Variety Numbering, Attribution and Scarcity

The effective use of this Liberty Seated Dime book will be a function of the understanding of the terms, definitions, measurement techniques, and abbreviations, given the complexity of die diagnostics for a coinage series where all the major devices are hubbed except the date and mintmark. Only the With Stars/No Drapery group allows the usage of star placement as an additional diagnostic tool.

Master Numbering

The die varieties for a given date, will be numbered via master numbers as employed by Al. C. Overton in his book entitled "Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836". Each die pair will be assigned a master number starting with 101 and will be followed in simple order for the next set of dies or a new die marriage. Sub varieties will be designed with a letter added to the master variety number. For example 101, 101a and 101b would designate the same die pair at different die state intervals. Sub variety designations are most commonly used for die crack progressions or die polishing occurrences. The die sub varieties listed are based on the author's study and do not represent all possible known die states.

Obverse Numbering System

Again the Overton system is employed to number each obverse die. Number 1 is used to define the first Obverse die listed for a date with each subsequent die designated in simple order. Any follow-on variations or die states of the same obverse die are defined as 1.2 (Obverse 1, Variety 2), 1.3 etc.

Reverse Numbering System

Reverse dies are designated starting with the letter A in exactly the same manner as the Overton obverse numbering system. Subsequent varieties of reverse dies are defined as A.2 (Reverse A, Variety 2), A.3 etc. For numerous Philadelphia dates, the task of reverse identification is presently beyond the capabilities of the author. For those dates, the reverse die numbering system is maintain under the assumption that a unique reverse die is pair with each unique obverse die. Reverse dies with significant diagnostics will be documented for future research into potential die pairing at the Philadelphia mint.

Cross Referencing

This book represents the 3rd major study of Liberty Seated Dimes following the efforts of Kam Ahwash's "Encyclopedia of United States - Liberty Seated Dimes" and Brian Greer's "The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Dimes". A cross referencing system has been added to associate the master numbering system of this book with the prior designations presented by Ahwash and Greer. Ahwash listings are identified as A-1 through A-n within any given date. For Greer, the listings are identified as G101 through G10n within a date. In some cases, the prior authors designated die states of the same die or different die marriages with individual variety numbers. In this document, the author breaks down these occurrences into the appropriate obverse and reverse sub varieties within the context of the master numbering system.

Methods of Attribution

Attribution methods for Liberty Seated dimes must rely primarily on obverse date placement and reverse mintmark placement positions. The No Drapery - With Stars group (1838 - 1840) has the 13 stars hand punched into the obverse dies, thus allowing for additional star position based diagnostics for that type. The availability of repunched or misplaced dates also provides useful markers for die identification. Additionally, close study of Liberty Seated dimes in grades of EF or better can reveal a wealth of subtle die diagnostics to further segregate the individual obverse and reverse dies. Incremental die diagnostics can be derived from die cracks, die scratches, die defects or pits, die polishing and die clashing artifacts. This book attempts to provide the collector was the key diagnostics points for each die that will facilitate a simplistic die identification process. The reader is encouraged to thoroughly review the details of each attribution method at the following links:


Shield Position (SP),
Denticle Ruler (DR),
Distance of Date to Base (DDB) and Date Slope


Mintmark Sizes,
Mintmark Placement Positions and Tilt,
Die Flash Around Bow Loops (Open Bud Reverse)

General: Die Cracks (DCr),
Die Scratches (DScr) and Die Lines (DL),
Die Defects (DD)

Quick Attribution Diagnostics

To aid the collector with the task of die attribution, one or two of the most obvious diagnostic points of a variety will be listed for each master numbered variety. Obverse and Reverse quick attribution diagnostics will be listed on the same line as the die numbering and will be separated by a (/). For example, Repunched 7 North / Die Crack at 5:00, would indicate an obverse die with a repunched 7 in the date and a reverse die with a die crack exiting to the rim at 5:00. The quick attribution diagnostics will be hyperlinked to a secondary discussion of the individual obverse and reverse die details including macro photographs of the diagnostics, when available.

Scarcity Rating Method

The William Sheldon rarity scale, from his book on Large Cents, was employed by Kam Ahwash to estimate the numbers of surviving examples of mint state seated dimes. Brian Greer presented an alternate approach to rarity definition by utilizing a combination of the Sheldon scale and David Lawrence's concept of basing rarity ratings on the difficulty in locating a coin. This combination rarity scale places more emphasis on the probability of obtaining a specimen than a calculated guess at the number of existing specimens.

Rarity Ratings:

   R8      2-3 Known         Nearly Unique
   R7      4-12              Rare, with only a few specimens existing
   R6      13-30             Extremely Scarce, infrequent appearances at large shows or major auctions
   R5      31-75             Very Scarce, a few examples will appear at large shows or auctions across a year
   R4      76-200            Scarce, may or may not be available at larger shows
   R3     201-500            Tough Date, limited number of examples at a large show
   R2     500-1250           Better Date, generally available at most shows but in limited quantities
   R1      1250+             Common

Rarity estimates will differ from collector to collector or dealer to dealer based on prior experiences in observing specimens of the date or variety under study. As pointed out by Brian Greer, rarity estimates typically are revised downward as more examples of a date or variety surface. Rarity rating tables access, through the book, can be found at Updated Greer Rarity Ratings

The author presents individual rarity estimates for each date variety or sub-variety as part of this book. These estimates are based on 17 years of experience in researching the Seated Dime series at large and small coin shows, through auction catalogues, across dealer fixed price lists and recently, through web based auction sites such as eBay. Rarity estimates are based on observations for coins grading Very Fine or better since the Very Fine grade has been the minimum grade level used for die research. For common dates, it is impossible to attribute the individual die varieties on a consistent basis to build an accurate rarity estimate at the die variety level. In those cases, the rarity level for that date and grade is again employed for the individual die varieties. Revisions to rarity estimates will be likely once this book is published and utilized by variety collectors to identify die varieties remaining unpublished until this point in time.


Numerous abbreviations are utilized throughout this book and can be accessed in this Abbreviations Table.


<< Back