US Coins

‘Fairmont Collection’ offers up fresh gold to an eager market

Carrying a CAC sticker and graded by PCGS, this MS-61 1873-S Coronet $5 half eagle from the Fairmont Hoard brought $28,800 on Aug. 6.

Original images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

The Fairmont Collection is a fascinating group of coins that, according to specialist Doug Winter, came from an overseas bank and have likely been off the market for a century or more. He wrote on his blog, “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 quantities and wondered if some currently rare issues would be ruined by an oversupply of coins.”

The coins were graded by Professional Coin Grading Service and started to emerge on the market in May 2018, including appearances in recent auctions by Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

The meteoric rise of the price of gold over the past few months has made many coins from this hoard, which contains largely common coins, even more attractive to collectors and investors who are drawn to the original surfaces.

Stack’s Bowers’ Aug. 6 auction in Las Vegas introduced to the market a comprehensive date run of Coronet $5 half eagles.

A review of the images provides a case study in originality. Winter writes, “While I am aware of some smaller hoards of half eagles, especially Indian Head issues, the Fairmont coins offer us a pretty unique perspective on many facets of Liberty Head half eagles: their appearance, their natural color and surfaces, varieties, how they wore in circulation, which dates appear in the hoard and which do not, and more.”

The introduction of hoards to the market can change the relative rarity of coins. The Aug. 6 session offered the only Mint State 1873-S half eagle certified by PCGS, graded MS-61 and bearing a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade. The issue saw 31,000 coins produced, and they are scarce in all grades. It had been largely unknown in Uncirculated grades, and most pieces have weakly defined Mint marks.

Stack’s Bowers praised this example’s honey-orange patina, adding, “Striking detail is superior for a San Francisco Mint gold coin from the 1870s, the mintmark well defined and fairly crisp, and most other design elements sharply to fully impressed.”

The new discovery sold for $28,800.

The hoard had a few more surprises, like a circulated Proof 1888 Coronet half eagle graded PCGS Proof 58 and bearing a green CAC sticker that brought $8,700 and a similarly graded 1892 half eagle that sold for $5,760. Some scruffiness slightly dulled their once brilliantly mirrored fields, and a few contact marks provided evidence of a brief time in circulation, confirming that these “common date” Proofs were worth very little over face value until the early 20th century.

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