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Heritage adds CAC Population Data to Rare Coin Auction Archives

A very quick way to measure a coin’s rarity is to look at how many coins of a particular date have been graded by the major grading services. Three figures are key as a rule of thumb in determining rarity:

  • The population of a coin in a particular grade, which shows how difficult the coin might be to replace exactly
  • The population of a coin in all higher grades, which shows how difficult a coin might be to upgrade
  • The population of a coin in all grades, which shows how difficult a coin might be to find at all.

The first two figures above are often written in shorthand. For example, a coin with a population of 100/4 has 100 known in the same grade and four known in higher grades. A coin with a population of 1/0 is the finest known to the grading service that certified it.

One of the features that has long been available on the Heritage Web site listings and archives are population reports. PCGS and NGC keep track of every coin they grade, and Heritage is generous enough to post this information, in condensed form, on the web page for every US coin.

Now, Heritage has added the CAC population data to it’s population listings.

As an example, the table you see here covers an 1911-D $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle, graded MS65 (in this case by NGC). Under the header “Population”, you can see that the PCGS Population Report shows 1731 1911-D $20 Saints with an MS65 grade, NGC Census figures show 1831 similar coins and CAC has stickered 130.

Under “Population of Higher Grade”, PCGS shows 437 such pieces in MS66 and higher, NGC shows 518 and CAC lists 43.

Finally, the total number of 1911-D $20 Saints graded in all grades is shown in the column “Total Population” — 10,081 by PCGS, 10,831 by NGC and 278 by CAC.

In addition to the population figures, there is a listing for a coin’s mintage and engraver, in this case a Total Mintage of 846,500 coins and the engraver of course is Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

These figures above show that the 1911-D $20 Saint is not a particularly rare coin, and that MS65 is a very typical grade for it to be found.

What is CAC?

CAC is an independent firm that reviews grades on coins that are already encapsulated in order to determine whether the coin in question meets their standards as premium quality for the grade. If a coin meets CAC standards, it is awarded a green or gold sticker, which is placed on the slab.

In the short time CAC has been in operation, coins with their sticker have met with great acceptance and premium prices in the marketplace. They are arguably the reason why PCGS and NGC have both since decided to add ‘+’ grades.

Much like any other population report, the CAC population listings serve to provide collectors of high quality material the best possible information about the availability of coins with the CAC sticker. This gives you as a consumer that much more information when formulating your buying decisions.

Please take into account that population figures listed on coins in Heritage auctions only cover coins with similar designations. In other words, the figures above do not take Prooflike and Deep Mirror Prooflike coins into account at all, and similar restrictions are in place on other series (and all proof coins), so in some cases you may need to do a bit of additional research to find out the true rarity of a coin.

While population figures may be a rule of thumb guide to a coin’s rarity, they are not necessarily a guide to a coin’s value; some coins are particularly popular and might bring prices far in excess of another piece with similar figures. Total populations will usually vary from the number of coins actually available because of resubmissions, and some coins with low populations may simply not be valuable enough to be submitted.

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