Patriotic Postal Cover Art from the Civil War Period

Patriotic Postal Cover Art from the Civil War Period

There exist multiple scales for measuring relative rarities of various numismatic specimens. At glance they may appear cumbersome, redundant, and somewhat complicated. However, the scales weren’t invented to confuse collectors. Rather they evolved and were invented over time, and were developed by various researchers within their own associative areas of numismatic expertise.

Colonial and Pre-Federal Coinage Rarity Scale

Q. David Bowers introduced a rarity scale applicable for early Pre-Federal and Colonial coinages. The scale is the following:

Universal Rarity Scale - Colonial & Early American - Bowers

Early American Copper Rarity Scale

William Sheldon designed a rarity scale for U.S. Large Cents. Since created in the 1950s, Sheldon’s scale has been adapted to also describe the rarity of other early coinage varieties.

Very frequently used, the Sheldon scale is the following:

Sheldon Rarity Scale

Early American, Hard Times, and Merchant Token Rarity Scale

Russell Rulau, author of the United States Tokens 1700-1900 utilizes a scale very similar to the Fuld scales introduced below. In Rulau’s scale, there are 9 degrees of rarity.

Rulau’s scale is the following:

Early American and Hard Times Tokens Rarity Scale

Civil War and Patriotic Token Rarity Scale

George and Melvin Fuld developed a rarity scale named after them. Known as the Fuld scale, it is applicable to Civil War Tokens and Patriotics. The scale has 10 degrees of rarity:

Civil War Tokens Patriotic Fuld Rarity Scale

Civil War Sutler Token Rarity Scale

A similar Fuld Rarity Scale exists for Sutler Tokens. Unlike those for Civil War and Patriotics, this scale has 9 degrees of rarity. The scale is the following:

Sutler Rarity Scale Fuld Rarity Scale

Walter Breen’s Rarity Scale

Walter Breen developed a hybrid scale, based on one developed by Sheldon. The scale is infrequently seen. To date I have only seen Breen’s scale used in his own work: Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.

Breen’s scale has 8 degrees of rarity, and comprises the following:

Walter Breen's Rarity Scale

Tony Chibbaro’s South Carolina Token Rarity Scale

Tony Chibbaro in his ongoing documentation and research into South Carolina tokens, developed a rarity scale specific to that state. Though Chibbaro uses the same “R” notation, his scale differs significantly in the corresponding numbers for each rarity number.

Chibbaro’s Rarity Scale utilizes 10 degrees of rarity, and is the following:

South Carolina Tokens Rarity Scale Tony Chibbaro

Donald Edkins’ Coal Scrip Rarity Scale

Donald Edkins in his research into metallic scrip, developed a rarity scale for coal tokens. Though he developed the same “R” notation, Edkins’ scale differs greatly in the corresponding numbers for each rarity number. Edkins’ Rarity Scale utilizes 10 degrees of rarity.

The scale is the following:

Coal Scrip Edkins Rarity Scale

Overton Rarity Scale

The Overton Scale is used to describe the rarities of United States Bust Half Dollars.  As with other scales, it varies slightly.

The Overton Scale uses 8 degrees of rarity, and is the following:

Overton Bust Half Scale

Van Allen & Mallis Rarity Scale for U.S. Morgan & Peace Dollars

In their 4th edition, Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis, authors of the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars, present a rarity scale pursuant to Morgan and Peace Dollars.

Their rarity scale is the following:

Van Allen and George Mallis Morgan and Peace Dollar Rarity Scale

Pollock Rarity Scale

Andrew W. Pollock in his 1994 book United States Patterns and Related Issues established a rarity scale to describe the scarcity of United States Gold Pattern coins.  As with other scales, it varies slightly.

The Pollock Scale uses 9 degrees of rarity, as the following:

Pollock Rarity Scale

Seaby and Rayner English Rarity Scale

In the book The English Coinage from 1649 written by Seaby and Rayner, an expanded rarity scale pursuant to English emissions was published. This particular scale utilizes 12 degrees of rarity, as the following:

Seaby and Rayner English Rarity Scale

Michael Freeman’s United Kingdom Bronze Coinage Rarity Scale

In Michael J. Freeman’s book The Bronze Coinage of Great Britain, he established a very expansive rarity scale. His scale is the following:

Michael Freeman's United Kingdom Bronze Coinage Rarity Scale

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins, Q. David Bowers, Whitman Publishing, ©2008
  2. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 4th Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
  3. U.S. Civil War Store Cards Second Edition, George & Melvin Fuld, Quarterman Publications, ©1975
  4. Patriotic Civil War Tokens 4th Edition, George & Melvin Fuld, Krause Publications, ©1982
  5. Patriotic Civil War Tokens Fifth Edition, George & Melvin Fuld, Krause Publications, ©2005
  6. Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial coins, Walter Breen, Doubleday, ©1988, pgs.242-275
  7. South Carolina Tokens, Tony Chibbaro, TAMS, ©1990
  8. Edkins Catalogue of United States Coal Company Store Scrip, pgs.237-238, Bill Williams & Steve Ratliff, NCSA, Inc., ©1997
  9. United States Early Half Dollar Die Varieties – 1794-1836, 4th Edition, Donald L. Parsley, Edward Bros. Inc, (c)2005, pg.ii
  10. The Library of Congress Digital Archives

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The author has over 30 years experience in North American numismatics. He is the author of numerous articles about exonumia, including those about tokens, scrip, and the public who used them. He is a member of the ANA, VNA, ACC, C4, CWTS, TAMS, MD-TAMS, AVA, NSCA, and NumisSociety.

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