bombers, compared to only 640 British Spitfires. The Battle of Britain – the first large-scale battle to be fought exclusively in the air – was about to begin.

An epic air battle was fought in two successive phases with heroics on both sides. However, the Germans did not realize the Royal Air Force was actually in dire straits, but then suddenly something happened that changed the entire course of the war.

German bombers accidentally dropped a load of bombs on South London, the first times civilians had ever been attacked. Enraged British forces retaliated by bombing Berlin! This shocked the Germans, who had faithfully promised their people they were entirely safe from any war.

What followed was the final phase of the Battle of Britain.

Beginning on Sept. 7, 200 German bombers – each night – assaulted London using incendiary devices to create fires and high-explosive bombs to destroy structures. On Sept. 15, two massive waves of Germans attacked England, but were somehow repulsed by furious RAF counterattacks. Then another bomber force was repulsed and caused Hitler to first postpone the invasion, and then abandon the idea entirely.

So the threat of invasion was lifted, but the bombing intensified.

On the terrible evening of Oct. 15, nearly 500 German planes dropped 386 tons of explosives and an astonishing 17,000 incendiary devices on London proper. The “blitz” continued throughout the 1940-41 winter as German planes continued to haunt the skies each night.

A major attack on May 10, 1941, turned out to be the last one as five weeks later, Hitler decided to invade Russia. Most Luftwaffe squadrons on the Atlantic were redeployed to the Eastern front.

The British had not been broken and the Battle of Britain did indeed turn out to be “Their Finest Hour.”

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

The California Golden Bears Came Out of Nowhere to Win It All in 1959

Oscar Robertson (No. 12) led the Cincinnati Bearcats to the Final Four at the 1959 NCAA Tournament. This signed photo went to auction in October 2008.

By Jim O’Neal

The big question in 1959 was which one of the year’s big stars would lead their team to the NCAA championship: Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati, Bob Boozer at Kansas State, or “Zeke from Cabin Creek” Jerry West of West Virginia.

The answer was none of them, although Jerry and Oscar would guide their teams into the Final Four. The winner in 1959 was Coach Pete Newell’s starless California Golden Bears. They had won the Pacific Conference, but weren’t even ranked in the top 10 teams when the tournament started. They had a bye into the second round, where they were expected to be eliminated by a strong Utah team. Instead, they held the high-scoring Utes to a mere 53 points, while 6-10 center Darrall Imhoff monopolized the rebounding.

However, most eyes were looking to the east where West scored 25 points in an easy 82-68 win over a tough Dartmouth team. Then, several nights later, the 6-3 superstar chalked up 36 points to edge St. Joseph’s 95-92.

Kansas State had been ranked No. 1 at the end of the season and started strong by blistering DePaul 102-70 for only the third time a team had scored 100 points. Then they ran into Cincinnati and lost despite Boozer’s 32 points.

Meanwhile, California put away small Saint Mary’s in a game barely noticed and snuck into the Final Four.

Most thought Cincinnati would easily dispense with California in the semifinals given the explosive nature of the team that averaged 81 points a game complemented by the extraordinarily talented Oscar Robertson’s 29-point average. However, Coach Newell’s smothering defense prevailed in a 64-58 surprise upset.

West Virginia made the finals behind a sterling 38-point burst by West and easily beat Louisville 94-79.

So the stage was set to see if California could hold off Oscar Robertson one night and then Jerry West the next. When the final buzzer sounded, it was California 71 and West Virginia 70 in the biggest surprise of the year.

However, the next three years would clearly belong to the state of Ohio as Cincinnati and Ohio State fielded some of the best talent in tournament history.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

The Abner Doubleday Myth and the Alexander Cartwright Reality

An 1839 Alexander Cartwright signed book, the earliest-known Cartwright autograph, realized $10,157.50 at a February 2015 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The baseball Hall of Fame officially opened on June 12, 1939, in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Cooperstown name was drawn from James Fenimore Cooper, whose works of literature have become American classics in every sense of the word.

The inaugural HOF class was selected three years earlier in 1936 and consisted of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. (Seven Cobb baseball cards were discovered this year in an old paper bag in rural Georgia after someone’s great-grandfather died. Experts at PSA estimate their value at “well into seven figures.”)

Now we know for sure that Abner Doubleday was a fine Civil War general and is credited with firing the first shot at the Confederates from Fort Sumter. However, his military record was tarnished when General George Meade replaced him at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was unfair, but Meade had been disdainful of Doubleday for a long time.

We also know that Doubleday obtained a patent on the little cable cars that “climb halfway to the stars,” as the venerable Tony Bennett sings about in his theme song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” A wise man once told me … never live in San Francisco, but never live too far from it.

Now back to Doubleday, where the facts start to get iffy.

Abner Doubleday was credited with inventing baseball by a commission sponsored by A.G. Spalding, co-founder of the sports equipment company, in an effort to dispel rumors that the All-American game had a British pedigree. Spalding organized the Mills Commission to authenticate baseball as an American invention and it concluded, conveniently, the concept was devised by Doubleday.

Subsequently, the Mills report has been thoroughly discredited and a New York bank clerk, Alexander Cartwright, gets the honor … in addition to starting the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, designing the diamond shape and even sewing the first baseball. Some of the rules he created are still in use.

For those who love baseball as I do, Harold Peterson’s The Man Who Invented Baseball (1973) is a treasure and highly recommended.

Abner Doubleday had a terrific life, but it did not include baseball.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

In Basketball, Cinderella Teams Can Be Unexpected – and Good

Tickets stubs for the 1983 NCAA Finals often appear at auction.

By Jim O’Neal

When the 1983 NCAA regular season ended, Houston was an almost unanimous choice for the nation’s top spot. The Cougars sported a record of 27-2 and were 16-0 in the Southwest Conference.

Coach Guy Lewis had an awesome team with the most intimidating front court in college basketball. One forward was certified All-American Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, a 6-6 leader whose body control would have astonished Rubber Man. The other forward was 6-9 Larry “Mr. Mean” Micheaux and at center was 7-foot Akeem Abdul Olajuwon.

They called their act the “Phi Slama Jama,” a fraternity of slam dunk artists nonpareil.

After a “boring win” (Coach Lewis) over Maryland, Houston intimidated Memphis State and then decimated Villanova for their 25th consecutive win. Houston, a surprise visitor to the previous year’s Final Four, was headed back to face the Louisville Cardinals in the semifinals.

The Final Four met in Albuquerque, N.M. – a city with a mile-high elevation – and the sportscasters kept telling everyone the oxygen was so thin that everyone would get very tired.

Houston’s game against Louisville was already being touted as the tournament championship game, since the other two Final Four teams, Georgia and North Carolina State, had lost 19 regular-season games between them.

The semifinal match-up of such improbables caused some to call it the “Cinderella Bowl” while others referred to it as the “jayvee prelim before the varsity game.” Even NC State Coach Jim Valvano conceded the winner would definitely be the underdog in the championship game. But, his star guard Dereck Whittenburg added, “Cinderella just means they don’t expect you here. It doesn’t mean you are not good.”

Prophetic words perhaps as NC State beat Georgia 67-60. Next, Houston staged a remarkable second half against Louisville that propelled them to a 94-81 win. Fans were in awe at the magnitude of their brilliant performance.

That left the Phi Slama Jammers with a 26-game winning streak and a solid 8-point favorite.

The game strategies were obvious. Coach Lewis told his Cougars to run, gun and slam dunk! Coach Valvano said before the game, “If we get the opening tip, we won’t take a shot until next Tuesday.”

The Wolfpack did not wait until Tuesday. They started shooting early, scored the first 6 points and built a 33-25 half-time lead. North Carolina State proceeded to win the game 54-52, ironically climaxing it with a slam dunk.

No one now disputes Dereck Whittenburg’s definition of Cinderella: “You can be unexpected and good!”

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Gallipoli Battle Established Australian, New Zealand Forces as Ferocious Fighters

The 1981 film Gallipoli starred Mel Gibson and was directed by Peter Weir. This Australian daybill went to auction in September 2014.

By Jim O’Neal

Mel Gibson fans remember him for his role in Gallipoli, which won him his second AFI film award in 1981 (his first was for Mad Max). However, the actual history of the Allied invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in World War I (April 25, 1915-Jan. 9, 1916) is rarely mentioned.

Perhaps that is because in Great Britain it is regarded as an embarrassing military debacle. It is remembered primarily for the fact it almost cost a young Winston Churchill his career while resulting in him losing his job as the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was forced to resign in May 1916 as a consequence of the campaign’s utter failure.

For the triumphant Turks, Gallipoli was a glorious victory. It spurred the nationalist fervor that would lead to the founding of the Turkish Republic eight short years later. Gallipoli was also a personal triumph for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who became the founder of the modern state of Turkey in 1923.

The Gallipoli campaign was a flawed response to the closure of the Dardanelles strait by the Ottoman Empire that limited Allied shipping to Russia. Churchill endorsed a plan that included a naval attack, followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula. However, the Turks repelled the invasion and inflicted 250,000 casualties on Allied forces. Critics claim the evacuation of Allied troops from the shambles of the battlefield was the best executed phase of the entire campaign!

One bright spot was the performance on the battlefield by the Australians and New Zealanders. The combined ANZAC forces were so impressive that their reputation as ferocious fighters was permanently established. April 25 – Anzac Day – is solemnly commemorated in both countries and people make pilgrimages to pay their respects for so much bloodshed, even in a lost cause.


Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

The Shape of Cities and the Benefits of Buying and Holding

In 1815, John Jacob Astor (right) loaned future president James Monroe $3,400. Monroe stayed in debt to Astor throughout his presidency. This payment document “to the order of the Honbl James Monroe” and signed by Astor went to auction in October 2012.

By Jim O’Neal

Early land surveys were based on a simple principle: A shape that could be easily reduced to smaller parcels was much easier to sell. Merchant, fur trader and investor John Jacob Astor recognized this when he bought his first property in early 1800 on the lower East Side of Manhattan.

His American Fur Company made a fortune in the far west trading beaver pelts and he earned another by gobbling up land in Manhattan, spending $200,000 in a single year. He built a hoard that eventually grew to over 300 lots.

Land bought in 1800 for $50 an acre had a price tag of $1,500 by 1820 and Astor was a patient investor who made an enormous profit.

Underpinning the growth in both Manhattan land values and Astor’s personal wealth was a plan drawn up by the city in 1811 for New York’s future growth. They correctly chose rectilinear and rectangular streets instead of circles, ovals or stars.

By contrast, Washington, D.C., was superbly laid out by Pierre L’Enfant, with its avenues radiating out from the Capitol and White House. This required oval and star shaped lots, but this was a disaster since there was no market for odd-shaped land parcels. Most land developers and speculators lost money.

Critics of Astor were disgusted by his inability to disguise his greed. He shoveled food into his greasy mouth, scooped up peas and ice cream with a knife and wiped his hands on tablecloths. But his greed for land in Manhattan paid off big. When he died in 1848, his estate was valued at $25 million – 2½ times more than the next wealthiest Americans.

“Buy and hold” is a time-tested formula for success in land, coins, art and other rare collectibles. The Intelligent Collector is filled with similar amazing stories of wealth creation through shrewd, knowledgeable acquisitions – combined with patience.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Hope for Peace in the Middle East Has Been an Elusive Goal for a Long Time

Israel in 1967 minted a gold medal commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which called for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

By Jim O’Neal

The Israeli-Palestine issue was back in the news recently as Vice President Joe Biden was visiting. There were also reports that the Obama administration was on the verge of creating another “Peace Talks Structure” to facilitate transition to the next U.S administration and chalk up another legacy achievement.

When Great Britain took control of Palestine after World War I, it promised to create a Jewish state (the Balfour Declaration). However, every wave of Jewish immigration was met with violent resistance from Palestinian Arabs.

Britain reneged on its promise and after World War II, turned the issue over to the United Nations. In 1947, the U.N. partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Shortly afterward, Palestinian fighters attacked and the Israeli “War of Independence” began.

In Egypt, President Nasser first drove the British out of the Suez Canal and then joined with Syria to “push the Israelis into the sea.” By 1967, Israel was surrounded by hostile borders and Egypt, Jordan and Syria considered the destruction of Israel “a child’s game that would take four days.” The United Nations pulled out and the Egyptian Navy blockaded the Strait of Tiran.

However, on June 5, 250 Israeli fighter jets (supplied by the French) made a surprise attack on Egyptian airfields and destroyed half of their total Air Force – 200 fighters, bombers and helicopters. They dominated the skies, pushed the Egyptian Army back and then destroyed most of the Jordanian air power.

The Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan began calling it “The Six-Day War,” echoing the Book of Genesis. God made the world in six days, and Israel asserted itself as a nation in the same time.

The big difference was that God rested on the seventh day, but the Israelis have continued on the defensive every day since, even defeating Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Palestinians in the 1987-93 First Intifada.

Hope for peace in this tiny place on earth has been an elusive goal for a very long time.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

‘Hollywood’ Sign Symbol of a City, Industry and Lifestyle

This 1930s photo shows American tennis champion Henry Ellsworth Vines Jr. under the original “Hollywoodland” sign. This photo went to auction in May 2013.

By Jim O’Neal

Now that the Oscar buzz has abated, the folks who work in Hollywood are back busily creating new forms of entertainment. Most probably don’t realize that the world-famous HOLLYWOOD sign was originally HOLLYWOODLAND and used to promote a large real-estate subdivision overlooking Sunset Boulevard.

It was erected near the top of Mount Lee in 1923 and each white sheet-metal letter was nearly 50 feet high and 40 feet wide and outlined with lightbulbs. It soon became associated with the movie industry and in 1932, actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping off the letter H.

Alas, 15 years after being built, maintenance on the sign was deferred and it soon fell into disrepair. Then somebody stole all 8,000 of the 20-watt lightbulbs. By 1945, the development company had donated the sign plus some land to the city park and recreation department.

When the letter H blew down four years later, many regarded the sign as an eyesore and thought it should be removed entirely. However, the parks commissioner finally decided to repair just the first nine letters and remove the last four.

Ultimately, the show-biz community raised enough money through donations to keep it viable and since 1973 the sign has been officially designated a Historic-Cultural Monument.

I’m sure there must be others, but Los Angeles always seems to be too busy to spend a lot of time on the past. Houses up to 10,000 square feet are routinely razed (too small) to make way for more appropriate 40,000-square-foot second homes. Two swimming pools, 15-car garages, tennis courts and bowling alleys are considered de rigueur.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right … the truly rich are different.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].