Aug 30, 2014

Rare with mushrooms and spinach

Coin rarity scales measure known pieces of a particular date, mintmark, die variety and sometimes grade.  The Sheldon Rarity Scale was developed for Early American Coppers.  Sheldon defined rare as R-5 = 31-75 pieces known.  The Universal Rarity Scale developed by Q. David Bowers spans a wider population range and is more useful in describing the higher mint output of modern US coins.  Population is a simple concept but when it comes to market prices, supply doesn’t work alone, demand carries equal weight.  For example, the 1909-S Indian Head Cent (mintage 309,000) trades at lower prices than the iconic 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent (mintage 484,000) because a lot more people collect Lincolns, simple as that.  Both are Sheldon R-1 common (mintage over 1251) and Bowers URS-20 (mintage 250,000 - 499,999).  

There are no widely accepted population estimates of mint strike errors but eBay search has a feature that is useful in comparing population differences by year.  Search result pages often show refinement data.  The first screenshot below is a search result for lincoln cent off center and the left hand column reveals sample years and quantities of active listings.

By clicking the see all link we can expand and see more years and quantities.

Caution - Do not accept high level refinement data at face value.  Click through to review the actual listing pages to validate denomination, year, mintmark, condition, etc.  For example, the 27 piece result for 2008 is surprising and in fact the individual listing pages show no true off center 2008 Lincoln Cents.  Despite the imperfections, with validation the year refinement data is a useful indicator of strike error rarity.  

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