Featured Standing Liberty Quarters---The Full Head Debate

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Lehigh96, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    I know that there are many strike conscious collectors out there that flock to the strike designations such as Full Steps (Jeffersons), Full Bands (Mercury), Full Torch (Roosevelt), Full Bell Lines (Franklins), and of course the Full Head Standing Liberty Quarter. In this thread, I would like to examine the value in collecting FH versus non FH SLQ's.

    Let's first start by looking at the difference between the Full Head designation for both T1 and T2 SLQ's. I have posted photos below that illustrate the difference between the Full Head and non Full Head coins. Technically there is a different standard for 1916 SLQ's which I will not address due to the coins overall rarity. The other 3 full head definitions as stated by PCGS are listed below (courtesy of THE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO COIN GRADING AND COUNTERFEIT DETECTION).

    1917 Type 1
    The head detail is slightly modified and strengthened considerably for the 1917 Type 1 issues. Instead of hair strands, cords are now present and the mushiness associated with the majority of the 1916 issues is absent. If these hair cords are well defined and distinct, the FH designatin is warranted. There should be a distinct separation between these hair cords and the cap of Miss Liberty, with any blending being extremely minor.


    1917-1924 Type 2 & 1925-30 Type 2
    In mid year 1917, a major modification occurred in the entire design, with the head detail totally changed. Now there is a distinctive helmetlike cap with a three-leaved or sprigged, wreath; an outline that runs down the face and curves back below the ear; hair detail that is cordlike; and a small round hole for an ear (Note the difference between the 1925-30 issues was that the round hole was changed to a narrow slit). For the FH designation, 95 to 100 percent of the detail intended must be present. In most cases, this means there must be three complete and distinct leaves present (they must be separated from each other and the other details of the hair, with only the slightest blending); the outlined must be distinct all the way around the face; the hair detail will be distinct, although some slight weakness or blending is allowed; and the ear hole must be present. If any of the above is not present to the degree specified, the Full Head designation will not be assigned.


    Notice how in the first photo there are only two sprigs, no ear hole, and no discernable hair outline.

    The Value Chart

    Now that we can tell the difference between a FH and not, we should examine the overall value of the FH designation. I have created a chart that should help in this endeavor. I based the prices on a collection of MS63 and MS63 FH NGC SLQ's. All of the prices listed are Numismedia Wholesale and the population numbers only inlcude NGC graded coins. A complete collection of FH SLQ's would cost a whopping $112,516 more at a ratio of 2.37 times that of the non full head counterpart.


    The question is this. Is it worth it? I say no for the following reason. The ratio of non full head to full head SLQ's is 1.55 but the price ratio is 2.37. This chart is very elementary and does not take into account things such as conditional rarities; the fact that the ratios for the key dates (1916, 1918/17-S, & 1927-S) are highly affected by the number of circulated examples included in the overall population figures; the absence of PCGS graded coins; or even the effect of the registry competition on prices. However, it is very evident that the FH SLQ's drive a significant premium over what are already valuable coins.

    If we look at individual dates, this effect is easier to see. Take the 1930 for example. There are almost 2000 FH coins with only 717 non full head coins, yet the FH coin still carries a premium of almost double the price. When compared to the 1930-S which has only 402 FH examples, one would expect that the 1930-S be more expensive. In reality, the 1930 is actually priced higher. Inconsistencies such as this can be found throughout the entire series. In an attempt to put this into further perspective, I created a ratio between the two ratios. By dividing the population ration by the price ratio, you basically can evaluate the value of each issue. Any coin that has a ratio of above one is theoretically undervalued, while those with a ratio below one are theoretically overpriced.

    If I were building a set of SLQ's, I would only consider buying the FH coins that had a pop/price ratio of 1.5 or better. Where I think this ratio is really applicable is with type coins. Almost every type collector looks for a Full Head example. But are they getting the best value simply by purchasing the highest graded FH with the lowest price? I say no, buy the date with the best ratio. The best value for the FH designation using this method would be the 1928-D. There are only 65 FH coins out of 1219 total, yet the price for the MS63 FH is only $690 compared to $200 for the MS63. Another candidate for consideration would be the 1923. With only 90 FH coins out of 1200 total, the price of $930 compared to $225 is an absolute bargain.

    I would love to hear your opinions on this topic.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. rld14

    rld14 Custom User Title

    Well, I'm getting back into collecting SLQs and have just read and re-read my old copy of Cline's book (And bought the 4th edition on eBay about 20 mins ago). Funny you bring this up as I was giving this a lot of thought today!

    From reading the book and his individual writeups on each coin, it's interesting how some dates are common and yet FHs are rare in said date and vice-versa, like the 1917 Type 1, Cline makes a point that that specific date tends to come very well struck, granted it's the exception, and while non-FHs are actually rarer they are clearly worth less and some of the more common dates are almost impossible yet don't seem to carry the premium that would logically make sense.

    The price chart that you posted also makes virtually no sense (Although I don't dount it!) with regards to the 1916.. yes it's a rare coin in any grade, but it shows only a small FH premium, when Cline seems to say that it's extremely hard to find in FH condition.

    All this being said, I would take the date from PCGS and NGC with a grain of salt, I am of the opinion that the FH coins are the ones far more likely to get sent off to be slabbed and the ones most likely to be cracked due to the potential upside.
    imrich likes this.
  4. Leadfoot

    Leadfoot there is no spoon

    I think that if I were to purchase a FH coin, I would look for one that has complete details across the entire coin. Specifically, finding an example with full rivets in the shield and full feather detail on the reverse is far, far harder than finding one with only a full head. Said another way, if I'm going to pay for a full strike designation, I want the entire coin sharply struck...Mike

    p.s. Lehigh, Great post! One piece of constructive criticism: You should consider recalculating the ratios to exclude circulated examples -- below AU, they are not graded FH and as a result your calculations are skewed.
  5. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast


    That is almost exactly how Doug feels about the Full Step Designation for Jefferson Nickels. He thinks that having full windows on Monticello is more important than the full steps. I agree with him and I also agree with you as well. Finding full shield detail is a tall task indeed and IMO, shield weakness is much more distracting than the lack of detail in the head. As you know, I am a toning freak and care very little about the strike as long as it doesn't detract from the overall eye appeal of the coin. This may be one of the few series where I can get rainbow toned coins at a discount because the coin does not have the FH designation which is what the other collectors are after.

    I was going to back out the numbers for the circulated examples, but it appeared that they only significantly affected the ratios on the key date coins which are really out of reach monetarily for just about everyone on this forum. In the end, I didn't think the extra work was worth it so I just added a disclaimer about it in the middle of my post. Thanks for the kudos, I didn't know what to expect before doing this analysis and was surprised by the results. I am thinking about doing a similar analysis on some of the other designations, specifically the FS on Jeffersons because I am a big Jefferson Nickel fan.

    dwhiz, Jaelus and RonSanderson like this.
  6. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank

    Hmm, full head, a concept that phoenix will never understand.

    [think: associated with full mind, or any mind.]

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    I pretty much feel the same about any of the special designations. And while I do agree that the criteria for the designations, as they are, do add a degree of difficulty to finding coins with them, they do not do a very good job of accurately representing what a well struck coin really is.

    But I believe there is a reason that the criteria for the designations are what they are. And that is because whenever whoever sat down in a group and decided on this they had to choose criteria that could actually be found on the coins. And it had to be able to be found often enough to make it worthwhile. Otherwise they would not be able to make a market for the coins with these designations.

    That is the key - being able to make a market. And to make a market for something it has to be common enough to have enough examples to go around. It is extremely difficult to make a market for something that is truly rare.
    Tater likes this.
  8. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    That is a great point Doug and I agree completely. Now, what do you think of the pricing on these coins?

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    'Bout the same as I feel about some the things sold on ebay. I feel like saying - Are you frickin nuts ?

    I would guess that fully 90% of the time people are buying the slab when they buy a coin with a designation. And I would further guess that the majority of those buyers have no idea what a well struck coin really looks like.
  10. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    LOL. I should have seen that coming. I recently purchased a 1930-S NGC MS67 FH SLQ but did not even care to look if the coin deserved the FH designation as I was interested in the toning. Numismedia Wholesale lists the value at $4,000, but that price is wrong. The market value is more in like $2,500 based on auction prices realized over the last year. The price of the 1930-S MS67 is only $1,325. All that FH designation did was make a coin I wanted more expensive. I wish it were not a full head and worth/cost $1,000 less. Here is a photo of the obverse slab.


    imrich likes this.
  11. rld14

    rld14 Custom User Title

    I'm a bit more awake tonight, my thoughts are in agreement with a lot of the comments on here re: strikes and what an FH is.

    I was having a chat with a friend of mine who is a dealer and advanced collector this afternoon (It's amazing, I haven't collected coins in 20+ years and it's all coming back to me very quickly!) about FH SLQs. If you look at 10 different FH SLQs you'll see many different variations on what a "Full" head is, especially slabbed coins.


    I would imagine that you guys own this book (I just bought the newest edition and am awaiting its' arrival) but look at page 92 if you can. I agree that a lot of people will buy the slab, when I was collecting in the mid 80s slabbing wasn't nearly as prevalent as it is today and you would often see 2 otherwise same grade FH quarters sell for varying prices due to the quality of the FH.

    Now I have to go to the bank and dig out my Quarters.. as I recall I have 2 FH Quarters, both bought from Stacks for me as birthday gifts in the mid 80s by my Grandfather. I do recall that one has an incredibly sharp FH and the other just qualifies as an FH. Both are common date coins, both were MS65s, assuming both came back from slabbing as such, I would guess that the super sharp head one would be worth dramatically more than the barely FH one.
  12. rld14

    rld14 Custom User Title

    Here's a good example, the 1918 is an MS65FH and the 1929 is an MS66FH

    Notice the differences, while both are PCGS FH Coins, the 1918 has a substantially sharper head and, assuming everything else was equal, should be worth a premium to my way of thinking.

  13. rzage

    rzage What Goes Around Comes Around .

    FH designation is important , but finding a truely nice FH that exceedes the mininum def. of full Head is a true rarity , only the 1917-P type 1 comes really well struck with a full head , and full Shield . Type 2s are the hardest to find with Full strikes meaning a full shield , and a complete head , NGC is pretty lax in their labeling a coin FH , with PCGS only a little better . A complete strike type 2 is indeed a rarity worthy of the premium paid .
  14. rzage

    rzage What Goes Around Comes Around .

    The 1918 is a true rarity , that's what a type 2 should look like , and sure to bring a large premium . Look at the difference in the shields detail , and the emblem on the shield , the rivets , also the chainmail is well formed , as is the crease of cloth over Liberties leg . Beautiful coin .
  15. rld14

    rld14 Custom User Title

    Yep! I spent a lot of time staring at those photos before I posted the pic up, I love that coin.

    It's on eBay now for $19,750


    Not sure how the price compares as I'm still quite rusty at this, but from what I can tell it's worth every penny.
  16. rzage

    rzage What Goes Around Comes Around .

    Coin Values has it listed at $15,000 , 65-FH , I could see it going $25,00 :yawn:or more , I wonder what Lehighs' chart would look like if it only cosidersd coins like that as FH .:D guess I'm wrong with the price going that high $19,500 is the buy it now price , what the heck pocket change , right . I wish .
  17. 900fine

    900fine doggone it people like me

    I really appreciate all your effort. This is my kind of thread.

    Personally, I don't agree with the rationale of comparing ratios for one major reason : these systems are extremely non-linear.

    The price based on supply : demand goes nuts at a certain point. The price absolutely skyrockets.

    A classic example is white Morgans. There are many collectors, but millions of coins. The price of these will never, ever get thrilling. Unless all 190 nations of the world suddenly decide they just have to have white Morgans.

    Except, of course, the key dates. We all know what those prices run.

    With common dates, there are plenty to go around. Anybody can have what they want.

    With keys, the vast majority will have to do without not because they're expensive, but because they simply don't exist in adequate numbers. There aren't enough to go around.

    Cost is not a cause; it's an effect.
  18. rzage

    rzage What Goes Around Comes Around .

    Your're right there that 1918-S posted below can command that price and if 2 people with the means want it , look out , Coin Values price of $15,000 is already high , we'll see how bad someone wants it . Heck it took Jack Cline almost a year to find my avatar coin and mines a 1917-P .
  19. rld14

    rld14 Custom User Title

    I collect US Classic postal history (1861s on cover) and I've seen this and I have done this.

    Siegel est $600-800, cover sells for $3,000. You get 2 guys who have to have it.... I can think of a couple of covers out there that if I ever get a chance to buy.. I'll mortgage the house if I have to :)
  20. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    While I agree that the systems are non linear, one would expect to see the coins with the smallest populations of FH designations drive the most significant premium. If the supply is low then the price should go up regardless of the ratio. But that does not always happen. Look at the 1928-D. There are only 65 FH examples graded by NGC, yet the price is $690. The 1920-S has only 62 FH examples graded by NGC and the price is a whopping $6,410. This can probably be attributed to the overall rarity of the 1920-S. It also may be caused by the spread of the FH designations over the grades. The 1920-S MS63 FH has a population of 12/30 (NGC only) whereas the 1928-D MS63 FH has a population of 4/54 (NGC only). But regardless of the reason, I just can't justify the fact that the price of the 1920-S is 10X that of the 1928-D when they have similar rarity and demand.

    When I started this analysis, I chose the MS63 for two reasons. First, these coins in gem state and above are phenomenally expensive. Secondly, the populations at this grade are such that other than the keys/semi-keys, there are hundreds of coins to chose from which would eliminate the short supply argument.

    I know what you are saying but the evidence does not agree. Under this premise, we would expect the key dates to have the worst Pop/Price ratio simply because there is such a limited supply that the prices go up exponentially. What the chart shows is that the collector base does not care about the FH status with respect to the keys, they will buy anyone they can get their hands on. The best Pop/Price ratio belongs to the 1918/17-S at 7.0, but I attribute this to the price of the non FH coin being so high ($34K). You see the same effect happen with the 1916 which also has a great ratio of 2.8. In fact, the coins with some of the worst ratios are not all that rare at all.
  21. rld14

    rld14 Custom User Title

    I know that I am a bit rusty with coins, but you can't go by populations strictly I don't think. I can think of a few justifications, first is rule #1 of economics, Suppy and Demand. I think that with these coins the 25+s are the ones (Excepting the 27S) that are, for whatever reason, considered to be the "common" dates, and a lot of that is obviously perception. Reality is that while there were about 4 20Ss minted for every 28D, people seem to think that anything before 1924 is "tough".

    IMO the 28D is a VERY Undervalued coin in FH as are an awful lot of the later dates.

    Meanwhile Heritage has a couple of Mint State 1916 FHs this week, go figure.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page