Slightly revised and edited January 2018
This is a rarity tally of so-called dollars sold through various token and medal mail bid dealers and auctioneers from 1975 through the year 2000(around the advent of ebay). I did not look through all catalogs from this period, but I did look through quite a few. I recorded all so-called dollars that I could find in each catalog, looking through each one cover to cover, not just in the "so called dollar" sections. It includes all HK #s as listed in the 1st edition of Hibler and Kappen's book, and virtually all HK #s as listed in the 2nd edition. It also lists all metal and metal platings of HK numbers, both listed and unlisted in HK. It does not include unlisted die combinations("mules") or totally unlisted pieces. Make sure the piece you are looking up is exactly as described in HK, and not a similar variety. My tabulation numbers were taken ONLY from the catalogs listed below; however many of the various unlisted metal and plated listings were taken not only from these catalogs, but from any other source that I looked through, including Presidential Coin and Antique catalogs after the year 2000, Stacks, Bowers, Heritage, ebay, ANS listings, Tony Swicer's 1992 sale, etc.
I should first say something about grading. During the period that this tally covers, grading of so-called dollars was less of an issue than it is today mainly due to the lower market values and lack of third party grading. The use of 10 point Mint State grading to describe the condition of so called dollars was almost unheard of during the period that this tally covers. With lower values, fine point grading was just not a big a deal. Most sellers would describe their uncirculated pieces as simply "Unc", with an occasional "Gem Unc" used to describe a really nice piece. Today third party grading tends to be more liberal in the lower uncirculated grades, with pieces slabbed MS-60 to MS-62 (sometimes even MS-63) being graded AU or sometimes even EF back then. My tally shows everything broken down into grades as they were described. If a piece was listed as a split grade, say EF/AU, then I almost always entered it as the lower of the two grades; so in this example, an EF/AU graded piece would have been entered into the EF column.
So, how certain am I that my tally is accurate? Well, my confidence is pretty high. Could I have made a mistake with typos? I could have, but if I did, I believe they are exceedingly few and far between or of little significance. I began doing this in 1995, using Microsoft Excel, typing in each one, one at a time. What kind of a coin crazy am I anyway?!*#! A while back I decided to go back and redo all of the Presidential Coin and Antique catalogs separately. One of the reasons I did this was to help me verify that my entries were accurate. This second effort seemed to me to be consistent with my larger tally. A couple of other things that I did was go back and verify that my Charbneau dollar(HK487-HK490) and Continental dollar re-strike(HK852-HK856) entries were accurate. In each case the total number that I found was very close to what I originally found. Actually, I found two or three less the second time around, probably because I looked through everything a bit faster. I have NOT falsified any numbers to make them look more reasonable, and I have certainly NOT raised or lowered tally numbers of pieces that I own or want to own to make them appear more or less rare than they actually are. The data you see is RAW DATA, nothing more, nothing less.
A number of other things should be kept in mind when reading tally figures. Dealers and auctioneers sometimes sold entire collections. Collections often consisted of one of each example, thus not much can be learned about rarity. Another consideration is that some sellers tended to avoid low value pieces. This is especially true of Presidential Coin and Antique Co. In some auction catalogs low value pieces were occasionally grouped together into one lot with little in the way of a description, rendering these pieces impossible to enter into my tally. All in all, more common and less valuable pieces are UNDER-represented, while more valuable and rarer pieces are OVER-represented. For higher mintage pieces of say 5,000 to 30,000 or so where mintages are known, the numbers that I located tended to average around 1-3% of the total mintage. For lower mintage pieces where mintages are known, numbers found tended to amount to an average of around 10% or so of the total mintage. Click here for an example comparing HK528 to HK537.
Another thing to keep in mind is that so-called dollars are a vast and varied group of medals and tokens. With any kind of rarity study, one would like to compare items that are as similar as possible; so to some extent, any so called dollar rarity study is like comparing "apples to oranges". The numismatic marketplace tends to treat various so called dollars differently depending on perceived historical significance or desirability. The most obvious examples are the Lesher dollars(HK787 - HK797 and HK1016 - HK1021). Many of these were sold through Stacks and other high profile auctioneers not generally used in my tally, so my tally on these pieces is probably of little value. Using too many higher profile auctioneers in my tally would have skewed the rarity tallies in favor of rarer pieces. As it is, my tally figures tend to favor more valuable pieces anyway - read above - and the use of Presidential Coin and Antique Company catalogs were certainly also a factor. Overall though I felt that all of the catalogs I did use created a nice balance. Better information regarding Lesher dollar rarity can be obtained by reading Adna Wilde's extensive study.
Another consideration is the possibility that an exact same piece may show up in different sales. A small minority of catalogs used in this study were fixed price lists. These were usually checked for repetition from one issue to the next in an attempt to make sure that the exact same pieces that did not sell from list to list were not entered multiple times. However the vast majority of catalogs entered were live auction or mail bid auction catalogs. With these, a piece was always entered as it appeared without regard to whether or not it may have shown up before in a previous auction. As would be expected, I never saw the same kind of repetition in successive live or mail bid auctions that I would see in fixed price lists. However there is still no question that in some cases the exact same pieces were entered more than once if they happened to appear in different catalogs, sometimes at widely separated periods of time. The pedigrees of most so called dollars are difficult to follow, but the more valuable or rare a piece is, the more likely some sort of provenance can be determined. Obviously the possibility of repetition might be another reason why more valuable pieces are over represented in the tally figures. It is possible that it could be of some considerable significance for extremely rare pieces that show tally figures of say 2 or 3, as it might be possible that all 2 or even all 3 are in fact the exact same piece.
Anyway, although this tally is certainly not the last word on so called dollar rarity, it should be a helpful adjunct to HK.
I also want to thank all of the dealers, auctioneers, and authors whose past catalogs and publications made this study possible. I want to especially thank Joe Levine of Presidential Coin and Antique Co., Inc. for his advice and assistance.
Tally numbers were taken ONLY from the following catalogs, most dating from 1970 to 2000.
Below are other publications/sources relating to so called dollars that were used to find unlisted metal and plated varieties. None of these were used in my tabulation.
© John Raymond 2018