The Rarity Factor in Numismatics
There are many factors to consider when valuing an object, and rarely does a piece have all the elements to make it a true rarity. For numismatics, these can include low mintage, collectability of the series, surface, eye appeal, grade, grade relative to the known population, and whether the coin is fresh to market. These concepts have been addressed in previous blogs, but we’ll briefly overview some of these terms and why they’re desirable in a coin.
Mintage is one of the key factors in determining the rarity of a coin. The mintage denotes how many of a particular coin was produced by the United States Mint or its branches. U.S. coins can have mintages in the billions for more modern pieces or a single, unique example. Typically, a smaller mintage creates higher demand and value. These coins are considered “absolute rarities.” Another critical factor in realizing a coin’s value is its condition, especially when compared to the entire graded population of that coin. This is “conditional rarity.”
Liberty, Barber, or capped bust coins are series, and ebb and flow in collectability. The sale of a prominent collection of a series may spur a renaissance for that series, bringing higher than average prices. The surface of a coin, its “skin,” can also contribute to a higher realized price, through increased eye appeal. While some collectors may prefer what’s considered a “blast white” surface, much like you’d find right after the coin had been minted, these coins can sometimes appear over-processed and dipped. Coins offered with original, unadulterated surfaces historically bring more than similar pieces that have been worked on.
When both absolute and conditional rarity are seen in a single coin or banknote, you have a truly special coin with an original surface and great eye appeal. Such a coin is lot 1021 in Skinner’s August Coins and Currency online auction, an 1873 Carson City, arrows-at-date, seated Liberty half dollar, with a PCGS grade of MS64+. This coin is part of a popular two-year design type, with the arrows added to both sides of the date, denoting a slightly different weight than the series as a whole, which was dropped after just two years of use. The ever-popular Carson City mint produced this coin, with a mintage of just 214K, compared to its Philadelphia minted counterpart with a mintage of 1.8M. This coin’s estimated survival rate is around 250-500 examples total, with only four examples receiving a higher grade from the two major grading parties. Expect highly spirited bidding on this and other great examples of classic American coins and currency, closing on Wednesday, August 26th at 7PM.
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