REACHING A CONDITION CENSUS CONSENSUS

Posted on October 14, 2016 by

untitled1795 50C O-128   PCGS VF20

A Condition Census is a listing of the best examples of a particular coin. Such lists are developed to give collectors an idea of what coins are available, who the former and current owners were and are, and when and where the coins appeared for sale. Stripped-down versions of a Census give grades only. For instance, in the fifth edition of “United States Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836″ by Donald L. Parsley, the census for the 1795 Overton-128 variety is presented simply as 30,20,15,15,12, indicating that the best known example is a VF30. In the new (2015) “Early United States Half Dollars, Volume 1, 1794-1807” by Steve M. Tompkins, the 1795 O-128 becomes Tompkins T-18 with a census of 30,20,15,15,12,12,10. Without knowing if the authors wrote about the same coins, it still appears that the best example of a 1795 O-128 (T-18) is a VF30.

However, neither author tells us anything about the coins themselves, thus if a collector wants to learn something (the overall appearance of the coin, the past auction history, etc.) about the VF30, where should he/she go? In the world of early Half Dollars, the next best stop is Stephen Herrmann’s “Auction & Mail Bid Prices Realized for Bust Half Dollars 1794-1839.” Once there, the collector learns that the highest grade 1795 O-128 ever offered for sale was a VF30 from Sheridan Downey’s July 1993 Mail Bid Sale #9. That particular coin was from the Overton Collection, it was the plate coin in the Overton book, it was certified by NGC, and it was withdrawn from the sale (for an undisclosed reason). Armed with that information, one can finally see an image of the elusive VF-30 1795 O-128 by going to the Overton book.  Herrman’s book provides much more information about the best 1795 O-128’s. His listing of the top seven citations (30,20,15,15,15, 12) looks surprisingly like the Overton and Tompkins censuses, but now we can see details about the individual appearances of each coin: the auction house, the sale date, the lot number, the price realized, and comments on some of the coins.

Armed with this information, plus visits to the Heritage and Stack’s/Bowers websites, data from the PCGS Pop Report, and TrueView images from the PCGS CoinFacts website, we can now construct a truly meaningful Census that looks like this:

VF30 (raw) – Overton Plate Coin. Overton Collection – Sheridan Downey Mail Bid Sale 7/1993:143, withdrawn
VF20 (PCGS) – Sheridan Downey Fixed Price List 7/2009, $1,950
F15 (PCGS) – Stack’s/Bowers 3/2014:5339 (as PCGS F15 28913629), $3,525
F15 (PCGS) – Sheridan Downey, sold privately in 6/1998 – Westmoreland County Collection of Early Bust Halves – Heritage 1/2008:1345 (as PCGS F15 13875463), $8,050
F15 (NGC) – Julian Leidman, sold privately in 4/1982 – Jules Reiver Collection – Heritage 1/2006:22508 (as NGC F15), $3,737.50
F12 (PCGS) – Michael Summers, sold privately in 8/2006 – Heritage 4/2008:954 (as PCGS F12 07342139), $4,887.50 – Heritage 3/2009:1910 (as PCGS F12 07342139), $3,737.50
F12 (NGC) – Heritage 4/2016:3417 (as NGC F12 2676127-003), $3,995
VG10 (NGC) – Silver Plug! Stack’s/Bowers 11/2015:20056 (as NGC VG10 3906316-001), $49,937.50

Now the collector can make a much more informed decision when buying or selling a 1795 O-128 Half Dollar. The same process can be used for just about any U.S. coin. In fact, that’s what we’re doing at PCGS CoinFacts. Check to see what’s available for your favorite coin.

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Comments (1)

 

  1. robert stark says:

    Good article! Thanks!
    I collect the early dollars, 1794-1803 and seek provenance for each of the 133 pieces I own. However, I lack info for many, if not most.
    Can auction houses and dealers be encouraged to provide provenance regularly?

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