BCCS Census Studies

The primary purpose of the Census studies (in conjunction with Rarity Surveys) was to update our knowledge of the four Barber series as to both the populations of coins already in collectors’ hands, and also the opinions of collectors as to the relative scarcity of the different dates in a wide range of grades.

The Census studies provided a means for collectors to report their holdings for each date and grade level in each series.

There was a very strong response to the four Census studies, with between 84 (Liberty Nickels) to 172 (Barber Dimes) collectors responding, tallying thousands of coins! With the survey being open to the general public, a number of guests (non-members) participated via the website in addition to BCCS members, some of which later joined the Society.

While the Census data provides very interesting and useful information, care should be taken when making use of this information. There are a number of important caveats that must be considered:

Limited sampling: Many collectors possess Barber Quarters as type coins, and others have them as part of a year set (e.g., 1899). Lots more are in the hands of people that inherited them from grandparents, and the like. Although this survey was open to all collectors (not just BCCS members), only those guests who attended a BCCS meeting at a coin show, discovered our web site, or who read about the survey in Coin World or by word of mouth, participated in the survey (or have even heard of BCCS). Therefore, the majority of holders of Barber Quarters did not participate in the survey, and all of those coins are not represented here.

On or off the market: One assumption that is often made by readers is that a coin Census represents a cross section of the coins generally available in the marketplace. This, of course, is not true, as the reported coins are those that are already in collections and thus off the market. For the keys and semi-keys, which perhaps were acquired after a long search, they are often impounded in collections and off the market for a very long time.

One collector, one coin: Most collectors simply don’t buy coins in proportion to those on the market. Many people are putting together a set, in which case they will often buy only one specimen of each date and mint. However, if the collector believes certain dates are scarce and undervalued, he or she may purchase additional examples as an investment, or for later trades with other collectors. This can result in a collector possessing more examples of the scarcer dates than the common ones. Even if this doesn’t happen, the rare dates will appear to be equally available as common dates.

Upgrading: Many collectors strive for coins in a certain grade range. However, they may have to settle for a different (usually lower) grade of the scarcer dates until they find one in the desired grade, often after a long search. Once upgraded, many collectors will keep the duplicates of the keys and semi-keys for future trades. For the common readily-available dates, most collectors will simply wait to purchase pieces in the desired grade. Again, this would tend to skew the census in favor of the scarcer dates.

Hoarding: Some collectors have an interest in certain dates. Others may have affinity for coins produced at certain mints. However, most hoarding seems to occur with issues that are considered scarce and undervalued.

Therefore, when trying to interpret the Census, one must bear the previous points in mind. It is for these reasons that we also conducted the Rarity Surveys as a complement to the Census.

Below are the four BCCS Census Studies that were conducted for Liberty Nickels, and Barber Dimes, Quarters, and Halves.

Liberty Nickels Census Study

Barber Dimes Census Study

Barber Quarters Census Study

Barber Halves Census Study

  Barber Coin Collectors' Society      --      Founded 1989      --      Email:   bccs@barbercoins.org