The True Value
Volume 41, Number 9, September 2004
In the “News and Views” this month we note that Dealer Eddie Smith has managed to secure another example of a hitherto “Unique” 1862 halfpenny with the “A” Mint mark to the right, rather than the left of the light house. Eddie was kind enough to show us the rarity at the recent York Coin Fair, a fair that also brought us a 2003 20pence coin that seemed to have a “ghost” impression of the Queen’s head around the proper striking (it is believed that the coin was first struck with a 5 pence die with that effigy being slightly bigger than on the 20p and then re-struck with the proper 20p die), an example of a modern penny seemingly struck on a 5p blank and a £20 note that had a “reverse” image overprinted (apparently where the sheet had come into contact with another sheet before the ink had dried). These, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of examples that we never see are what make our hobby that little bit more interesting, they are, without a doubt, either anomalies or extreme rarities (there is only one other example of that die variety 1862 halfpenny known to date and that is tucked safely away in a private collection) and as such are always going to command more interest, and thus a higher premium, than more “ordinary” pieces, but just what should that premium be? We all know that if a 1933 penny were to come on the market then it would fetch tens of thousands of pounds, the ’33 double eagle controversially fetched millions but what of these other, less “glamorous” rarities? The 1862 halfpenny is sure to be popular, after all it is a recorded variety and very rare so halfpenny and rarity collectors will be falling over themselves to obtain it but what of the modern anomalies or indeed older “varieties” that come to light, varieties not recorded as they were mistakes, mis-strikes or similar? We all know they exist, most of us have seen examples of them but what should a collector expect to pay for something like that if it come on the open market? As with anything a mis-strike/die variety is only ever going to be worth what someone is prepared to pay for it and as such it is impossible to put a true value on such things. That there is a market for them is not in doubt but how far that market is prepared to go is a question few can answer. It might be argued that as there are only two examples of the “A to the right of the lighthouse” 1862 halfpenny it should command as much at auction as a 1933 penny of which we know there are seven examples (after all seven is five more than two so therefore the halfpenny is rarer than the penny – isn’t it?) but it doesn’t work like that – the romance attached to the “missing” ’33 penny, or indeed the legendary Double Eagle mean that such coins will always be amongst the most expensive in the world when mis-strikes and anomalies such as those mentioned will never quite match up but that said it is right that such finds do attract interest and “ bigger” money; after all in an age of mass production and strict quality control a “rarity” is indeed just that and should never be dismissed. A rare coin is always a joy to own; knowing you possess something that few, if any, others have gives you a sense of pride beyond the simple knowledge that you own a scarce piece, it gives you a sense of being in an exclusive “club” of somehow making your collection that little bit “special”. It doesn’t really matter whether our rarity is a die variation, an overstrike or one of the true “holy grails” of numismatics, the fact that you own something that perhaps no-one else does has got to be worth rubies. It might only be “worth” what someone is prepared to pay for it – but we’re not in it for the money but for the joy of collecting – aren’t we?
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