NGC Census & Rarity
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13 posts in this topic

For most  collectors coin rarity may not be a problem but it is sometimes for me .  My central  difficulty is seeing rarity as a stock size measure as well as a  sale transaction one.

In our information age , available information on  grade or grades, detailed auction house transaction information sometimes complemented by mintage  numbers may well be sufficient for many collectors and collections. My collection of Great Britain,  George III coins is centred on the small but historically important, copper coinage of the Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint together with many associated   pattern coins   mostly in Copper, Bronzed Copper  and Gilt Copper .

In this post ,from now on, my comments only  refer to coins graded 60 or above. Moreover colour for copper coins and cameo status for gilt  ones are not problematic , for me, if treated with care. so are not referred to.

In the late twentieth century the rarity of many coins was described by reference to some scale. One such scale was that  of Peck’s  1970  authoritative book on  English copper coins 1558-1958. The  book includes an assessment of the rarity of each such  coin and associated patterns on an 11 point scale.  The rarity is Peck’s  judgment based on the aggregated stock of coins in specified UK public and private collections  but centred on the British Museum collection. He includes, his carefully worded,  comments on rarity at pages xiii -xiv

In my sub-collection of 1788- 1799 Soho, English Coins included in Peck  the coins are covered by just two NGC Census  sub-censuses : the  Great Britain-1707-1815  and  Great Britain - Patterns, Restrikes and Off Metal coins. The coins of my collection are covered by 8 points on the Peck scale.

I have found the NGC census information a useful addition to Peck for example the 1797 Twopenny piece , P1077, might well be assessed as Common rather than Scarce. On the other hand for Very Rare coins the NGC Census samples seem  too small to be useful .

I hope there will be  comments from others on the issues here and related USA or World  coin series.

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"Census" totals (really "population") report coins authenticated and graded. They do not include pieces that were genuine but not gradable, the number of times each coin was submitted, or coins that were not submitted. These make population reports almost useless and correlation with other sources largely coincidence.

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NGC census only includes coins that they grade. It does not include coins by other certification companies.

At times it is difficult IMO, to determine real rarity and value and quite a few series.

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like RWB said census grading reports aren’t really reliable to go by , PCGS sometimes shows auction prices for certain world coins that were graded by PCGS and NGC give you an idea what certain coins are selling for , then theres several auction houses selling world coins as well . I myself collect world coins as well most of the time I open up Krause world coin guides there are several series that have no mintage quantity or prices for grades nor can I find any information of them online or if any sold but they have picture of the coin and KM# in Krause book makes you wonder if it’s really a trial piece or rare rare rare coin? Thats the thing about world coins make you really do your homework sometimes we just slam into a dead end that gets nowhere with no information . US coins are easier to understand with the market and all data the US mints aren’t that old in history but they kept decent track of minting data we can look back on for information 

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(I have a sneaky suspicion this post will come to the attention of member, "coinsandmedals," who may be able to shed some light on your areas of interest.  Good luck!)

Edited by Quintus Arrius
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Welcome to the forum! Your question hits pretty close to home as my focus is almost entirely upon the coins, tokens, and medals struck at the Soho Mint. You specifically mention Peck, so I assume you also collect by variety? With that assumption, I have a few related comments.

The census/population reports provided by the TPGs are interesting, but they have limited utility for this niche area. Here are a few reasons why:

1.       The submitter must pay a $15 attribution fee to have the appropriate variety listed on the label. It appears most submitters are either unaware of this or are unwilling to pay the fee as the bulk of graded pieces are unattributed. This results in the coins being lumped together within a single category based on finish (i.e., copper, bronzed, gilt, etc.). Note that I am primarily discussing the numerous proofs, patterns, and restrikes. This is not as significant an issue for circulation strikes (excluding the 11 vs. 10 leaves variety of the 1797 Pence). If the attribution is not listed on the label is not included in the census/population report. As you can imagine, this only further complicates matters.

2.       Variety attributions are often incorrect. I have learned over the years to be far more cautious with one of the major TPGs because of this. I will not specify which, but I think the answer is apparent when looking through the coins within my set.

3.       The census/population reports only include graded coins. The bulk of the material we collect has simply not crossed paths with a TPG. This is painfully obvious to me as about 95% of what I purchase is raw. The TPG fever has not fully taken hold in Europe yet. This might change with time, and I suspect that it very well may. Still, the census/population reports only provide a very narrow and often highly inaccurate glimpse of rarity.

Using auction archives can be helpful, but they too have limitations. Most auction houses are seemingly reliant upon TPG data and are either unable or unwilling to form their own opinion about the variety of the piece they are offering. It is rare for an auction house to contradict the variety attribution listed on the TPG label. This is true even if it is a painfully obvious error (e.g., the variety listed is for a coin with an entirely different obverse design) and almost always true when the difference is subtler. Because TPGs often get the attribution incorrect, this by default means that auction houses will as well. Even if they have an in-house expert to consult, it may not be economically viable to do so, and as such, the issue is likely to remain uncorrected. Unless the auction house provides crisp detailed pictures, the process of variety attribution will be all but impossible without viewing the coin in hand. That said, this seems to be a less apparent issue as most auction houses have invested in good photography since the rapid push toward online markets over the last decade and even more so in the last year. If you attempt to do a comprehensive review of rarity by variety for the last four decades, these limitations become even more troublesome.

Although Peck did an exceptional job with the information he had at his disposal, my research and that of others suggest that his rarity rating is to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. There are numerous examples where his estimate of rarity was off base from reality. For instance, he rates P-965 as very scarce, but in reality, this coin is very common. At the time of writing this post, I have options to buy over two dozen examples of this variety, which is not unusual. Likewise, there are instances in which he underestimated the rarity of certain varieties. I suspect as you continue your research, you will discover this as well. Of course, the actions of Matthew Piers Watt Boulton and Taylor only further complicated the issue as it created more “varieties” that are often very difficult to account for.  

Like Peck, we can only base our estimates of rarity upon the data we have at hand. Luckily, we have way more information readily available to us because of the internet, which is an opportunity not afforded to Peck a half-century ago. Over the years, I have developed a working knowledge of relative rarity for many varieties, and I suspect that you will likely do the same in time.

You might also enjoy the registry set that I built detailing the history of the Soho Mint, which won the “Most Informative Custom Registry” award last year. 

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Thanks very much for your interesting , scholarly and authoritative post and the registry set material.  In parts, I think  it complements  Doty's book on the Soho Mint.  One very minor point, I  was slightly surprised at the,  at first reading,  absence of reference to Sierra Leone  (Company) coinage.

However it will take me some weeks , to make time,  to fully assimilate it all. Your comments are very insightful : i agree about Peck generally. I try to respond to your questions and comments with brief descriptions of my experience on just the Peck 1788 -1799 coins below.

I  aim to collect Early and Late Soho coins of  Peck's C 1(a) and  C2 (a) - (n)   excluding (b) and (k) in different metals. Gaps are sometimes filled with Taylor restrikes. My comments on the NGC census were based on 37 coins of 1788-1797 of which 11 were PCGS graded and required some classification input from me.

On your 1 , labelling and mis - labelling is an issue: a notable current mis-labelling example is  a Pr68 1799 halfpenny , in a Heritage August auction, labelled as a farthing, corrected by Heritage. 

On  2,  nice to read this , I agree,  but NGC is not immune either.

On 3,  I agree about UK (Europe). but relative rarity for coins TPG rated 60 or above (say)  may give  some useful partial information about relative rarity your P-965 is a very good example but so is P-966 in Brown Gilt.

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On 7/28/2021 at 11:36 AM, Ian Calvert said:

Thanks very much for your interesting , scholarly and authoritative post and the registry set material.  In parts, I think  it complements  Doty's book on the Soho Mint.  One very minor point, I  was slightly surprised at the,  at first reading,  absence of reference to Sierra Leone  (Company) coinage.

However it will take me some weeks , to make time,  to fully assimilate it all. Your comments are very insightful : i agree about Peck generally. I try to respond to your questions and comments with brief descriptions of my experience on just the Peck 1788 -1799 coins below.

I  aim to collect Early and Late Soho coins of  Peck's C 1(a) and  C2 (a) - (n)   excluding (b) and (k) in different metals. Gaps are sometimes filled with Taylor restrikes. My comments on the NGC census were based on 37 coins of 1788-1797 of which 11 were PCGS graded and required some classification input from me.

On your 1 , labelling and mis - labelling is an issue: a notable current mis-labelling example is  a Pr68 1799 halfpenny , in a Heritage August auction, labelled as a farthing, corrected by Heritage. 

On  2,  nice to read this , I agree,  but NGC is not immune either.

On 3,  I agree about UK (Europe). but relative rarity for coins TPG rated 60 or above (say)  may give  some useful partial information about relative rarity your P-965 is a very good example but so is P-966 in Brown Gilt.

D'oh, the 1797 in paragraph 3  of my 1136 Post should be 1799.

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I greatly appreciate your kind words. I decided to forgo discussing the Sierra Leone Company coinage mostly because I did not have an example to illustrate. The breadth of the write-up was extensive enough without its inclusion. It is an interesting and important part of Soho history that I likely will include in the future.

It appears that you are collecting almost the entire gauntlet of English copper struck at the Soho Mint. As I am sure you already know, this will not be an easy goal to accomplish. I sincerely hope that you stick around this forum and share your new additions as you acquire them. For now, my collecting efforts have slowed as more important goals are on the horizon, so if provided the opportunity, I will live vicariously through your journey.

The 1799 NGC PF-68 Cameo in the August Heritage Auction is an excellent example for many reasons. Yes, they note the mislabeled denomination, but this has no bearing on the variety. In this instance, they have appropriately labeled the variety in the auction description, but I imagine this is likely because of the relatively high price this example is likely to fetch. In my experience, it is not the norm for auction houses to list the variety unless clearly stated on the label; however, they do often correct egregious errors such as a mislabeled denomination. That said, Heritage Auctions is usually one of the few that try to highlight all errors as they occur. It is also worth noting that Peck rates 1233 as scarce, but there have been well over 60 examples offered for sale since 1970. This estimate only includes the examples attributed by TPGs and numerous auction houses. It makes no effort to include those not directly attributed, so the actual number of market appearances is likely much higher. By most accounts, this variety is extremely common (albeit not in PF-68 holders). The auction description acknowledges this point and deflects the attention to the assigned grade. If I had an extra $4000-6000 to spend on a coin (without my wife possibly murdering me), it most certainly would not be on this piece for several reasons.

I would make the argument that no TPG is immune to error. I have found my fair share of errors in NGC, PCGS, ANACS, and ICG holders. That said, in my experience, one of the companies I have listed above makes far more mistakes within this niche area than the other three combined.

While I agree that the TPG census/population reports may provide some helpful information regarding rarity, I stand by my point that it is limited in utility. Yes, P-966 is also a good example, as well as almost all other renderings of DH-11, excluding 962, 963, and 968.

All of this talk about Soho pieces makes me curious about what you have added to your collection so far. Would you mind sharing some of your more interesting pieces?

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Agree about DH-11 . Based on NGC Census, for my three coins, P962, 965 and 966, two of which are NGC rated,  the Very Scarce rarity rating from Peck seems to overstate their rarity.

Have only been collecting for a handful of years, although 67. I have put comments on a few of my NGC  Registry coins , all Soho or vaguely  related,  with more comments to come . I have not yet mastered moving material from the NGC  Registry to here, if appropriate.

Happy to give my Registry read access to you and indeed anyone interested, if  that is NGC  possible: my  slight difficulty is understanding what "more interesting " coins, medals and tokens means :  I am a Ph.D mathematician. My "coin"  interest is centred on the steam powered Soho Mint ,entrepreneur and FRS  Matthew Boulton and the Industrial Revolution alongside shiny twentieth century coins.

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I am not sure that function exists for the NGC registry. I was more so trying to encourage you to post pictures on the forum for us all to enjoy.

I suppose I should have qualified my statement of “more interesting”, which I meant to refer to examples not usually encountered (i.e., most early proofs with a different obverse or reverse design than the one adopted). Your Droz patterns would be good examples of "interesting" coins for those who are not nearly as familiar with his work. It appears our interests are largely in line with one another. I enjoy the scientific, social, artistic, and economic history of the Soho Mint. The shiny pieces of metal happen to be a nice bonus!   

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Sadly my coin photography is nowhere near  up to the task  : I did try.

 In particular  to  capture  some of Boulton's detailed search for design excellence, to complement steam power in production but without success. One example, is   the progression from 1775 halfpennies and farthings starting with  the  1788 Droz patterns  and  then numerous prototype patterns before  the 1799 currency coins . This  involved significant evolution in the representation and thence understanding of Brittania .

Thanks for your many wise words.  They  should probably end these  "NGC census and Rarity" posts  I also "enjoy the scientific, social, artistic, and economic history of the Soho Mint".

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