What constitutes a variety?

What constitutes a variety?

This was the hardest question to answer on this website, and is also an answer which I find I am constantly refining. Trying to define what constitutes a variety/type is a daunting task. It is by no means an exact science and everyone has differing opinions on what should and should not be included. There are no right or wrong answers, and it generally boils down to a personal opinion.

It is at this point that I feel some explanation and background should be provided to explain the rationale that I am applying within this website and to clarify why I have included and excluded certain variety types. Many people question the practicality and reasoning behind cataloguing and trying to identify die varieties, and my response is “because I enjoy doing it”. There are also those who question the accuracies of the reference catalogues that are currently available. In my opinion the only route forward is to attempt to correct discrepancies that exist in these references and expand on their detail with the knowledge and technology that is available to us at this time. I believe that it was not a case that Peck felt that minor varieties were not included because they were unimportant, but that the task he was undertaking was already of enormous complexity due to the vast time periods involved and the multiple denominations that he was researching. This is confirmed when Peck states that “the final decision to draw the line was largely determined by the impossibility of reaching any finality in the case of die-varieties of the current coins and the impracticality of describing them except by photography”.

The scope of Peck’s work was astonishing considering the technological restrictions that were in place at that time. Specimens, proofs and die varieties were identified, catalogued and defined to the extent that we now use his reference as a benchmark for further investigation. It is only by additional investigation and research that the hobby can advance. It is my opinion that the time has arrived where I feel further investigation into varieties would be of benefit to the collecting community. Whether the research we undertake will be of importance is yet to be seen, but I have no doubts that similar issues must have crossed the minds of these researchers that have gone before us.

Technological advances now allow varieties to be clearly identified and easily catalogued (although in many cases a certain amount of interpretation can still be applicable), and the availabilty of information via the web and the communication channels it has opened provide us with the ideal opportunity to globally contribute and pursue constructive discussions.

Price guides for such varieties are impractical at this time, and the market for such varieties will only evolve (if at all) following extensive research and cataloguing of these die varieties. Only as these pieces are identified and collected by enthusiasts will rarities and values be able to be realistically estimated.

I have a fascination with farthings, and the different die varieties provide an added twist, and expand upon the collection possibilities that face me. For me the beauty of collecting coins is not just in the collection of dates, or type sets but in the details of each coin, the dies that were used in its production, and the flaws and errors made by those contributing to the manufacturing process.

I have a curious fascination with furthering my knowledge in this area, and what better way is there, than furthering it doing something that fascinates me and may assist others pursuing the same hobby. My quest is not to fill gaps for each year, or to purely invest for the future (although there is nothing wrong with either of these pursuits) but to gain knowledge and contribute to the advancement of the hobby for generations to come (Starting to sound a bit like a political speech now !!!).

For the purposes of this website, I have decided that the following parameters will determine the inclusion of a variety:

Listed Varieties: Varieties that are historically known or listed in a reliable source. Contradictions will only be listed where verified by visual evidence.

Datal alignment/spacing: Obvious differences in datal alignment/spacing that can be seen with the naked eye

Repunched Numerals/Letters: Obvious differences that can be seen clearly with the naked eye or under magnification, care will be taken not to include machine doubling.

Die Flaws: Only included if it is a repeated “standard” flaw found on multiple coins. Progressive die errors, such as die cracks will not be included.

Colon Varieties: I have listed the colon & stop varieties, because in my opinion they are no different from the previous category. There are also some distinct varieties in the colons/stops themselves that I feel warrant cataloguing.

Unbarred A & Inverted V Varieties: I will list these varieties as “unbarred A” if under magnification (on high grade examples) there is no sign of the horizontal bar or its junctions. If evidence becomes available to confirm an inverted V by comparison I will amend my lists.