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Starting around May 2018, one of the most amazing hoards of United States gold coins I have ever seen started appearing for sale. Graded by PCGS and marketed by Stack’s Bowers, this massive group–likely containing tens of thousands of coins–consists of eagles and double eagles dated as early as 1850 and as late as the 1920s.
Known as the Fairmont Collection, these coins derive from an overseas bank and they likely have been off the market for 75 to 125+ years.
I’ve been paying careful attention to these coins and have learned a tremendous amount about surface preservation, natural color, and rarity. I’d like to share some of my observations with you.
When I first learned about this group, I was simultaneously excited and scared. Excited because I knew I would be able to purchase quantities of virgin original coins; the exact sort of coins that I have been championing for many years. Scared because I was unaware of the quantities and wondered if some currently rare issues would be ruined by an oversupply of coins.
Given my assumption that the majority of the really good 19th-century coins have already been sold, I have been able to make an extremely important determination. Most of the No Motto eagles, Type One double eagles, and Type Two double eagles that I thought were really rare are, in fact, really rare. Dates that I scoffed at as faux-rarities have proven to be the traps that I always assumed they would be.
Let me give you an example. Three Type One Liberty Head double eagles that I always regarded as rare are the 1859, the 1862, and the 1863.
1862 $20.00 PCGS AU50 CAC, EX FAIRMONT. Images courtesy Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN)
So far, Stack’s Bowers has sold four 1859 double eagles at auction from this source with the highest-graded coin an AU55. For the 1862, the number sold is also four with the highest graded an AU55. For the 1863, the number sold so far is also four with the highest graded an MS60. This, of course, doesn’t take into account coins that have been sold out of the auction arena but I’m going to assume that the total number for each of the dates is under 10; a quantity that is easily absorbed by the market.
1857-O $20.00 PCGS MS60, EX FAIRMONT
I wouldn’t have expected many rare date New Orleans double eagles to be in this hoard, and my hunch has proven to be correct. There have been no 1854-O, 1855-O, 1856-O, 1860-O, or 1861-O, and just a single example of the 1859-O and the 1879-O. The 1857-O has been represented by four coins sold (so far), with the finest of these grading MS60, while the 1858-O has been represented by three coins sold.
The single most expensive double eagle from this group sold to date was a PCGS/CAC AU53 1861-S Paquet Reverse, which realized $96,000 as Stack’s Bowers 6/18: 195.
The quantity of the obviously common Type One double eagles in this hoard appears to be vast. As an example, there are hundreds of nice EF and AU 1857-S (with original surfaces; a notable difference to the seawater coins seen most often). As recently as a few years ago, an EF45 1857-S double eagle was a $2,000 coin. Today, it is worth $1,500 and the coins that are available are, for the most part, exceptionally nice.
1885-CC $20.00 PCGS EF45 CAC, EX FAIRMONT
As I expected, there were hundreds if not thousands of common date Carson City double eagles in the Fairmont Hoard. These were mainly in the EF45 to AU55 range and were almost entirely dates such as 1875-CC, 1876-CC, 1882-CC, 1883-CC, 1884-CC, 1889-CC, 1890-CC, and 1892-CC. There do not appear to have been any 1870-CC double eagles in the hoard, and only small quantities of such legitimately rare dates as the 1871-CC, 1872-CC, 1878-CC, 1879-CC, and 1891-CC. Interestingly, these rare dates appear to be well-circulated. This leads me to believe that a date like the 1885-CC is scarce not only because of its low original mintage but because of the fact that it appears to have seen more use in local commerce than a date like the 1884-CC.
Prices on many of the common date double eagles in the Fairmont Collection have dropped, some dramatically.
It is my belief that these coins, at today’s lower market-adjusted price levels, are absolutely fantastic values. In over 35 years of specializing in US gold coins, I have only seen a handful of hoard coins that are as nice as these Fairmont coins.
Typically, coins from overseas banks have dark black smudges on the high spots. I refer to this as “vault dirt” and while it doesn’t bother me, it certainly isn’t attractive and is a turn-off to many collectors.
The Fairmont coins were stored differently and instead of getting dirty, they became nicely toned. The New Orleans coins have acquired a deep green-gold hue, the San Francisco coins show more of a reddish-gold coloration, and the Philadelphia coins have color that varies by decade with the older coins showing a darker green-gold hue while the newer coins show a lighter greenish shade.
There are thousands and thousands of No Motto eagles in this hoard but 95% of these are more common dates. I’m not aware of a single rare New Orleans eagle from this source, no Civil War issues (save for the common 1861-P), and no significant San Francisco coins. This makes sense when you consider the low mintage figures of the truly rare No Motto eagles.
To put it in the broadest terms, if a pre-1880 US gold coin has an original mintage of, say, 5,000 coins, it is almost inevitably going to be rare. Given the large number of No Motto eagles with very low mintage figures, it makes sense that these just weren’t around to export to foreign banks.
1843 $10.00 PCGS AU50
Personally, I’ve been attracted to the Philadelphia No Motto eagles from this hoard. Let me give you an example of a coin that I just sold: an 1843 graded AU50 by PCGS. I priced it at $1,350. That’s essentially double melt for a coin that is legitimately scarce (PCGS population of just 26 in this grade with 17 finer). A coin like this is a no-brainer to me at this price, especially given its choice, original appearance.
One last observation before signing-off. Closely examining the coins from this hoard has also taught me that many of my observations about Liberty Head gold have been more prescient than I would have thought. As an example, I’ve written that “nearly all known 1843-O eagles show conspicuous abrasions on their surfaces.” I’ve seen a lot of 1843-O eagles from this hoard and, lo and behold, they are almost all heavily abraded.
Do you have more questions about this hoard or do you want to share your observations on it? Please comment below. And make sure to contact me via email ([email protected]) or by phone (214-675-9897) if you are interested in purchasing coins from this hoard.
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About Doug Winter
Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.
In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare US Gold coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.
Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins has made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.
Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues
In addition, he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
- Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
- Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
- Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
- The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
- Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
- An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
- The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
- A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
- The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
- Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
- Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis
Finally, Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.