Sunday, June 8, 2014

JR Newsletter: 8 June 2014 (192)

This week's issue of the JR Newsletter has all sorts of good information.  Nathan Markowitz starts us off:

I would like to reply to Bob Stark and embellish the comments made about the silver happenings a few weeks ago on this forum.  Indeed, early dollars WERE represented in Colorado springs.  We chose the 1798 B-16 die marriage with its wonderful die stage progression.  Three representatives made cameo appearances with two VF mid/late state examples and the latest know example from the Willasch collection in mint state.  For anyone who loves cracks and cuds its hard not to warm up to this die marriage; an especially wonderful experience to view them side by side.

Going forward, we would like to have more early dollars represented at the show; I encourage anyone to attend or send along their example of the chosen die marriage so it too can be shown alongside its brethren; we depend on the collectors to send their examples as this is an entirely voluntary event.  If anyone has an idea for a die marriage to be displayed next year, this is a great place to make the suggestion and its never too early to make a proposal; just remember that we need the coins to "show up" to make it work.  Next year the show is in Dallas at DFW the first weekend of May, and in 2016 its in downtown Charlotte April 6-9 (if memory serves).

Nathan Markowitz

James Higby wrote:

A small typo correction to Denis Loring's R-scale:  R-5 should read 46-60 and R-5- should then be 61-75.

In addition to this, there is the matter of condition rarity.  An R-6 die marriage would be represented by 13-30 examples, but if 29 of them are G5 and only one is F15, then the Fine15 becomes an R-8+ while the other 29 are all R-6-.

Things get complicated once you get past Brown & Dunn!

James Higby

Steve Tompkins sends this, on the same topic (rarity):
I wanted to reply to Mike Sherrill's comments from last week, but forgot to do so until the new issue came today...

When a die marriage is given a particular rarity rating, what exactly does this mean?

I would say that it would mean what each author for every series has stated it means, as different people have different definitions. However, there is a universal consensus as to what each level of rarity consists of as far as quantities go, as was stated by Denis Loring:

I grew up with the dime book - my definition of rarity probably derived
from page 20 and is "estimated number of surviving examples in all
grades, both attributed and not". But to take other examples, the 1836
B5 quarter is widely regarded as R6, in one of the quarter books "15-17
known". In the latest dime census, the 1820 JR12 is listed as R6 with 17
reported. My first thought is, "these are actually R5+ die marriages".

Although I applaud the authors of the dime book, as I believe it is the impetus for raising the level of research and presentation of die marriage attribution reference books and is the starting point for any serious student of early US Mint coinage, I have to disagree with the definition presented above by Mike. If that is what they meant then I don’t agree. Actually, this what it states in the dime book under the heading of "RARITY" on page 20:

“The following table shows the approximate number of dimes in existence for a given rarity:”

It goes on to list the range of coins for each level of rarity from R-8 through R-1. At the time, the addition of a plus or minus was not in general use as it is today to distinguish the separation between the higher and the lower parts of the range.

The issue might be in the statement “in existence”. Perhaps Mike is interpreting this to mean those coins that are both attributed and those not yet attributed.  If so, then I would state that this kind of thinking has the potential for problems down the road.

How can you state with any certainty how many coins of a given die marriage exist if they are not yet all identified? Any rarity rating given using these criteria may be correct, but can be just as incorrect. Attempting to define a rarity rating based on how many you think might exist is fraught with error possibilities.

A case in point is the rarity rating given by Don Parsley in the 4th addition of Overton for the newly discovered 1807 O-115. Parsley stated that it was an R-6, most likely due the fact that he believed that more would surface. He even gives a condition census that includes 5 separate coins (although he states that these are estimates…)!

However, after almost 10 years since it was discovered, only five examples have been identified, making the die marriage an R-7+. That is not to say that more won't be found some day, but to start out with R-6? The population could increase five-fold and still be an R-6. What if no more are ever found? It would have been better to give a rating based on known examples than supposed examples..

This example shows what I believe rarity ratings should represent…the total number of coins known to exist at a given point in time. Things are not static, they change over time, and rarity ratings can and should change over time. They will be updated and changed when a newer reference is published and for the rarest die marriages, will be tracked, in between editions of a series reference. In fact, the rarity rating for the more scarce coins is probably more accurate than for the lower ratings. (Who has the time to actually count examples for R-1, R-2 & R-3?)

As to the rarity ratings listed in the new quarter books, both state that the 1836 B-5 is an R-6+ with 15-17 examples known not R-6. This was accurate at the time, but since has changed. Several more examples have been discovered and the population is now in the lower 20’s making the rarity an R-6 for the die marriage. Will it eventually become an R-5+? Maybe…but to state such now or when the books were published would be irresponsible in my mind. Will another 10 coins be discovered and attributed? Again, I say maybe…but I doubt it.

Anyone who wants to seriously collect a particular series needs to arm themselves with all the information they can. This includes the latest edition of a reference book on the series, and any new information pertaining to examples of the rarest die marriages. I will also state that the census compilations we see in the JRJ need to be taken with a grain of salt, as they are far from all encompassing and only include those examples that the membership reports. Believe that there are more examples than reported, perhaps many more.

Steve M. Tompkins

Finally, a couple of notes from the Editor:

The email address for Pete Mosiondz, Jr. was left off of his listing for books offered for sale.  The address is choochoopete(at)

Also, the email address for Paul Hybert listed in last week's JR Newsletter was incorrect.  The correct email address is jrcsweb(at)