HomeUS CoinsFive Observations About the November 2023 Fairmont Gold Sale

Five Observations About the November 2023 Fairmont Gold Sale

Doug Winter analyzes the Fairmont Collection gold coins, December 2023. Image: CoinWeek.
Doug Winter analyzes the Fairmont Collection gold coins, December 2023. Image: CoinWeek.

By Doug WinterRareGoldCoins.com ……
 

CoinWeek Content Partner
 

Stack’s Bowers held the most recent installment of the Fairmont Hoard on November 15, 2023. As with the last sale (August 2023 and held during the ANA convention to my endless chagrin), prices were mixed, with some coins selling for very strong numbers and others selling at discounts in relation to their most recent auction comparable sale and/or the current PCGS Price Guide.

Here are five observations about the rare date gold coin market based on prices realized at the auction, as well as my personal observations from the last few months (post-ANA, to be more concise). Please note that all prices include the 20% buyer’s premium charged by the auctioneer.

1. Dahlonega Half Eagles Are On Fire

The quality of the Dahlonega $5 gold half eagles in this edition of Fairmont fell short of those seen in earlier sales. But as I’ve written before, a low-end Fairmont coin still wipes the floor with an average quality pre-1933 U.S. gold coin in virtually every dealer’s inventory. There were 14 different Dahlonega half eagles sold, ranging in grade from a low of EF40 to a high of AU55.

A total of four were approved by CAC, with these selling as follows:

Four Dahlonega half eagles represented in the most recent Stack's Bowers' Fairmont sale. Courtesy: Doug Winter.
Four Dahlonega half eagles represented in the most recent Stack’s Bowers’ Fairmont sale. Courtesy: Doug Winter.
1852-D Liberty Head Half Eagle from Stack's Bowers' Kronen sale. Image: PCGS.
1852-D Liberty Head Half Eagle from Stack’s Bowers’ Kronen sale (Lot 5026). Image: PCGS.

Considering that the current PCGS prices were—in my opinion—significantly inflated right before November 15, I think these are exceptional prices. When one considers that, for years, very decent quality (the equivalent of CAC-approved or near-CAC quality) Dahlonega fives were available in the $2,500 to $3,000 USD range, that era seems done.

2. Nice and Rare Still Sold for Plenty

As I said above, the quality and the depth of this session paled in comparison to some of the earlier Fairmont sales. However, there were still pretty decent individual coins available.

Three quick examples:

1884-CC $10, PCGS/CAC AU58 (Lot 5213): I really liked this coin. It was 100% natural in appearance with lovely deep green-gold color… a PQ example of this conditionally scarce date if ever one deserved this appellation.

I intended to bid $15,000 but I stretched to $16,500 ($19,800 all in). Which still didn’t win the coin as it hit $17,000 ($20,400 all in). This is a record price for this date in this grade. The scary thing is there could easily be at least two or three more comparable–or better–coins in this deal.

This 1858-O Liberty Head Double Eagle was graded PCGS AU55 CAC and sold by Stack's Bowers (Lot 5291). Image: Stack's Bowers.
This 1858-O Liberty Head Double Eagle was graded PCGS AU55 CAC and sold by Stack’s Bowers (Lot 5291). Image: Stack’s Bowers.

1858-O $20, PCGS/CAC AU55 (Lot 5291): There might be a nicer AU55 example of this date somewhere, but if there is, I haven’t seen it (I almost liked the Stack’s Bowers 6/2018: 186 coin as much but that one somehow didn’t get stickered by CAC). I was determined to acquire this coin and I thought I’d have to stretch over my intended floor of $35,000. I wound-up stretching a bit and still struck-out on this coin, which set a price record for the date and grade.

It was just the second CAC-approved 1858-O $20 in AU55 to ever sell at auction, and I actually liked it more than the two Fairmont PCGS/CAC AU58s that sold for $40,800 and $43,200 in 11/2022 and 8/2022, respectively. It was nice, it was rare, and it sold for plenty – despite the fact that the Type One Liberty Head $20 gold double eagle market is very flat right now.

1879-CC $20, PCGS/CAC AU55 (Lot 5339): All Carson City double eagles are technically overvalued when it comes right down to it. The 1879-CC is considered a “rare” date within the CC $20 series, yet as many as 300 to 400+ exist. Problem-free AU55 and better coins are genuinely scarce, especially with CAC approval. The current CAC population stands at eight in AU55, five in AU58, and just a single coin (an MS62) finer.

I knew this coin was going to be tough to buy as there was an outlier APR of $50,400 for a PCGS/CAC AU55 in August, 2022. The only Fairmont example to trade in the last few years in PCGS AU55 brought $26,400 in March 2023; it was non-CAC but pretty nice overall. The coin brought $48,000 with me as the frustrated and somewhat spiteful underbidder.

3. It’s About the Coins, Stupid

Lots of very smart collectors (some of them are good Douglas Winter Numismatics clients) have had it with Fairmont (said in the whiniest voice(s) imaginable: “But I’m tired of these sales…” or “But I want to know the back story of where the coins are from..” or “But Stack’s could have a bag full of 18xx-CC double eagles in their back office…”

Enough already!

Like the header says: It’s about the coins, stupid. You don’t know the back story of the halibut filet on your dinner plate, so is that going to stop you from wolfing it down?

Fairmont is the gift that keeps on giving for collectors of truly unadulterated Liberty Head gold coins.

An 1876-S Liberty Head Eagle in PCGS AU55. Image: Stack's Bowers.
An 1876-S Liberty Head Eagle in PCGS AU55. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

Case in point: I LOVE 1876-S eagles. Prior to Fairmont, I think I had seen maybe three nice AUs in over 35+ years of searching. Since 2022, Stack’s Bowers has now sold four (55+/55/55/50), and each one has been delightful. I’d like to think the market for a coin of this rarity can absorb these four coins as well as a few more.

Here’s the bottom line: these coins will dry up sooner than you think (the truly rare ones, that is). And when they’re gone, your chance to buy a nice 1876-S $10 will revert to next to nil. As the old cliché goes, “make hay while the sun is shining.”

4. “Let’s Run the Numbers, Triple R”

Courtesy of my numbers guru, Richard Radick (big ups, Triple R), here are the sale by the numbers:

Kronen Sale gold coin data. Courtesy: Radick / Winter.
Kronen Sale gold coin data. Courtesy: Radick / Winter.

A few quick takes:

As with the last Fairmont offering (8/2023), the strength of the sale was in the half eagles–especially the Dahlonega and New Orleans issues.

CAC coins in Fairmont sales consistently bring a 10-20% premium over non-CAC coins. This is actually lower than in many auctions, and I believe this is due to the fact that there are so many “really nice but just a teeny bit too (choose one or more): cleany/marky/dull/liney for JA” coins. I am still an avid buyer of such coins, especially if they can be bought at significant discounts.

The $20 Lib market is broken. What can be done to fix it? See a future article for possible answers.

5. The Negative Impact of Fairmont on Indian Head Half Eagles and Eagles

With very few exceptions, the impact of Fairmont on the Liberty Head gold market has been positive. Half eagles have been a stellar performer, with all branch mints showing strong upticks and demand and prices. Eagles have, for the most part, benefited by the availability of high-end circulated pieces, although my guess is that rare San Francisco issues probably could stand a moratorium on incoming coins.

My personal observation is that the Indian Head gold market has been the most negatively impacted.

Let’s look at the 1911-D $5 in PCGS MS63.

A 1911-D Indian Head Half Eagle graded PCGS MS63 CAC. Image: Stack's Bowers.
A 1911-D Indian Head Half Eagle graded PCGS MS63 CAC. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

In the 11/2023 Stack’s Bowers sale of Fairmont gold coins, a PCGS MS63 example brought $22,800. In March 2019, Stack’s Bowers sold a PCGS/CAC MS63 for $36,000.

And what about the popular 1909-O $5? In the recent sale, a nice PCGS MS62 brought $28,800. In 11/2022, the same date in the same grade brought $31,200, while another PCGS MS62 brought $50,400 in the 4/2022 SB auction. This date is clearly trending downwards, and I believe that as more come onto the market, it will drop further in price.
Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

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Doug Winter
Doug Winterhttps://www.raregoldcoins.com
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, 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. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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1 COMMENT

  1. Good article, Doug….as usual. LOL

    But I do think that provenance matters. I understand that the finders or acculators or compilers of this “Fairmont Hoard” (which could be from multiple sources) do not want to depress the market for their product. I also understand that knowing minutae about the find, though interesting, is probably not germane to having information sufficient for bidding.

    But when sales of these coins continue to dribble out year after year after year….folks do get a bit prickly. How many more Type 1 Double Eagles are out there from Fairmont — a few more dozen ? A few more hundred ? Thousands ? Previous hoards had their numbers pretty much established within months of the find.

    I’m not a buyer of the Fairmont Collection coins, but if I were I’d be very very cautious not knowing what dates, coins, or total numbers. All we’ve gotten is that the find could be tens of thousands of coins from 1850-1920’s and most were off the market for a century or longer.

    There’s a great story, and great coins here…and they’d both benefit from MORE not LESS information.

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