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Rarest cent not always most expensive

Have you ever wondered where some prices for coins come from? The first answer of course is supply vs. demand. I thought I?d test this notion, so I set out on a sampling of coins for sale on eBay for four months.

Why eBay? I thought it the best cross-country inventory of both dealers, investors and collectors. Now eBay has its shortcomings, but right now I think that it?s a good place to start as it would yield the largest inventory. So I set out on a four-month data collection quest, and the results are included in the accompanying table.

I, like many others, am an avid Lincoln cent collector. I?d assembled a complete Lincoln collection except the infamous 1922 plain or no D. Now before I slap down my hard earned money I investigate what I think are all aspects of the transaction. What I found was amazing, and what I think may be an error in prices based on the old supply/demand axiom.

Basically there are two 1922 no D cents. The one with a strong reverse, and the one with a weak reverse. I wanted the best I could afford for my collection, so I thought I?d ?buy the book before the coin.? Now there are 1922 weak Ds as well, but this article only deals with the no D varieties.
In my research of September, October, November and December 2007, every day at various times of day, I pulled up eBay and counted the number of coins for sale of the 1922 no D varieties. In order to give some comparison, I also looked and listed the number of 1909-S VDB, 1914-D and the 1955 Double Die Obverse (DDO). Each listing had to be examined to make sure it was what it said it was. Some were not and were excluded from this study. The results are interesting. Results may be different if a different four months were studied, say in the spring or summer months.

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I make no mention of the grade of the coins, as I was only interested in the number of coins for sale on any given day. Also, I only list those coins that were graded by NGC and PCGS. I felt this would help eliminate fakes. And as most know, eBay also has stores where these items can be found.

 However, stores were not included in this study because some stores place extremely high prices on their goods and therefore the items are not truly for sale. I did include those coins that were up for ?Auction? and those that were ?Buy It Now,? as well as ?Live Auctions.?

In a true scientific study, all variables are the same for all subjects. Here was a problem, as some people ran their auctions for three days while others for nine or longer. I don?t know if this is important or not, but I thought I should mention it.

In addition, early grading by PCGS and NGC may not have indicated if a 1922 no D was a ?strong? or ?weak? reverse. There were a few of these, maybe three or four. In these cases the item was not counted. I could have made a judgment call here based on the picture, but I?m not a professional grader and sometimes it was a bad picture where I couldn?t see for sure, so I just didn?t include them.

I realize interpreting this data to be time consuming so I?ll take it further and help break it down. The average number of coins for sale per month by description is shown in the accompanying table. This shows how many of each coin was for sale on average for any given day for the months listed. That is, on average how many coins were up for sale on eBay on any given day for the months of September, October, November and December ?07.
As you can see, the 1922 no D weak reverse was rarer than even the 1955 DDO. At least for this study. With those two being the rarest in this study they were followed up by the strong reverse, the 1914-D, and finally the 1909-S VDB.

Does this mean theses should be of value in this order? I don?t know. But maybe further studies of other Web sites should be done. Maybe notice this in your Internet travels, and see what you think. Then maybe report your findings through the NN. One thing I did notice was that the 1922 no D strong reverse always started out at a fairly high price, usually over $1,000. Yet the weak reverse started out much lower, usually from $300 to $600, depending on grade. Could it be that we collectors have become part of a self-fulfilling prophecy? That is to say that we pay what we are expected to pay? Maybe if everyone started their auctions out at 99 cents and waited to see where the market takes it would be a better way to determine value. Now the 1909-S VDB was observed to sometimes start out at 99 cents, and the market would take it where it belonged. I guess. But then again we expect to pay $1,000 or more for a decent one. Yet the 1909-S VDB was more available than any of the others that we aren?t willing to pay as much for (save the 1955 DDO). What I didn?t expect to discover was that the rarest was the least expensive. That doesn?t seem to fit the supply/demand model we are all accustom to.

Do further observations need to be made? You bet. I know that before I lay down my hard-earned money I want to know more. Should the 1922 no D weak reverse be more costly than the strong reverse? Is it rarer? Should it be more expensive than the 1955 DDO and the 1909-S VDB? It would seem so from this study. Should I buy the most expensive or the rarest? These are all questions we may want to ask. I do know one thing though: I want the rarest for my set of Lincolns, not necessarily the most expensive.


Jim Knapp is a hobbyist from Roach, Mo.

Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News.

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