(806) 244-4453 Fax

The Rarity Factor In Coin Collecting: 4 Things To Keep In Mind

Monday, November 2nd, 2020
one quarter in green grass

When it comes to collectible coins, there are a variety of factors that determine rarity. Some factors that come into play include mint, collectibility, condition, appeal, and age. The following can help you understand how a few of these affect the rarity factor.

The mint and mintmark

Mint refers to how many coins were made by the U.S. mint and its branches. If a set of coins was minted in high numbers (like modern coins), that means the rarity will likely be low. Sometimes the mint will make only one example of a coin or make a mistake on a certain number of coins before it is caught. This means that the rarity factor can be higher on some coins. Keep in mind that some don’t even have a mintmark.

A mintmark is what helps collectors determine which facility a coin was produced in. The presence (or absence) of a mark can greatly affect the value of a coin. For example, the 1927 Double Eagle is a simple $20 gold coin. The 1927-S version (the “S” is the mintmark) can go for at least $5,000 at auction. The 1927-D version of the coin (the letter “D” is the mintmark) goes for much more at auction. Here are some tips to help you find out what a mintmark may mean.

  1. Some coins don’t even have a mintmark. Typically, this means that they were created in Philadelphia, although that minting facility has been in use since 1793. You will see a date but no letter.
  2. There are quite a few common mintmarks you will see on coins. These include the following.
    • C: Charlotte (Gold only, minted from 1838-1861)
    • CC: Carson City (Minted between 1870-1893)
    • D: Dahlonega, Georgia (Gold only, minted between 1838-1861)
    • D: Denver (Minted between 1906 to date)
    • O: New Orleans (Minted from 1838-1909)
    • P: Philadelphia (These can vary. Silver “Nickels” were minted between 1942 and 1945; Dollar coins were minted from 1979 to date)
    • S: San Francisco (Minted between 1854 to date. The last circulating coin with an “S” mintmark was the 1980-S SBA Dollar.)
    • W: West Point (Minted between 1983 to date; These are collector coins only)
  3. No U.S. coin between 1965 and 1967 has a mintmark.
  4. Many mintmarks appear on the obverse of coins or near the date.
  5. Non-U.S. coins have different markings, if any at all.

Condition and graded population

Condition refers to what shape the coin is in, especially compared to examples that are graded. A graded population can help determine if a coin has a higher rarity factor. This refers to the number of coins that have been officially assessed and recorded. Visual appeal is subjective and can be related to condition. Here are some things to remember when thinking about the condition of coins at auction.

  1. Condition isn’t always as important as other factors for rarity. That depends on your unique wants as well as how many pieces of a certain condition are in a graded population.
  2. Some not so rare coins have sold for big prices at auction because of their condition, though.
  3. The number of coins produced by a mint facility is well-documented by series, year, and mint.
  4. A standardized system of grading was created by third-party grading companies in the 1970s and 1980s. There are many of these to choose from when researching coins.

Bullion value

This refers to the value of the metals that coins are made from. It is the price you would get if the coins were melted down. Because of the inherent value of metals (which fluctuates depending on certain factors), bullion value isn’t a huge factor. That being said, if many collectible coins are sold and melted down for their metal, they will become rarer.


The demand for a collectible coin is a big factor in determining rarity. The more in-demand something is, the rarer it will become. There is, of course, no sure way to pinpoint the fluctuations of a collectible’s demand. No matter what the demand for a certain coin, you are likely to find something you’d like to collect at an auction.

Coin collecting at auctions

Ultimately, coin collecting should be fun! Keep an eye out for coins that you like and unless you want to, don’t focus too hard on rarity. One place you can find a good variety of coins and other collectibles is at antique or estate auctions.

High Plains Auctioneers provides a variety of in-person and online auctions throughout the year, including farm equipment, estate, antique, and used vehicle auctions. You can reach us at (806) 244-6776 and view our Upcoming Auctions to see what we will have available.