US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for April 29, 2019

The 1975-D Jefferson 5-cent coin Mint mark varieties include issues with the D of the Denver Mint positioned different from its usual location on the obverse. Should the variety be listed with other coins of the type even though little market exists for the coin?

Original images courtesy of Q. David Bowers.

The publishers of U.S. coin price guides like Coin World’s Coin Values section in our monthly magazine and Whitman Publishing’s “Red Book” are often asked to list additional die varieties in their references. However, what should come first — listing a coin in the hope that it develops an active secondary market or waiting for a market to develop before the coin is added to the price guide?

That is the dilemma facing price guide editors regularly. Books like Whitman’s A Guide Book of United States Coins and guides like our own monthly Coin Values valuing section list thousands of basic date and Mint mark combinations of coins. Most of the guides also list prominent and popular die varieties and marriages as well. However, standard price guides are not comprehensive; while hundreds of die varieties are listed in these popular, well-distributed works, thousands more varieties exist that are listed only in specialty guides with limited distribution or in private listings like those maintained by such individuals as John Wexler, who writes our monthly “Varieties Notebook.” Most of these, however, will never be listed in standard guides.

When should a variety be added? That was the subject of some recent debate between several numismatists and price guide editors over a 1975-D Jefferson 5-cent coin with a D Mint mark positioned well outside the normal area for a Mint mark on that coin. Prior to the early 1990s, the Mint mark (if any) was punched directly into each working die. Some minor variation in position could occur from die to die, but on some coins the Mint mark is greatly out of position, as on the illustrated coin.

While the piece is interesting, it is obscure. The coin trades very infrequently and few are reported, just like thousands of other also unlisted varieties. While adding this coin to a price guide might increase collector interest, it is just one such piece, with numerous other candidates awaiting similar attention. Coin World generally believes it better to let a market for a coin develop first rather than artificially create a market by prematurely adding it to a price guide.

The coin is a favorite modern variety of veteran numismatist Q. David Bowers, who has written here about the coin in his weekly column “The Joys of Collecting.” The coin is illustrated and described in the 2019 “Red Book” but is not listed in the guide’s listings. He believes that it should be fully listed, he wrote in a recent email.

What do readers think? Should a variety be added to a price guide when little or no market exists for the coin? Let us know what you think and why, and what criteria you think should be followed in making such decisions.

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