Price guides are an ever popular part of numismatics. Collectors want to know the value of the coins they collect.
However there are practical limits as to what can be put in a guide.
There are general guides, specialized guides and even cherry-pickers guides.
But no matter how many we have, there are always numismatic items that fall between the cracks.
I had a letter that arrived yesterday.
Enclosed were papers that identified what might be called an error coin, or minting variety.
There were photocopies of the coin in a third-party slab graded MS-65.
It was identified by a well known and respected individual in the error field.
The papers are dated Feb. 9, 2013.
The coin in question is a 1969-D quarter with a proof style reverse.
According to the papers, there are two examples known.
The owner of the coin should feel pretty good about having it.
But there is a downside.
There are no price guides that I am aware of that list a value.
The owner writes, “I have no idea the rarity or value of the coin. Many dealers I have shown the coin to have never heard about it ... Have you written any articles featuring 1969D-72D like this? Any help with the rarity and value would be appreciated.”
My short answer is Numismatic News has never done on a story on this coin.
There have been tons of stories about errors over the years. But the random nature of errors make them difficult to incorporate into general price guides.
They are also the most difficult to understand. Often, communications arrive here in the office that say, “I have something just like what was in the paper except ...”
It is that exception that is the killer, usually rendering the coin to the status of curiosity with little value.
So what is this coin owner to do?
He has shown intelligence in having it identified, having it slabbed and shopping it around to dealers.
What’s the next step?
He can search out the leading error dealers in the field. He can ask the individual who identified it for his opinion or a reference.
Part of the excitement of the error field is that it takes a path that few follow.
This exclusivity is a great strength, but it is also a handicap if you are looking for a price in a ready-made value guide.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."