Updated 10/31/2010



Home
Lessons Learned
Bibliography
Brit Tips
Grading
Market
Rarities
Coins for Sale

Myths About Rarities

Note:  it's been years since I've looked at this page.  It is time to take a fresh look at eight-year old information, so with that in mind, I have changed some of these opinions with a free hand.

In my experience in collecting and grading British coins 1838-1970, I have found that there are some myths about the apparent rarity of certain coins in high grade. Below I have a list of coins that are commonly believed to be scarce or rare that in fact are not and an explanation of why I believe this. It's pure anecdotal data and I present it here to invite some controversy and debate. Following this section, I have a list of what are considered "common coins" and why they are far more scarce than thought.

Specimens thought to be scarce/rare but are not

Farthings
1862 with large '8'
- Krause prices the coin the same as the date with small '8.' Spinks says it is extremely rare. Who is right? I hope Spink is.
1895 Young Head (mintage unknown) - it is scarce but seems readily found in high grades. It is perhaps one of the more overvalued farthings.
Proofs of 1950 (17,513), 1951 (20,000), 1953 (40,000) - these are always coming up for sale both as separates and in sets. I can find them at any show, just about anywhere (and that is just in the USA). Settle only for full lustre specimens.
1956 (1,996,800) - true, it is the date with the lowest mintage since 1892, but it is easily found in UNC or BU condition. British pricing does reflect availability, but the value found in Krause is too high.

Halfpennies
1887-1893 - None of these dates are particularly hard to find in top grade.  Current prices are too high.

Pennies
1912H (16,800,000) - there are lots of high grade ones about. Not so the 1918 and 1919 H/KN.
1951 (120,000) - if I read one more time that this is a scarce issue, I think I'll scream. You can find 2-3 of these at any good show in blazing BU condition. These are way overvalued. The price for these in UNC was 10 in 1967 and they are only 20-30 today. Considering inflation and the 50% devaluation of the pound since 1967, I'd say this penny was a poor investment. Take the "wybrit" challenge: search ebay for 1951 pennies - bet you find at least one UNC for sale.
1953 (1,308,400) - they weren't put into circulation. The only ones circulated are from "plastic sets" that were opened up. Having said that, I believe a really superb BU is harder to find than a 1951. Of particular concern is the presence of a lot of bag marks on many BU examples.  "Plastic sets" are constantly offered for sale and seem quite common.  The bronze coins within are frequently tarnished and ugly.

Threepences
1944 silver (2,005,553)
- next to the 1951 penny, this coin is probably one of the most overvalued. I have seen and owned several mint state examples of this year. The market is starting to realize that this coin is easy to get, especially in the USA. The same argument to a slightly lesser degree applies to 1942 (4,144,0512) and 1943 (1,379,220) silver issues. In June 2002, I found 2 UNC specimens of 1943 at a dealer in Golden Valley, MN who maybe had ten/twenty British coins in stock! All three years were "colonial only" issues.

Sixpences
I can't come up with any myths to debunk here. Most rare dates I know about are just that.

Shillings
1938 English (4,833,436) and Scottish (4,797,852) - I think these are pretty easy to find.
1959 Scottish (1,012,988) - if I can find an BU example at a shop near West Colfax Avenue in Denver, CO, then I suspect you can find one pretty easily too. I have owned several.

Florins
1849 (413,830) - the "Godless" florin is very common in UNC, yet the price is high (granted, not higher than the subsequent Gothic florin series). Maybe the price is driven by the desire to have one in a type set, since the only other alternative is 1848 (I've seen a few of those, too).
1904 (2,769,932) - frequently touted as a key date of the Edward VII series.  I have seen dozens of high grade examples of this date for sale.
1959 (14,080,319) - more minted than in 1960, easy to find in UNC. Less true of 1954 and 1958.

Halfcrowns
1902 (1,316,008) - being the first year of a new monarch, it is a "keepsake" date. It is ridiculously overvalued.
1959 (9,028,844) - I see these in AU and UNC conditions quite often. I have sold several. Less true of 1954 and 1958.

Crowns
1847 Gothic Crown (8,000) - this most beautiful coin is highly priced despite being relatively available. Why? (1) Typeset collectors must obtain this coin for completion. (2) It is a beautiful coin. It is highly overvalued however, being priced somewhat comparably to or even more expensively than a true rarity like a 1905 halfcrown. The latter saw much circulation and few mint state examples exist. I have seen many UNC Gothic Crowns for sale in the past three years.  Do watch out for fakes and recent copies - they are becoming rampant.
1965 (19,640,000) - this coin is the antithesis of the gothic crown in both mintage and beauty. Any collector or dealer worth his/her salt already knows that this ugliest of all crowns is common in BU. There are many deceptive sellers who will call this coin a rarity. If you pay more than $1.50, including shipping, for an UNC specimen, you have been ripped off.  Of course, there are those who are looking for MS-66 specimens and will pay any price for them.

 Specimens thought to be common but are very hard to find

Farthings
1902 through 1915 and 1918 - there are plenty of specimens in grades up to AU but it is hard to find beautifully blackened BU specimens. I predict good BU examples will escalate in value (and they are right now). Oddly, Victorian farthings 1897-1901 with blackened finish are much easier to locate. Beware of cleaned and doctored coins.
1920, 1921, 1922 - Lustrous UNC examples can be found but most are poorly struck or streaky.  Some are starting to turn up dated 1920.
1938 (7,449,600) - anyone can find this date in XF, AU or even brown UNC but good luck finding a BU specimen. It is the toughest "wren" farthing to find in BU by far.

Halfpennies
1902-1910
- tricky but not impossible dates to get. They fetch pretty good prices in auctions.
1920, 1921, 1922 - like the farthings, lustrous examples can be found but many are poorly struck or streaky. 1922 is exceedingly difficult!

Pennies
1920, 1921 - like the farthings, lustrous examples can be found but many are poorly struck or streaky.
1934 (13,965,600) - this year is tough because the pennies were darkened at the mint. UNCs in original darkened state are hard to come by, although high grade examples may be easier to find in junk boxes. They should be worth much more than catalogue value.
1944 (42,600,000), 1945 (79,531,200), 1946 (66,855,600) - these years were also mint darkened. Beautiful BUs are tricky to find though I found a horde of 1946s at Dolphin Coin a few years ago. As before, beware of cleaned coins.
1950 (240,000) - while the 1951 is a fraud, the 1950 really is not. It is harder to find!

Threepences
1888 (518,199) - not priced appreciably differently from other years in the Jubilee Head series, I have not seen many UNC specimens offered.  It's a bit difficult to find even midgrade material for this date.
1903-1910 - tricky dates but not impossible. These fetch good prices at auctions compared to 1887-1901 years. 1904 is very tough.
1926 (first coinage) - the old effigy is very tough to find, contrary to what the price guides indicate.
1926 through 1932 - easy to find XF or AU, but very tough to find legitimate UNCs. George V's cheek on the modified effigy always seems to get a trace of wear in supposed UNC specimens. Mintages for these years are also relatively low!  If assembling a type set, coins dated 1933-1936 are much easier to obtain.
1950 (1,600,000), 1951 (1,184,000) - these are already acknowledged as tough to find. What makes it harder is that the proofs of these years are common and it is tough (at least for me) to differentiate at a show or a shop without examples of proof and for-circulation coins next to one another. All examples of the non-proofs I have seen in high grade show high levels of gouging and scratching on the high points of the head. I claim that prices are far too low right now for high grade specimens.
1958 (20,504,000) - the search for a full lustre BU of this year continues...

Sixpences
1882 - future key date: low mintage relative to other years.  Recent market values have proved this out from the prediction written about 6 years ago.  Only one UNC specimen is known thus far in either an NGC or PCGS holder.
1904, 1905 - the bigger silver pieces are obviously tough to find. I think these are pretty hard to get in UNC too. These two are the key dates.
1917 and 1923 - these are generally acknowledged as difficult pieces.  The 1917 is particularly tricky because in most cases the reverse is incredibly poorly struck and the obverse is fairly soft as well, meaning that it is possible that an UNC specimen could be passed up as EF or even VF.  It is worth it to horde high grades of these dates, as they are apt to appreciate.
1927 through 1936 - like with the threepences, easy to find in XF or AU, but tricky to find legitimate UNCs.  They are, however, easier to find than the threepences.

Shillings
1921 (22,648,763)
- this always comes in a dull finish.  It is a remarkably tough date to locate in high grade, in spite of the abundant mintage.  Top grade examples fetch a premium beyond catalogue price.
1924 (9,250,095) - here we have a smaller mintage than many of the other dates.  Still, one would think examples are there to be had.  I still have yet to locate an uncirculated specimen.
1926, 1927, 1930-1934 - these are typically easy to find in XF or AU, but very tough to find legitimate UNCs. 1930 is monstrously difficult.  Finding the first reverse of 1927 also poses a small challenge.
1942 Scottish (13,676,759) - easy to find AU, hard to find well struck UNC.  I read that others can find these.  If so, please send me an email!

Florins
1926 through 1936 - most are easy to find in XF or AU, but very tough to find legitimate UNCs. It is well known that 1932 (717,041) is tough to find anyway. 1949 ( 28,614,939) - my theory, probably not an original one, is that people were not excited about base metal issues after mintage of silver coinage ended in 1946. This means while it is easy to find the date, it is very hard to find this year in a nice UNC. Every auction price I've seen for a 1949 UNC florin has exceeded catalogue by 50% or more.
1960 (13,831,782) - this has to be one of the most undervalued coins I've seen. It has a lower mintage than 1959 yet it is worth only 20% of a 1959 in UNC condition. An EF example recently offered (9/20/02) fetched $15.50 on ebay, which is over 44 times the Krause catalogue value (10 times the British catalogue value)!!!

Halfcrowns
1926 through 1936 - easy to find in XF or AU, but very tough to find legitimate UNCs. It is well known that 1930 (809,501) is tough to find anyway.
1950, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960 - they have quite high mintages but are tricky to find in BU because they do not command the premium prices found in 1954, 1958 and 1959 examples. 1957 (34,200,563) and 1956 (33,934,909) are the second and third highest mintages respectively of the period 1821-1967 but nice BU examples are elusive.  Again, the base metal issues since 1947 have gone largely ignored, plus I might add that in harsh environmental conditions (such as the home country), they take on a very ugly hazy toning.