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TOP50 Peace VAMs by Rarity Scale
Exerts from an article written by John Baumgart on Rarity Scales
One of the pieces of information a collector of any series or specialty wants to know in order to help establish value
or desirability of a given coin is how rare it is. So when Leroy Van Allen examines a coin, just how does he arrive at an
R-value? First, it is important to know that his initial R-value assignment is merely a rough estimate that he is making
based on seeing the variety only once or twice. For a starting point, Leroy currently uses R-4 or R-5, with the following f
actors influencing his final decision:
Underlying mintage of the coin
- Number of die pairs known thus far. Mintage divided by number of die pairs known gives a good limit for how common the coin is.
- Number of coins of the same date and mint that have been inspected without seeing the new variety.
- How dramatic a die sinking feature is. Dramatic doubling or repunching that should have been seen by now is likely more rare than
a more mundane die sinking artifact like scribbling scratches or minor doubling.
- Die wear. The more a die is worn, the longer it was in service, therefore the less rare the die marriage is.
- Expected remaining die life. Terminal and late state die damage like large die breaks and displaced field breaks can indicate that
the die was about to be retired, and results in higher R-value.
- Die wear in the presence of near terminal breaks. Die erosion and fuzzy breaks imply a higher mintage, while PL surfaces and sharp
details with breaks (especially radial breaks) indicate early die failure.
Once an R-value assignment is made and the variety is listed, it is important to realize that the actual rarity in the marketplace will
only be determined over time as collectors attempt to locate a specimen for their collection. Population reports at grading services will
also serve to refine the R-value. If the coin is relatively easy to find, the number could be revised downward. If people are looking and
can't find another, the number could be revised upward.
One thing the R-rating assigned to the coin makes no attempt to address is "condition rarity." Condition rarity refers to how rare a
particular die marriage is in a certain grade. Coins like the 1891-O VAM 1A clashed E are not difficult to find in F and VF grades, but
only a couple uncirculated coins are known. Condition rarity assessments can only be made by collectors seeking and finding specific
varieties and observing the grades in which these coins are found. Over time, these observations will also be reflected in population
reports of third party grading services.
Regarding value, the rarity of a particular die pair is only part of the equation. Unlike early U.S. material, which is exhaustively cataloged
and collected, by die pair, there are many VAMs that are for the most part ignored by collectors, simply because there are thousands of die
pairs through the Morgan and Peace dollar series. A coin can have an initial rarity rating of R-6 and no demand and sell for no more than an
unattributed coin. Use caution not to simply react to the R number when shopping for coins, and remember that RARE L@@K is also not
part of the scale.
Copyright © 2009, Society of Silver Dollar Collectors, all rights reserved.
SSDC • P.O. Box 42112 • Greensboro, NC 27425
R1 & R2
None in this Rarity
Line in Tiara
Tiara Die Gouge
Dbld. Obverse, Med. D
Tripled Lower Rev.
Tripled Lower Rev.& Spike
Dbld. Eagle's Head
Dot. (Extra Berry Rev.)
Dot. & File Lines Reverse
Dbld. Obverse, Micro D
Dbld.Leaves & Die Break Above IN
Tail on "O"
' Bar Wing
Doubled Rays & Die Break Wing
Tiara Die Gouge & Die Break 5
Dbld. Rev. Clashs Eagle's Shoulder
Dbld. Wing Clashs Eagle's Shoulder
Line Through "L"
Doubled Leaves & Die crack R
Tripled Lower Rev.& Die Crack Below L
Whisker Jaw & Die Break LI
Bar D & Die Crack VS
None in this variety
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