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Condition Census still a valid tool for ranking coins

By Paul Gilkes for COIN WORLD

In 1949, Dr. William H. Sheldon introduced the numismatic term “condition census” in his book Early American Cents, later renamed Penny Whimsy.

PCGS Set RegistryNGC Set RegistryCondition census, according to Sheldon, denoted the finest example and average condition of the next five finest known of a given variety of large cents dated from 1793 through 1814.

Catalogers have gradually extended the use of condition census to other U.S. coin series. According to numismatic writer Q. David Bowers, the term has been used indiscriminately, sometimes to describe any coin that was in a particularly high grade category for its variety, regardless of how many others might share that category.

Growing from the condition census concept are the set registries for certified coins initiated by Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. at the end of the 20th century.

The set registry concept was the brainchild of PCGS co-founder David Hall, currently the president of Collectors Universe, PCGS’s parent company. It began when Hall published in 1998 a printed booklet providing lists of the finest PCGS-certified coin collections and almost complete collections by denomination.

BJ Searls, the PCGS Set Registry manager, launched the registry online in February 2001. NGC followed suit in August 2001 with the NGC Registry.

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