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Don't be block head, get set graded

Late night TV pitchmen offering food preparation gear proclaim it slices and it dices.

Coin dealers slice and dice also.

I have an email promotion from L&C Coins this morning.

There is an array of 2018-S silver reverse proof America the Beautiful quarters being offered for sale individually.

The only way the firm can do this is to break up the 199,052 2018-S silver reverse proof sets that were sold for $54.95 each starting July 23.

Slicing and dicing proof sets is a time-honored way of feeding a market for collectors of individual coins.

These collectors simply do not want the whole set.

It is interesting what can be learned in this process.

There is a surprising rarity in the set.

In the current offering, I can buy some PR69 First Strike ATB quarters as graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service.

Price is as low as $10 each for PR69 First Strike. For all five designs, the cost obviously would be $50.

If I want the top grade, PR70 First Strike, the price is $30 each, or $150 for the five quarters.

Not so fast.

The numbers don’t add up this way because of a big surprise.

Apparently the Block Island quarter in PR70 First Strike is very difficult to find.

Perhaps it permanently will be a key date in this grade.

In any case, if you want one, you will have to pay $700.

Yes, that’s right, $700.

That’s quite a price considering the Apostle Islands, Cumberland Island, and Pictured Rocks quarters are $30 each and Voyageurs is $35 for PR70 First Strike examples.

Rarity does not go down the grading scale.

A PR69 First Strike Block Island quarter is just $15.

So we have a one-point grading price jump of $685.

If you have purchased a 2018-S silver reverse proof set for $54.95, that $700 retail price for a PR70 First Strike Block Island quarter seems to be a major incentive to have coins in an unopened early set professionally graded.

Naturally, more -70s might be found as time passes, but they might not be First Strikes.

Other denominations in -70 are cheaper than $700 in top grade.

The cent and half dollars are $125 each, but this is a reflection of the high demand for those two denominations.

The nickel is $35 in PR70 First Strike, and the dime is $30.

No dollar coins were offered in this top grade yet.

Is the dollar the next PR70 First Strike rarity?

Stay tuned. And now for a commercial ... It slices. It dices ...

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."