In search of varieties

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ColonialCoinsUK

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Having chased die numbers on British sixpences for many years I am always on the look out for different varieties of the world coins I collect. Whilst trying to complete a graded typeset of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy coinage* - to mirror my typeset of the French issues - I recently acquired a gold 20 Lire issued by the Milan mint in 1808 in NGC AU58. For the French issues the 20 Franc coin is the most common by far of the two gold denominations whereas for the Italian coinage it is the opposite with the 40 Lire being the most abundant meaning that the 20 Lire pieces are more of a challenge.

Even though the 1808M issue has the second highest mintage of the short series at 87,183, and that it also has the most graded examples - 37 coins graded at NGC (VF to MS64) and 9 at PCGS (XF40 to AU58) it still does not appear very often. To complicate matters further there are 3 varieties of this coin - Type 1 which is extremely rare and Type 2 which is the version that is usually found. The Type 2 coins are further split into 2 varieties depending on the number of stars on each side of the standard on the reverse, one has 3 stars and the other 6, hopefully the attached scans highlight the difference between the two varieties. As I now have both of these varieties in my collection I decided to look into the possible populations and my research so far suggests that the existing population of Type 2 1808M 20 Lire coins is most likely less than 150 coins with VF being the typical grade encountered and that the 3 stars variety is about twice as prevelant as the 6 stars variety. Although both NGC and PCGS do not yet distinguish between these known varieties on the label what was surprising was that the vast majority of higher grade examples are already in TPG holders and that these also account for a significant portion of the existing examples!

It should also be noted that, at the moment, I am only aware of a single mint state example, either raw or graded and that is the NGC MS64 '3 stars' example sold by Heritage in January 2015 for $3525, as this is way beyond my budget, and that it also has some light adjustment marks across the middle of the reverse, I am more than happy with my '2nd finest AU58' example. Following Revenants Journal Entry on 'Subjective Novelty' I realise these details on varieties are probably of little interest to most people however I find it fascinating and it keeps me happy!

*Almost complete as a mixture of NGC and PCGS coins although I do also need to submit a few.

Italy-1808M-G20L-stars.png

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I am always amazed at the different varieties of coins. What is more amazing to me is that someone "discovered" these subtle changes in the coin. My attention to detail is so awful that early on in my collecting I knew I needed to get graded coins instead of raw. After my tenth coin returned as altered, improperly cleaned, or detailsI realized that my "eye" really was not good at the grading game. I will still submit some coins just for fun but more expensive coins are a no no. Less stress for me:)  I am not certain I would have ever seen the different number of stars when I looked at your two coins :( Well done :)

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I don't think I'd ever discover a variety on my own or discover an error coin in my change. I just don't think I'm that detail oriented. It's also something that makes me not trust myself with counterfeit detection - I can spot a bad fake but there are some good ones out there.

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Finding varieties is usually not that difficult as overdates, one mintmark over another, overstamped letters in the legend can be quite common and are often the result of re-using dies and yet are not always recorded, particularly for the smaller denominations. This particular variety I find more interesting as a deliberate decision was made to have two different numbers of stars, another such example is the 1787 British sixpence and shilling where one variety has a semee of hearts in the Hanovarian shield and one does not, it would be great to know the reasons behind all these changes!

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