The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
The January 1901 issue of The Numismatist contained fascinating information on the state of coin collecting at the dawn of the 20th century. If one is to take its words as indicative of the entire hobby, then we must assume that most budding numismatists at this time began their collections by gleaning copper and bronze cents from either general circulation or dealers' excess inventories. According to Augustus G. Heaton, whose article Old Information for New Subscribers and Collectors appeared in this issue, 'The collector finds in time all the bronze pieces from the present back to 1863, except for 1877, which is rare from its small issue.' Shifting his focus to the old copper large cents, Heath continues: 'The dates extend from 1793 to 1857 (with the single exception of 1815) and so many in a Poor condition still exist that, in large cities where dealers have accumulated them in quantities as a small bait, $5 would perhaps purchase the series except the rare 1793, 1799, and 1804...' To the early copper enthusiast, these words certainly seem like a dream come true. To the Barber half dollar specialist, however, such erudition represents a squandered opportunity. In 1901, an intelligent collector could have acquired one of the rarest issues in the entire series from a local west coast bank for face value. Carefully tucked away to preserve its original Mint State, this coin would command an extraordinary premium in today's marketplace. The issue in question is, of course, the low mintage 1901-S.
During the 1940s, dealers and collectors alike considered the 1901-S to be the rarest Barber half dollar in Mint State grades. Current population data, however, ranks this issue a close third behind the 1904-S and the 1896-O. Regardless of this realignment, the rarity of this issue in all Uncirculated grades should not be underestimated.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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