On The Square

The Devil in the Details: Exploring Coin Varieties in Ragos February Coins, Currency & Stamps Auction

By Bidsquare

Feb 15,2017 | 11:00 EST

The practice of collecting coins can be traced back to ancient times. Archeological evidence and historical records dating as far back as Ancient Rome and medieval Mesopotamia suggest that scholars, state treasuries, and even private citizens collected and catalogued old, exotic and unique coins.

But why do people collect coins? And what value does a coin hold beyond its intrinsic, or commodity, value?

The reasons people choose to collect coins are as varied as the objects themselves. Some numismatists collect coins purely for their historical value, seeing them as relics of the cultures and societies that minted them. Others collect coins as ‘art in miniature’ and prefer coins engraved with dramatic and artful reliefs. But many (if not most) coin collectors choose their acquisitions based on a different metric - market value.

The market value of a coin is largely determined by these key factors:

• Rarity - how many examples exist in relation to desirability among collectors
• Strike – the clarity and orientation of the original minting
• Condition – how worn/well preserved the coin is
• Grade – a ‘condition ranking’ awarded to a coin by a professional coin grading service such as NGC or PCGS

That said, there exists another ‘x-factor’ which holds great influence - a coin’s ‘variety’ or ‘type’.
Coin variety, as defined by NGC, is “a die or die pairing that offers some distinctive feature not a normal part of the design.” These ‘distinct features’ typically manifest in the form of doubled dies, variations in placement or alignment of letters and numbers, and changes to the die surfaces from over-polishing or die clashes.

An example of this can be seen in 1976 Eisenhower Dollars. Two varieties, or types, exist. Both feature the words “United States of America” on their reverse. However, in “Type 1” varieties of these coins the lettering is bold and thick, while in “Type 2” varieties this lettering is thin and delicate.

These subtle variances in design can play a large part in determining the market value of a given coin. Rago’s Coins, Currency & Stamps Auction on February 24 features several examples of these ‘Variety Type’ coins, including several Morgan Silver Dollars from the Littman Collection such as…

Lot 37a, 1878 8TF Morgan Silver Dollar HITLIST-40

Lot 44, 1880/79-CC Morgan Silver Dollar VAM 

Learn more about coin varieties and the market for them at “How to Make Money with Coins,” an open house at Rago Auctions on 2/21 featuring author, lecturer and numismatist at large, Dr. Michael Fey. Dr. Fey will also be selling and signing copies of his books “ The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties: The VAM Keys 4th Edition” and “A Decade Of Top 100 Insights.”

Click here to discover more coin varieties, as well as other rare and ancient coins from around the world, in Ragos upcoming Coins, Currency & Stamps sale on February 24th.