By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com ……
CoinWeek Content Partner
The dispersal of the Fairmont Collection began in 2018. It became better organized in 2022 with the offering of the subsets of half eagles, eagles, and double eagles that were given the names “Hendricks” (sold in April 2022), “JBR” (sold in August 2022), and “CBL” (sold in November 2022). It is interesting to note the decreasing prices for many of the issues that were offered in each of these sales in similar or virtually similar grades.
It is my observation that the market is suffering from “Fairmont Fatigue”. This has caused some really nice (and really rare) coins to sell for significant discounts and, in my opinion, the prices realized for some–but not all–of the coins offered by Stack’s Bowers in November 2022 were bargains.
Let’s look at some coins that fit the criteria listed above, along with some critical analysis.
- April 2022, Lot 5038, PCGS AU58 CAC: $10,800
- August 2022, Lot 3030, PCGS AU55 CAC: $8,100
- November 2022, Lot 7020, PCGS AU55+ CAC: $6,900
You can’t ask for a more popular issue than a solidly upper-end AU common date Dahlonega half eagle. It would make an ideal type coin or a great Dahlonega Mint representative for a seven-mint set.
The PCGS/CAC AU58 narrowly set a record price for this date and grade, eclipsing the previous high of $9,600. The PCGS/CAC AU55 offered in August was a nice coin for the grade, but it probably brought around 10-15% too much. The third and final coin sold was a good value… and I was the buyer.
While this is certainly a small sample size, I’d say that the prices for sub-$10,000 Dahlonega half eagles were stable throughout the three sales–which is the result of strong demand for nice D mint half eagles.
- April 2022, Lot 5099, PCGS AU58 CAC: $10,200
- August 2022, Lot 3087, PCGS AU58 CAC: $9,600
- November 2022, Lot 7072, PCGS AU55 CAC: $9,000
My analysis of Charlotte half eagles in the three Fairmont sales showed that, for coins at $10,000 and lower, prices remained pretty consistent. This was especially true for coins that were CAC-approved.
It is my strong belief that Charlotte half eagles–like their counterparts from Dahlonega–are popular enough that the market is able to absorb reasonably large quantities at affordable price points. I would estimate that there are over 100 such half eagles from Charlotte in the Fairmont Collection, and I am confident that the market could absorb all of these without a significant lowering of prices.
- April 2022, Lot 5107, PCGS AU58 CAC: $78,000 (a record price for a business strike 1863 $5)
- August 2022, Lot 3093, PCGS AU58 CAC, $50,400
- November 2022, Lot 7078, PCGS AU55: $28,800
Yes, the first PCGS/CAC AU58 was probably too expensive at $78k, but I think the second PCGS/AU58 was priced about right for this rare and popular issue. The PCGS/CAC AU55–which I bought–seemed like a total rip at a bit less than $29k. There had been just one other 1863 $5 graded AU55 sold at auction since July 2003 (!): an unattractive coin sold for $29,375 in July 2017.
To me, this date epitomizes the point I’m making. Because of the super-strong prices of the April 2022 Hendricks coins, it almost seems like the November 2022 JBR coin was punished.
- April 2022, Lot 5152, PCGS AU55: $18,000
- August 2022. Lot 3136, PCGS AU55: $14,400
- November 2022, Lot 7113, PCGS AU53 CAC: $9,600
Many times, a nice PCGS/CAC AU53 is worth as much as a decent PCGS non-CAC AU55. The Fairmont: 7113 coin was exceptionally nice and it brought just $600 more than the scrubby Heritage 10/2022: 3218 coin, which brought $9,000.
The April 2022 Hendricks coin set a record for this date in this grade, eclipsing the $14,688 (Legend 12/2021) and $13,000 (David Lawrence 6/2021) for examples that were CAC-graded.
My take is that the recent sale at $9,600 was cheap, while the April 2022 sale at $18k was about 20-30% over market.
- April 2022, Lot 5246, PCGS AU55: $36,000
- August 2022, Lot 3254, PCGS AU55 CAC: $16,800
- November 2022, Lot 7214, PCGS AU55, $9,000
If you weren’t familiar with all three of these coins, the wild variance in prices for the three PCGS AU55 coins offered in 2022 seems nonsensical.
The April 2022 coin never made sense to me at anywhere near $36k. I loved the coin (I even graded it 55+/58) but my bid was $18,000 – and I don’t typically get outbid by multiples of two or more on rare date No Motto New Orleans eagles.
The August 2022 made more sense to me. The coin was solid for the grade and it was the sole CAC-approved AU55 ever sold at auction.
The November 2022 coin at $9,000 was a stone-cold rip, but it was a stone-cold rip with a caveat: both the left obverse and the right obverse(s) were encrusted with deep red oxidation. If this could be removed without harming the otherwise-impressive appearance., then voila, you’d have a $12,500+ 1852-O eagle.
- April 2022, Lot 5271, PCGS AU58 CAC: $45,600
- August 2022, Lot 3277, PCGS AU58 CAC: $40,800
- November 2022, Lot 7235, PCGS AU55: $15,000
The high-grade rarity of the 1861-S has taken a bit of a hit in the last three years. Between the small group sold in the 2020 Künker auction, the Fairmont coins, and a few others, there have been no fewer than six Auction Price Records (APRs) between early 2020 and late 2022 for PCGS/CAC coins graded between AU53 and AU58. Considering that just a handful of collectors are looking for a Condition Census-level 1861-S $10, it seems to me that the market would be troubled by the Fairmont additions.
For the first two sales, the market was just fine. $45,600 was by far a record price for any circulated 1861-S ever sold via auction, while $40,800 was a close second.
The November coin was very high-end for the grade. It didn’t have a CAC sticker (although I thought it should have) and it limped home at an anemic $15,000. Not a strong result, but–given the number of nice 1861-S specimens that have been for sale since 2020–it’s not horrible.
- April 2022, Lot 5323, PCGS MS61 CAC: $40,800
- August 2022, Lot 3624, PCGS MS61 CAC: $38,400
- November 2022, Lot 7270, PCGS MS61 CAC: $30,000
If any area of the market could survive a “Fairmont Onslaught”, it would have to be Carson City gold, right? In addition to the three Fairmont coins cited above, a fourth PCGS/CAC MS61 1884-CC eagle entered the market in 2022 (Bender: 3624, which brought $38,400). While the market could absorb a dozen nice AU examples of this date in a one-year+ period, the 1884-CC eagle has a limited audience of $40k players and I had my doubts about prices staying strong for this glut of MS61s.
The first three coins (two Fairmonts and one Bender) did quite well. The November 2022 coin sold a bit on the cheap side, but if I were collecting high-grade CC eagles, I’d be wondering how many more Fairmont Uncirculated 1884-CC $10s are waiting their turn to be sold.
- April 2022, Lot 5363, PCGS MS61 CAC: $50,400
- August 2022, Lot 3395, PCGS MS61 CAC: $43,200
- November 2022, Lot 7927, PCGS MS61: $27,600
Given that the 1851-O is a pretty scarce issue in Uncirculated, I was pretty surprised to see so many high-grade coins in Fairmont, let alone three of them. My guess is that there could even be a few more waiting in the wings.
The first two APRs are very strong; especially for the August 2022 coin as it showed pronounced die lapping at stars two through nine on the obverse which I found very detracting.
The most recent price is a combination of two factors: the 11/2022 coin lacked a CAC sticker (although I actually liked the coin a lot more than I did its 8/2022 counterpart), and the market for New Orleans double eagles is fairly soft right now.
- April 2022, Lot 5397, PCGS MS61: $36,000
- August 2022, Lot 3427, PCGS AU58: $25,200
- November 2022, Lot 7327, PCGS MS61: $40,800
Not every Fairmont coin did worse in Sale Three than it did in Sale One. I personally liked the second MS61 (sold in 11/2022) far better for the grade than the coin that sold in April 2022.
And here’s another good example, also from the Type One series an issue with multiple levels of demand as it is a Civil War date:
- April 2022, Lot 5400, PCGS MS63: $50,400
- August 2022, Lot 3430, PCGS MS62+: $26,400
- November 2022, Lot 7330, PCGS MS63: $60,000
I thought all three of these coins could have easily passed muster at CAC. These were also three of the best 1864-S $20s that I’ve seen. I bought the 4/2022: 5400 coin and I thought I paid all the money for it, but the sale of the 11/2022: 7330 at 20% more vindicated me.
In case you were wondering, there were a number of very rare and very choice Type One issues which did get clubbed as the sales progressed. Here is one:
1866-S No Motto
- April 2022, Lot 5403, PCGS AU58 CAC: $120,000 (in January 2007, a PCGS AU58 sold for $195,500)
- August 2022, Lot 3433, PCGS AU58: $90,000
- November 2022, Lot 7333, PCGS AU58: $75,000
If you needed one, the strategy here was to wait out the first two sales and go for the third coin. Of course, it remains to be seen how many more 1866-S No Motto $20s will be sold in the Fairmont Collection. If there are another two or three in AU58 (entirely possible), then I could see the last one selling in the $50,000-55,000 range.
How about Type Two Liberty Head double eagles? This is an area which has been pretty tepid for a number of years; with the exception of the popular Carson City issues.
Let’s look at the 1869-S, an issue which is conditionally scarce and which isn’t especially popular.
- April 2022, Lot 5411, PCGS MS62 CAC: $24,000
- August 2022, Lot 3441, PCGS MS62 CAC: $22,800
- November 2022, Lot 7340, PCGS MS62 CAC: $21,600
This is a surprise to me. I would have guessed each offering would have seen a decline of at least 20% but the prices were fairly stable.
Let’s conclude with a few Carson City double eagle issues. These are not as “hot” now as they were in 2021 and early 2022, but the Fairmont Collection contained some outstanding examples of dates that are not typically seen in higher grades.
- April 2022, Lot 5439, PCGS MS61 CAC: $120,000
- August 2022, Lot 3466, PCGS AU58: $52,800
- November 2022, Lot 5364, PCGS MS60 CAC: $72,000
- April 2022, Lot 5469, PCGS MS61: $72,000
- August 2022, Lot 3490, PCGS MS61 CAC: $76,000
- November 2022, Lot 7385, PCGS MS61: $69,000
Given the fact that certain CC double eagles are down at least 10-15% in November 2022 versus their levels earlier this year, I think the prices for the two scarcer dates cited above held the line reasonably well. The spectacular prices we saw in the Hendricks sale (April 2022) for common date CC double eagles in uncommon grades (MS63) are not likely to be matched any time soon (if ever).
I will add, in closing, that if I were a buyer of high-quality CC double eagles, then I’d would approach a coin like an 1883-CC in PCGS/CAC MS63 (to use a totally random example) with extreme caution, as it is possible that others exist in this hoard. But I would have told you the exact same thing even before the Fairmont Collection hit the market.
The conclusions we can reach from this small study of Fairmont prices can be summarized as follows:
Nice, affordable coins of all three denominations ($5, $10, and $20) held their value quite well.
CAC-approved coins outperformed non-CAC coins.
Esoteric coins priced at over $20,000 saw the largest decreases in price over the course of the three sales. My gut tells me that the coins most impacted were issues such as Reconstruction Era Philadelphia and San Francisco half eagles and eagles.
Collectors are wary of buying big ticket coins (such as 1866-S No Motto double eagles) in higher grades due to Stack’s Bowers’ continued refusal to release information about the quantities of coins in the Fairmont Hoard.
I have heard almost no complaints about the quality of the coins in this hoard, and even the fourth- or fifth-best example of a scarce issue–like an 1865-S eagle–is markedly superior to the typical non-Fairmont piece in the same grade.
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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 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.