Meaning of Key Date

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Endeavor, Nov 8, 2018.

  1. Endeavor

    Endeavor Well-Known Member

    This might be subjective and different among collectors but...

    is your definition of "Key Date" used to describe one date only or is it meant to be used for any coin within a series that is rare, hard to acquire, or simply the lowest mintage?

    I guess you could say there are two parts to my question:

    1) Only one date or Can be used on more than one date?

    2) Coin is hard to acquire? (not necessarily rare or of low mintage). Coin is lowest mintage in series? (not necessarily hard to acquire)
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  3. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Derp, derp, derp!

    I use the term to refer to all coins in a series that I will never be able to justify paying the asking price.
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  4. Jaelus

    Jaelus The Hungarian Antiquarian Supporter

    1) You can definitely have more than one key date in a set. I use the terms "big key" if there is one key date that is significantly harder to obtain, and "semi-key" if it's merely difficult to obtain.
    2) Hard to acquire.
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  5. Omegaraptor

    Omegaraptor Gobrecht / Longacre Enthusiast

    Key dates are generally the most expensive coins in a series. Semi-keys are also price outliers, but not quite as severe as keys. (Example: In the Indian Head Cent series, the 1877 is a key, and the 1872 is a semi-key.) There is no limit to the amount of keys in a series - Seated Quarters come to mind.

    Key dates do not necessarily have to be rare or hard to find, but they can be. They just need a high value and often have high demand from people trying to complete the series. Case in point: The 1909-S VDB cent is not rare or hard to find by any means, but a lot of people collect Lincoln Cents and the 1909-S VDB just happens to be the lowest mintage and be the most famous.

    In fact, the 1796 Draped Bust large cent is scarcer than the 1804 - yet the latter is a key date, while the former is only a semi-key.
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  6. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    I would characterize a key date as being one of the showstoppers in the series.

    Take Seated Half Dimes for one example. While there are plenty of difficult dates in the series, and many of them are comparatively expensive, I consider the 1846 and the 1853-O NA to be key dates. For those of you who would correct me for omitting the 1870-S, I agree, but treat that coin differently . . . that one's unobtainable.
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