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Author Topic: Scarce or Rare ?  (Read 10464 times)

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Offline Dominic T

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Scarce or Rare ?
« on: August 21, 2018, 07:32:51 pm »
Hello. Since English is not my mother tongue, could someone explain me the difference between “scarce” and “rare” when we are talking about ancient coins ?
What is the subtile “nuance” between these 2 terms ? Thanks
DT

Offline Enodia

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2018, 07:36:57 pm »
Scarce is less rare than rare. Scarce means uncommon, while rare means seldom seen at all.
An intelligent politician is scarce. An honest politician is rare!

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Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2018, 08:05:46 pm »
I really appreciate your explanation ( and your joke) Enodia. Now I can go to bed with the feeling that I’m more intelligent.... 
DT





Offline Meepzorp

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2018, 08:31:26 pm »
HI DT,

Enodia is correct. A rare coin is rarer than a scarce coin.

To explain it in more detail, in terms of rarity, ancient coins are usually graded on the following scale:

Common (C)
Scarce (S) or Not Common (NC)
Rare (R1)
Very Rare (R2)
Extremely Rare (R3)

Meepzorp

Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2018, 09:50:27 pm »
Those informations will be very useful Meepzorp. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.
DT

Offline Joe Sermarini

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2018, 03:11:15 am »
Notice the blue text links - scarce, rare, and rarity are all blue.
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Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2018, 06:29:18 am »
Wow ! I have missed that. I made a search on NumisWiki before with the words rare and scarce and didn’t get anything. Anyway now I’ m fully equipped to understand the different categories of rarity. Thank you all for your help.
DT

Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2018, 12:38:57 pm »
All your responses makes me realize that rarity is quite a subjective question. But with all the information you provide, I’ll at least have guideline to understand what it means, especially when it’s time to buy  some “rare “ coins...
DT

Offline SC

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2018, 09:50:33 am »
It can be further complicated when you consider variations, sub-types, mint marks, etc.

No one would ever describe the late Roman GLORIA EXERCITVS Two Soldiers or FEL TEMP REPARATIO Falling Horseman types as rare.  They are as common as you can get.  However, coins from some mints are more or less common, more or less rare.  And when you get down to specific mint and field marks (i.e. specific issues) some are quite rare.

So a single coin can be seen by one person as extremely common and another person as extremely rare.

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Offline AMICTUS

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2018, 10:10:24 am »
Is it subjective to that extent and a matter of personnal evaluation ? Personnal evaluation is about being interested or not in a coin, in a serie or not. But a coin is rare or not, even if part of a very common serie depending on the number of remaining coins.

Offline suarez

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2018, 03:00:17 pm »
Put another way words like scarce and rare don't have any meaning except as comparatives. For example, a common ancient coin could be considered an extreme rarity if measured as a percentage of all coins ever made. A Roman coin of Pertinax is usually described as a rarity - and is so compared to the total imperial output - but is commonly found in the marketplace.

Those R ratings are arbitrary, inconsistently used and often so downright inaccurate that they're better off forgotten. Some of RIC's R5 ratings can be counted in the hundreds.

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Offline PMah

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2018, 08:07:13 pm »
 Much of the significance of terms such as "rare" or "scarce" depends on the integrity and knowledge of the person using the word.  An online auction site tolerates the word "rare" on any coin description, which is completely misleading to a novice and detrimental to making the hobby grow.  The same platform could have a "rare" microwave oven, so there is a matter of "caveat emptor", but some sellers who overuse the phrase "RARE!", should be accountable for misleading buyers.  Their defense is that ancient coins generally are "rare" compared to modern coins, but in  my opinion, that's like saying "bicycles are rare ...compared to eggs"  Rarity should be relative to a standard.
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Offline AMICTUS

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2018, 10:17:01 am »
From a numismatic point of view rarity depends on number of remaining coins. Some corpus on specific fields mention accurate rarity based on the number of known coins. Of course this is limited to the scope of the corpus and may change with new discoveries (hoards, publications …). Composition of large hoards are also good criteria, as are perhaps some technicalities (die linking). But rarity is not only a result of chance it corresponds also to various parameters linked to the historical context (political events, financial needs and minting capabilities, emphasis on some aspects of a political message…

When it comes to collecting there is of course a close relationship between rarity and coins being desirable but then other elements are taken into consideration (precious metal, state of preservation, availabiltity, fashion…) which bring in their own rarity criteria...

Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2018, 04:48:38 pm »
“depends on number of remaining coins “.I am wondering if there is an estimation of the number of coins owned and “hidden” by private collectors ? If over the years they didn’t buy from known auction houses, are they some traces of some of those “rare coins” ? I’d be really curious to know your opinion on this subject....
DT

Offline SC

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2018, 06:24:12 pm »
There is absolutely no way to know the true number or breakdown of coins out there.

The creators of various rarity systems have therefore tried to find measurable options.  The old RIC system was number of coins in the main / well known collections.  Others have looked at things like number put of for sale in trade publications / auctions over a certain period of time.  In some cases (i.e. denarii) hoards give us a fairly good indication, though there are challenges with every option.

I believe that these systems can probably yield fairly good results for some types of coins - Greek silver, sestertii, gold, etc.  But it is more difficult to be sure you have a good picture of the lowly bronze.

I am not a dealer and not even a big time collector but over the 17 or so years I have been collecting I have handled literally hundreds of thousands of coins.  Very few of these have ever been documented in any organized way.  They were mainly the coins from shows, flea markets and traders junk/pick bins.  Too common or low value to be recorded by any dealer.

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Offline Joe Sermarini

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2018, 06:35:30 pm »
When a reference includes a rarity table, that table will be included on the NumisWiki page for that reference.  RIC I, HGC 2, Emmett and Varbanov I, for example, have rarity tables on their NumisWiki pages. This information is important especially because for some references R1 means very common (the R only indicating it is a rarity scale number not rare), while for others it means rare.

If you click on rare, this is what you will see on the NumisWiki Rarity and Scarcity pages...

Scarcity and Rarity

Also see ERIC - Rarity Tables.

Rarity ratings for ancient coins in sales catalogs, including FORVM ANCIENT COINS' shop are based on some or all of the following:

- Published rarity ratings when available (such as those in Roman Imperial Coins below).
- The number of examples in published collections and other references.
- The number of examples in certain hoards.
- The number of examples sold in auctions over the past years.
- The number of examples currently on the market.
- The number of examples on the Internet.
- The number of examples handled by the cataloger or dealer in the past.
- The knowledge and experience of the cataloger.

An exact degree of scarcity and rarity of ancient coins is rarely certain. Also, the rarity of a type can change if a new hoard is discovered. Often coins that were once listed as rare in references are only cataloged as scarce and coins that were once scarce are cataloged as common today. Although unusual, a cataloger may also believe a coin is rarer than a published rarity rating or the number of examples in collections implies. Highly desirable coins are found in disproportionately high numbers in publications and collections because they were sought for each publication or collection with greater effort than other coins. Such coins may actually be quite scarce or rare. Also, the cataloger may know or think a published rarity rating is in error.

Another rarity consideration is how narrowly the type or variant is defined. A rarity rating might apply to the general type or to a narrowly defined variety. A particular coin of a short reigning emperor may be listed as common but overall the coins of that emperor are much rarer than those of Constantine, for example, who issued millions of coins. Yet, many Constantine variants are identified as rare or even extremely rare. Rarity might even refer to a specific mint workshop (officina) or control mark on the coin. The same issue applies to Greek coins. The coins of a city in general might be common or rare, but even in a city that issued many coins, the coins of a specific magistrate, with a certain monogram or a specific control mark might be unpublished and thus rare. Rarity is sometimes based on an obscure magistrate name, officina number or control mark because some collectors are interested in obtaining all of the variants of the type.

The impact of price on the rarity of coins is entirely dependent on demand. A rare variant may not cost much more than a common variant of the same type with similar eye appeal. On the other hand, a rare variant or type might be much more expensive if there are a number of collectors that find the type desirable. The greatest impact of rarity on price applies when the specific rarity is necessary to complete a highly collected series. Consider that some U.S. coins are extremely expensive when only the date or mintmark varies from millions of others of the same type. Collectors need to "fill a hole" and the price reflects the demand created by that need. Fortunately, for most ancient coins the need to "fill holes" does not apply to the same extreme - even some extremely rare, unpublished, and even unique coins are sometimes still affordable.

RIC Rarity Ratings

See Emperors and their RIC volumes if you are uncertain which volume below applies.

RIC I (1984)
Sutherland, C.H.V. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. I, From 39 BC to AD 69. (London, 1984).
C: Common to very common
S: Scarce
R: Rare
R2: [Rare] 11-15 known [in the collections examined]
R3: [Rare] 6 to 10 known [in the collections examined]
R4: [Rare] 2 to 5 known [in the collections examined]
R5: [Rare] Unique [only one in the collections examined]

RIC II (1926)
Mattingly H. & E. Sydenham. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. II: Vespasian to Hadrian. (London, 1926).
Unspecified, probably the same as RIC I

RIC II, Part I (2007)
Carradice, I.A. & T.V. Buttrey. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. II, Part 1: From AD 69 to 96. (London, 2007).
C2: Extremely common
C: Common
R: Rare
R2: Very rare
R3: Unique [only one in the collections examined]

RIC III (1930)
Mattingly, H. & E. Sydenham. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol III, Antoninus Pius to Commodus. (London, 1930).
Unspecified, probably the same as RIC I

RIC IV (1986)
Mattingly, H.B., E.A. Sydenham & C.H.V. Sutherland. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol IV, From Pertinax to Uranius Antoninus. (London, 1986).
Unspecified, probably the same as RIC I

RIC V (1927 & 1933)
Mattingly, H., E.A. Sydenham & P. Webb. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol V, Part I, Valerian to Florian. (London, 1927).
Mattingly, H., E.A. Sydenham & P. Webb. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol V, Part II, Probus to Amandus. (London, 1933).
CC: Very common
CC: Very common
C: Common
S: Scarce
R: Rare
R2-R4: [Rare] Additional degrees of rarity
R5: Unique [only one in the collections examined]

RIC VI (1967)
Sutherland, R.A.C. & C.H.V. Carson. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VI, From Diocletian's reform to the death of Maximinus. (London, 1967).
C2: [Very] Common in every major collection
C: [Common] In every major collection
S: [Scarce] In most major collections
R: [Rare] 26-50 coins known [in the collections examined]
R2: [Rare] 11-25 coins known [in the collections examined]
R3: [Rare] 6-10 coins known [in the collections examined]
R4: [Very Rare] 2-5 coins known [in the collections examined]
R5: Unique [only one in the collections examined]

RIC VII (1966)
Bruun, P.M. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VII, Constantine and Licinius A.D. 313 - 337. (London, 1966).
C3: [Common] more than 41 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
C2: [Common] 31-40 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
C1: [Common] 22-30 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
S: [Scarce] 16-21 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
R1: [Rare] 11-15 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
R2: [Rare] 7-10 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
R3: [Rare] 4-6 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
R4: [Very Rare] 2-3 coins known [to the writers when the book was written]
R5: Unique [only one in the collections examined]

RIC VIII (1981)
Carson, R., H. Sutherland and J. Kent. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VIII, The Family of Constantine I, A.D. 337 - 364. (London, 1981).
Unspecified, probably similar to RIC VI or VII

RIC IX (1933)
Pearce, J.W.E. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume IX, Valentinian I - Theodosius I. (London 1933).
C-C3: [Common with] increasing degrees of commonness
S: Scarce
R-R4: [Rare with] increasing degrees of rarity
R5: Unique [only one in the collections examined]

RIC X (1994)
Kent, J. P. C. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume X, The Divided Empire and the Fall of the Western Parts, AD 395 - 491. (London, 1994).
Unspecified, probably similar to RIC VI or VII

Notes:
- Although RIC rarity is often criticized, better ratings are not available elsewhere.
- RIC rarity is wrong for many individual coin types but overall they are fairly accurate.
- Some of the RIC volumes are quite old and the ratings are dated. These volumes have many types listed as rare that are scarce at best, yet overall they are still fairly accurate. Most R5 coins are not unique but are very rare. Most R4 coins are also quite rare.
- Older volumes were based on older collections that tended to have more Western mint coins and fewer Eastern mint coins. Since many coins are now found with metal detectors in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the rarity of Eastern mint coins is more likely to be overstated.
- Rarity of very interesting types and coins of very rare emperors are probably understated because extra effort was likely expended to acquire those types for the collections examined.
- For RIC volumes that list the rarity of types by each officina the accuracy of rarity for the whole type is usually more significant and the least rare officina considered. Specialty collectors may, however, disagree and an R5 coin for a particular officina is probably very rare even if the type is not.
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Offline JBF

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2018, 08:25:33 pm »
If I recall correctly, Hoover at the beginning of each book on Greek coins, discusses what the common, scarce, rare 1,.... means in terms of how many (or about how many) examples there are for each designation, in bronze, silver, gold/electrum.

There is also a certain connotation regarding common, scarce and rare in the marketplace.  When a hoard is found, or a large collection comes to market that specializes on an area, then the market can be flooded until it absorbs the coins.  So at a certain time, it may seem like something is common, that actually is scarce or even rare.  Or sometimes it is the opposite, something seems quite rare, but in reality is scarce, in that it is absent from the market, but well known in old collections.

Maybe someone else can better tell the story than me, of the Macedonian pseudo-Rhodian coins, of which two were known, until a large hoard of them was found (in the thousands??).  Something once very rare, all of a sudden becomes common. 

Offline vrtsprb

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2018, 04:52:16 pm »
On the other hand, a coin can be listed as common, and isn't. To the point where it is so rare that it doesn't actually exist. That would be quite a few "commons" in RIC V.

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Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2021, 07:26:17 am »
Old thread I know, but I found this interested rarity guide by Stephum Album Rare Coins:
DT

Offline Lech Stępniewski

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2021, 08:18:18 am »
This guide looks reasonable. But there is always an important question: what feature of coin we are taking into account and what is in fact common or rare. Common/rare emperor? Common/rare type of reverse? Common/rare bust type. Common/rare type of reverse for particular emperor with specific bust type? And what about mint or officina mark?

For example, Constantine's I coins are very common, abundant according to Album's guide. But the DAFNE type is only common or even scarce, and DAFNE with bust type E2 (head with rosette-diadem; RIC VII CONSTANTINOPLE 30) is at least scarce or rare (OCRE shows 5 specimens but only 3 attributed correctly). While DAFNE with bust type E2 from officina delta (not attested in RIC) is extremely rare. I have noticed only three specimens during 16 years (one in ANS collection).

However, the last information is interesting only for a very serious and specialized collector. For most collectors it is just Constantine or Constantine's DAFNE or ultimately DAFNE with not-so-common portrait.

So the same coin could be common, scarce or rare or even extremely rare depending on what we are looking for.



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Offline SC

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2021, 09:14:58 am »
Exactly.  Another example is the very common Valentinian types SECVRITAS REIPVBLICAE and GLORIA ROMANORVM.  Two of the commonest coin types, especially in the Danube region.  The mints of Aquileia, Siscia and thessaloniki struck them with many dozens of mint/field mark combinations each some of which are extremely rare, though the Emperors, types and mints are extremely common.

I find the whole rarity concept fails, or at least becomes much more complex by the end of the third century.

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Offline Dominic T

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2021, 12:31:53 pm »
We have to make a difference between rarity and "is it a coin of interest for many collectors". What I like about the Rarity Guide posted before is that they use the term AVAILABLE. Maybe I'm not interested at all by your Constantinus coin below, but the fact it's almost impossible to find another one makes it RARE, or almost never AVAILABLE.
DT

Offline Lech Stępniewski

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2021, 01:38:22 pm »
but the fact it's almost impossible to find another one makes it RARE, or almost never AVAILABLE.

But this fact depends strictly on convention you accept.

As a physical object almost every ancient coin is unique and you don't need sophisticated methods to differentiate one from another (as for modern industrially made coins). But there are always many differences you don't care and then you treat two coins as "similar". But this similarity is a matter of convention. Sometimes such convention is so obvious that we even don't think of it as convention. Who counts hair on emperor's portrait? But formally you can also find many differences in such details.

On the other hand these details are of great importance. You don't count emperor's hair, you don't measure his nose or ears but it is thanks to such details that portrait is sometimes "eye appealing" and seems to be unique.
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Offline Ron C2

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #23 on: May 26, 2021, 05:14:30 pm »
Everyone can have a different opinion on these matters, but the two references I use for the Severan-era coins I collect are:

-The RIC IV rating system Joe posted above, and
-the Mouchmov reference on contents of the Reka Devnia hoard.

In practise, for denarii, I find Reka Devnia to be just about bang-on for how rare (or not) a late second to early third century coin actually is.
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Offline archivum

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Re: Scarce or Rare ?
« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2021, 02:42:45 pm »
Good to bring up for instance Reka Devnia tallies; they help to distinguish between specimen-frequency and availability, both substantial and definable quantities at any different moment, but both subject to change, and in quite different ways. In terms of specimen-frequency a Julius Caesar portrait-denarius is a fairly common ancient, but in terms of its availability, since there's high demand for such coins, it can count as quite rare. In a group that in essence demands the same things it is easier to posit a real standard of specimen-frequency, though there too there will be variations that make a big difference, not only the ones Lech reports, but also variations in wear, metal, strike, and aesthetics.
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