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All Posts Tagged With: "Great Coin Rarities"

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: an 1870-S Silver Dollar, an 1817/4 Half Dollar, and an 1854-O $20 gold coin

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #7

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Today’s Theme

So far, I know of two Great Rarities that will be auctioned in Boston in August, and of a third coin that it is very likely to be a Great Rarity. It may be true that there are others of which I am not yet aware. B&M will offer an 1870-S silver dollar and an 1854-O Double Eagle ($20 gold coin). Heritage will put an 1817/4 overdate half dollar ‘on the block.’

For a coin issue to be a Great Rarity, there must be a maximum of twenty-five pieces known to exist in the present, including business strikes and Proofs. As Proofs of these three issues were never minted, there is no need to discuss the possibility of their existence.

Curiously, 1817/4 halves and 1870-S silver dollars seem to be equally rare. I am nearly certain that there are nine known 1870-S dollars. Specialists in Capped Bust Half Dollars have concluded that there are nine known 1817/4 halves. Seven have been known for many years, and two have, strangely in my view, somewhat recently surfaced, not long after the finest known 1817/4 sold for a then record $333,500 on Nov. 29, 2004.

The 1854-O Double Eagle is not as rare as either of these two silver coins. It is likely, though, that fewer than twenty-five exist. If there are thirty, than this issue is a ‘Near Great Rarity’!

Why are these Great Rarities and not 1794 silver dollars, which are more famous? In last week’s column, I discussed the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar that will also be auctioned in Boston. While it is a very desirable coin that is of tremendous importance in the culture of coin collecting, it is not a Great Rarity. There are between 130 and 160 1794 silver dollars in existence. In 2004, Martin Logies, a leading expert on this issue, estimated that 140 survive.

Merely being popular does not make a coin a Great Rarity. In addition to the requirement that twenty-five or fewer be known to exist, each Great Rarity must be traditionally considered a component of an established series. Die varieties, particularly those that require a microscope to identify or are otherwise obscure, generally cannot be Great Rarities, though these are highly prized by some advanced collectors.

The meaning of a Great Rarity is not dependent upon emotions or opinions; there must be underlying facts that establish such a high level of rarity and the acceptance of the respective date. Some other Great Rarities are: the unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Dime, 1894-S dimes, 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Quarters, 1838-O half dollars, 1841 Quarter Eagles, 1854-S Quarter Eagles (and Half Eagles), 1815 Half Eagles, 1822 Half Eagles, 1875 Eagles and 1927-D Saints. There are more than ten others and I look forward to compiling a thorough list in the future. I just mentioned some famous and indisputable Great Rarities in order to illustrate the concept.

There are a few reasons as to why Great Rarities are important. Most have to do with the culture of coin collecting and cannot be simply explained. The most obvious reason, however, is that Great Rarities are needed to complete sets. Unlike the collecting of paintings or vintage automobiles, coin collecting often involves attempts to complete sets that are widely recognized. (more…)