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NNP Blog

Nov 21 2023

Analysis of the Fairmont Collection

It’s rare that a single chapter of a new book demands its own review, but Doug Winter’s recent publication, Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861 (Fourth Edition) represents such an example. As nearly all collectors of U.S. gold coins know, Stack’s Bowers has been offering selections from the Fairmont collection in a series of sales since 2018. The origin of the collection remains unknown, and no comprehensive inventory has been released. A plausible speculation suggests the source is a European or Canadian bank. The total size of the collection, and the number of remaining Stack’s Bowers sales, remains a mystery. 

Richard Radick, a retired Air Force astrophysicist, has intensely studied Stack’s Bowers auction records, PCGS and CAC population reports, and other data to glean insights into the Dahlonega half eagles in the Fairmont collection. What happens when a rocket scientist focuses their attention on the rare coin market? The answer is found In Winter’s latest book, for which Radick contributes a ten-page essay that should be mandatory reading for anyone making purchases from the Fairmont sales. 

Radick pays particular attention to “jumps” in the PCGS population data, as published in editions of the bi-monthly PCGS Market Report. Can these “jumps” be confidently attributed to the Fairmont collection? Radick points out that substandard Fairmont coins have been resubmitted to PCGS and have lost the Fairmont pedigree in the process. Yet, these pieces retain the original submission IDs on the tag, IDs which fall in the same range as Fairmont-pedigreed coins. The logical explanation is that the Fairmont pedigree is used to market the best pieces from this collection, while lesser material is marketed in PCGS holders without the Fairmont pedigree. In the process, Radick can reasonably estimate the overall size of the collection (at least the portion which has been submitted to PCGS), which is far larger than the number of coins that have appeared at auction under the Fairmont branding. 

Radick further analyzes the distribution of dates within the Fairmont Dahlonega half eagles and demonstrates the distribution is proportional to the original production, especially when one considers the exponential decay that would be expected over time (the Fairmont collection includes pieces from 1834 to 1932; one theory suggests the hoard was a U.S. bank holding exported to avoid the 1933 gold recall). Thus, the Fairmont group more closely resembles a circulation hoard than a numismatically formed collection. A related study is found in the 1902 U.S. Mint report, which analyzed the dates of mutilated coinage returned to the Mint in that year. Two anomalies are noted by Radick, with one issue especially underrepresented (have these coins not yet been certified?) and another date overrepresented.

While the fourth edition of Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint is not on Newman Portal, Doug has graciously made earlier editions of his works available via NNP. In the meantime, Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint can be ordered directly from Doug Winter Numismatics.

Link to Doug Winter books on Newman Portal:
Link to Doug Winter website:
Link to U.S. Mint 1902 Annual Report:
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