Cherrypickers’ Guide Sellout as a Sign of Strength for the Die-Variety Market?
The first print run of the sixth edition, volume II, of the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties is nearing a sellout. Whitman Publishing will order a second print run to keep up with collector demand, with no interruption in availability.
The book debuted at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Pittsburgh, August 8–12, 2023. Sales at the show were limited to one copy per customer.
“The Cherrypickers’ Guide was one of our best sellers in Pittsburgh,” said Whitman vice president of sales Dawn Burbank. “Collectors and dealers bought every advance copy we had, and thousands more have shipped from our main inventory.”
Coin dealer Larry Briggs, one of the most famous die-variety specialists in the country, reported strong bourse activity at the ANA show. Briggs served as volume editor for the latest Cherrypickers’ Guide, updating every entry and consulting with other experts to add new coins.
As part of the ANA’s “Money Talks” educational programming, Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker presented “Cherrypicking Rare Coins in 2023 and Beyond.” He discussed some of the factors contributing to collectors’ growing interest in die varieties. Among them:
- The coin market in general has been hot for the past two or three years.
- The Internet has brought collectors together. Hobbyists have unprecedented access to information, including high-resolution photographs.
- Book publishing has experienced a renaissance, and websites make it easy to self-publish, ask questions, share ideas, and educate other collectors.
- Large coin shows have been seeing high attendance numbers, with many active dealers.
- Competitive registry sets run by PCGS and NGC have introduced an element of friendly competition that can drive up prices (and excitement) if two serious collectors both need the same coin to finish or upgrade their set.
Tucker’s observations on the die-variety market include the following:
- More than two dozen Barber dime varieties (mostly repunched dates) were deleted from the fifth edition of the Cherrypickers’ Guide for lack of collector interest, and about a dozen new Barber dimes were added to the sixth edition. This is a case-study in how collector interest ebbs and flows for specific varieties.
- Gold coins, long overlooked among cherrypickers, are starting to show more significant spread between “normal” and “variety” pricing. In the past, collectors wouldn’t pay much of a premium for (for example) a doubled-die Saint-Gaudens $20 gold piece, because the normal coin already has such a high bullion value. But that’s changed in recent years, as specialists pay more attention to the rarity of certain gold die varieties.
- Hobby clubs and organizations produce and publish a great deal of new research on die varieties. Whitman Publishing recommends joining these clubs to learn more about particular coin series. One especially helpful group for the latest Cherrypickers’ Guide was the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (www.lsccweb.org), which studies the coins of the 1830s to 1890s, including half dimes, dimes, quarter dollars, half dollars, and dollars. Another was the Barber Coin Collectors Society (www.barbercoins.org), which studies the coins designed by chief engraver Charles Barber, minted in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
If a die variety is included in the Cherrypickers’ Guide, it’s among the most popular and actively traded in its series. In the sixth edition, volume II, most of the new die varieties are among Roosevelt dimes (split evenly between silver and clad issues), Liberty Seated quarters (mostly from the 1850s to the 1870s), and Washington quarters (especially the silver series up to 1964).
Looking ahead to volume III, which will come out in 2024:
- There are entire new chapters on Bust half dollars.
- Most of the new die variety listings are among Liberty Seated half dollars, Franklin half dollars, Morgan silver dollars, and Peace dollars.
- There’s a new chapter on U.S./Philippine die varieties of 1903–1945.
Less popular die varieties these days include half dimes in general, twenty-cent pieces, trade dollars, and classic commemoratives. There are new varieties in these series, but collector interest isn’t as strong as in more popular areas.