By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
The fourth installment of “Fairmont Fever” occurred earlier this week at the Stack’s Bowers office in California where bidders competed for yet another round of coins from the amazing Fairmont Hoard. In most cases, the coins being offered were nice but were clearly not of the same quality that characterized the first three offerings. It should be stressed that the (random example) fourth 1844-D half eagle being offered was likely head and shoulders finer than the majority of better-date U.S. gold seen in dealer’s inventories or at typical auctions.
I’m going to focus on the Southern gold half eagles that were offered for sale on March 23, 2023. The offering didn’t include any Charlotte or Dahlonega coins graded higher than AU58, and very few were offered at that level. The typical example was a solid AU53 to AU55 with CAC approval.
I found the quality of the Southern half eagles to be a bit disappointing after the sensational coins that populated the first three Fairmont sales. The coins seemed more abraded and had a bit less color than their earlier counterparts. That said, a sizable percentage (seemingly close to 75%) were CAC-approved. And, as I have said before, the coins in this deal are so nice that the ones that don’t sticker at CAC would stand out in any other auction as being special.
I’d like to think that I know more about what Southern gold coins are worth than most potential buyers do. I chased these coins pretty aggressively and still got blown out on many lots that I thought I’d win easily. In all, I purchased two Charlotte half eagles, four Dahlonega half eagles, and just a single No Motto half eagle from New Orleans.
Prices for Charlotte half eagles in the sale were much stronger than I expected. Here are some prices realized along with PCGS Price Guide levels:
I think two things stand out here.
The first is that, while these coins were very nice, they were fully graded, and I doubt the strong prices realized were the result of crack-out dealers getting carried away.
The second is that the current PCGS prices for Charlotte half eagles are generally way too high and, ironically, have even recently been lowered for common dates in EF and AU grades. For a Charlotte half eagle to bring full PCGS Price Guide (or more), it has to be an absolutely outstanding coin. And while some of these were, some were not.
It is clear that buyers of nice PCGS/CAC half eagle Southern gold coins have no problem spending over $4,000 for a common-date Charlotte half eagle in EF45.
The selection of Dahlonega half eagles in the sale was less impressive than the killer date runs in the earlier Fairmont sales, but there were still some very nice pieces available.
I’m not at all surprised by these prices. Some of these D mint half eagles were outstanding for their respective grade, and all were slightly better dates that are now commanding a much stronger price due to the Market Premium Factor that inevitably occurs when a specific market heats up.
When it comes to Dahlonega half eagles, does a “rising tide lift all boats”? Most certainly not. As an example, there are a number of 1846-D half eagles graded EF45 for which I would be hard-pressed to write a check for $3,000, let alone pay $4,560.
I do think that we have seen the end of the “nice D mint half eagle for under $3,000 era.” The entry point which was around $1,500 a few years ago is now at least double this. If you bought your nice VF25 1852-D $5 from me for $1,750, you’re in a nice profit position.
And, yes, I think this price increase is sustainable.
The sample size for New Orleans half eagles in the Fairmont IV sale was much smaller than in the past. A number of dates that were represented in the earlier sales were absent in this edition, or they were represented by lesser-graded coins.
As far as I can tell, most if not all of the prices for New Orleans half eagles in the sale set records for the specific date and grade. It appears that choice circulated New Orleans half eagles are probably the single strongest area in the dated gold market as of March 2023.
The most notable sale was for the 1892-O, which shattered all records for this date. The coin was nice, and it is certainly rare in this grade (only two MS62s have been approved by CAC with one finer: a PCGS MS63 that I sold a few years ago). I had $11,000 to pay for the coin and got blown out of the water.
My overall take on the Fairmont IV sale was that Liberty Head half eagle Southern gold coins were the strongest area while Liberty Head eagles were the weakest. The Liberty Head double eagles were more mixed, with some high prices and others that I thought were reasonable. I will discuss some of these in an upcoming piece.
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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 a recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and an exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins have 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 “Red Book”) 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 and Southern 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.