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How Rare Is Rare? Rating Rare U.S. Coins With The Sheldon-Breen Rarity Scale

rare-us-coinRare U.S. coins are always in demand.

But some some rare coins are more rare than others.

The Sheldon-Breen rarity scale, named for legendary numismatists Dr. William Sheldon and Walter Breen, helps coin collectors to discover just how scarce their coins really are.

The Sheldon-Breen rarity scale was devised in 1958. The rarity scale attempts to rate a coins scarcity based on how many coins of a certain date and type are estimated to still exist.

Though, of course, no one can ever really know for sure how many coins survive, but estimates at least give us some idea.

There are 9 levels on the Sheldon-Breen rarity scale:
(Remember, the number of coins below refer to estimates!)

  • R-8: This is a unique coin; only 1 exists
  • R-7 High: A coin that’s excessively rare; 2 to 3 exist
  • R-7 Low: An extremely rare coin with 4 to 12 remaining known
  • R-6: A very rare coin with 13 to 30 known specimens
  • R-5: 31 to 75 coins exist, classifying it as rare
  • R-4: A very scarce coin with 76 to 200 examples left
  • R-3: With 201 to 500 estimated pieces, this is a scarce coin
  • R-2: A coin that is not common, with 501 to 1250 coins in existence
  • R-1: With at least 1251 coins remaining, this is a common coin