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These rare beautiful coins are almost like snowflakes. With all the varieties, you swear no 2 are the same.
While all were minted at the Philadelphia mint this unique coin went through a lot of changes. This denomination was authorized in April of 1792 and originally weighed 132 grains, that’s 8.55345612 grams. In January of 1793 the weight was changed to 104 grains, which is 6.73908664 grams and again in January of 1796 to 84 grains or 5.44310844 grams. Sadly this poor coin was short lived and by February 1857 the coin was discontinued.
One of the things I found most difficult about this coin type while going through our inventory was not so much the grading, which can be done far more easily using PCGS‘ Photograde site (The photograde app is available for both Apple & Android products) but figuring out all the different varieties. Just looking at the red book every year practically has varieties and it doesn’t stop till about the end of the series in the late 1820’s. There are so many varieties that not even red book posted pictures to help determine all of them. Making the whole stipulation of is this a widely spaced 3 in 1803 a journey on its own. Sadly the Cherrypicker’s Guide opens a whole other can of worms, which I’ll get into shortly. So how does one go about figuring out all these varieties listed in Red book without images to reference? Yes, PCGS, once again to the rescue with Coin Facts! I wish I could say the site was uber helpful and easy to use but it’s not. It is better than nothing though.
Let me use the Draped Bust Half Cent 1803 as an example, considering it was the one that got me started on this journey. Yes, that is the coin to the right. I know not much to look and according to red book there is no price difference between a widely spaced 3 and normal dated 3. So why go through all the rigmarole? Well, for you guys! Now sadly, the detail on this coin is horrible its a Good (G04) with corrosion, but with a good magnifying glass or digital microscope it’s not so difficult. (I know the microscope is cheating.) After doing lots of search on Google, Coin Facts was really all I could find that makes a great reference to help figure out varieties. (To see what I was looking at click here.) One of the downfalls of the site is instead of listing the varieties as Open spaced, String strike and regular, they are listed as Cohen 1-4 which is difficult to decipher. Cohen 1 is pretty easy to figure out just by looking at the picture and luckily had a good description below it. Unfortunately, when it came for Cohen 2-4 not so lucky. It took a lot of flipping between Cohen 2 & 3 to figure that in Cohen 3 the 3 appears to be further away from the 180 than in Cohen 4. So I did determine that this coin was not a widely spaced 3. (Now to rinse & repeat on the next coin! FYI I don’t wash/clean coins.)
Now I mentioned Cherrypickers Guide earlier, this book may list some of the varieties mentioned in the Red Book but normally it lists varieties & errors that are not so well known. The plus side to this book is it has blown up pictures with a description. I know what you’re thinking another reference guide, but I have like 20 different guides. The thing about this beauty is it can be a difference of your coin being worth only $60 or being worth $500 or even more. Granted these values can vary depending on the coin, year & variety. Now I do have this book available in hardcover and you can click the image to order it but I highly recommend you buy the online Kindle version instead for immediate use by clicking this link: Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins: 1 (An Official Whitman Guidebook). While you’re at it you can also download Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins: 2 (An Official Whitman Guidebook). Although you can order both books from my site I’ve found having an e-reader searchable version is always easier than the hard copy.