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1888/7 Indian Cent--diagnostics of a scarce overdate

Started by Thulium, January 04, 2017, 03:54:29 AM

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Thulium

Among 19th Century US bronze cent coins, the 1888/7 Indian Head cent overdate is by far the most valuable. The values given below reflect actual market prices, which are 250X-1300X the value for the normal coin. While this 'value' is attributed to rarity, I have actually found two on eBay myself. Unfortunately, I didn't win those auctions because other collectors noticed and the bidding got too high.



While this overdate is highly sought-after in the USA, it's quite possible these coins remain undiscovered for collectors overseas. To possibly help collectors locate this valuable coin, I'm sharing all the diagnostics that I have discovered while studying this overdate. There's a lot more to this variety than meets the first glance. Knowing some of the secondary diagnostics might help a collector spot the overdate somewhere–good luck!

One reason the 1888/7 has such a high market price, is because presently no other Indian Head cent has the highly sought-after overdate designation. That said, my own research has shown it's quite possible that several other IHC overdates exist, which may be proven in the future by further research. Therefore, I would caution a collector from paying full market prices for a coin which may well decrease in value in the future due to more overdate discoveries.

While the variety is fairly scarce, but it may be possible to find one. So if you're scanning hundreds of 1888 coins, I've found the quickest way to eliminate perhaps 80% of coins is by date position in relation to the denticles–line in image below. The black arrows point to secondary markers, a leftover from polishing most of the 8/7 off the die.



Naturally, the primary marker is the base of the "7" protruding from underneath the 8. Even this primary marker varies in visibility due to wear, grime on the coin, and possibly strike issues. Below is a montage of the 8/7 seen on a number of certified examples–it's not always crystal clear.



As pictured above in a high-grade example, the cud crossing the denticles adjacent to "UNITED" is believed to be present on all examples, although it may be hard to see in lower grades:



Finally, on many examples, the eighth feather tip is weak, blending into the field. While this is not a confirmation in of itself, it may help corroborate a possible 1888 OVD-001 spotted in a poor online photo.


Figleaf

I sense quite a lot of hot air in this affair. For instance, look at the price quote of $1950 for Good. I doubt if an overdate can be spotted on a G coin. Overdates are fun and a nice illustration of a minting process, but - unless you are a really highly specialised collector - not a "must-have" and even less so if you collect by type (then again, I may be the only collector in the world who gathers US coins by type.) An overdate for illustration purposes from another country can be picked up relatively easily and at far less cost and it may be clearer to coin-innocents as well.

If coin collecting just means spending big money for the satisfaction of ticking off a line in a catalogue, great opportunities are wasted. If you can find the coin on eBay with some degree of regularity, rather than a regular auction, I wonder if it is really as scarce as it is supposed to be, or maybe multiple specimen are locked up in the vaults of bored, rich people who couldn't care less about the coin and at best just follow these funny price quotes and take them for the kind of money they can actually "get".

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Thulium

#2
Quote from: Figleaf on January 04, 2017, 09:09:21 AM
I sense quite a lot of hot air in this affair. For instance, look at the price quote of $1950 for Good. I doubt if an overdate can be spotted on a G coin. Overdates are fun and a nice illustration of a minting process, but - unless you are a really highly specialised collector - not a "must-have" and even less so if you collect by type.

In this case, the 1888/7 can be spotted in G--the mark under the 8 is quite bold in the lower grade example above (top left). But I would also agree--there is a very overheated market for most US overdates, this "scarce" one being no exception. The price isn't rational, but due to demand--there are a lot of IHC collectors who want this coin enough to get into bidding wars, hence the high prices realized in auction. Many US 19th C. coins have inflated prices, especially varieties like overdates that have strong demand.

I would add that "hot air" is coming from a certain coin dealer and "expert" who is apparently hiding the fact that other IHC overdates exist, probably to keep the price of this one coin inflated. I know this because I and some IHC specialists have found several coins which we believe will prove to be overdates. Establishing these new overdates will take some time, and may overturn the inflated market value currently seen for this coin.  :)   But it will always be worth a premium, and worth checking for in your collection.

There are some overdates considered "rare" for other mints, such as the Australia 1922/1 threepence, which is also in high demand--probably for no reason other than to have in one's collection. But I specialise in overdates because I like them, not as much for potential value--although I do own a couple that apparently are in good demand.

Globetrotter