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Rarity.  A collector's term indicating the number of specimens in existence of a particular numismatic variety. The degree or rarity is usually expressed by a letter or number referring to a rarity chart or rarity scale.  The simplest rarity schedule is a number of Rs from one to four or five (one R is rare, RR very rare, RRR extremely rare, RRRR nearly unique, RRRRR unique). Other rarity charts are illustrated. A far more precise term used by numismatists is survival ratio, which provides an estimate of the number in existence as a factor of the original quantity struck or issued.  See survival ratio.

An appraiser will determine rarity by the number of years since a similar specimen has appeared on the market, or how many specimens have come on the market in recent years.  An item so rare as not to come on the market with ten years (or the lifetime of a collector) is termed noncollectable.


NE42 {1982} Doty, p 276.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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