Establishing a rarity level for any collectible is always difficult and controversial. Philately and any of its related branches are not an exception.
Personally, it has always been hard to believe in a rarity estimation stated by a merchant, or derived by one, because is very hard to have an unbiased judgement when your own meat is at stake.
I’m not a merchant… nor am sponsored in any way. That gives me the freedom to be honest and less biased, if not none at all. However, I have to say that as many rarity guides, mine is also subjective given the very nature of these Formular Cards: No official documentation, unknown printed quantities, no records on quantities sold, etc., makes it difficult -if not impossible- to establish mathematically accurate levels for the rarity of these pieces.
My rarity guide is based on my stock and those of other two collectors which, together, have more than a thousand cards: a statistically significant number given the difficulty to find these pieces. And this is the reason why I call it “Relative.”
And last but not least, the Formular Cards have many characteristics that can make them rare: Ink color, paper color, printing, even transfers! Here, I’m going to present my estimations for every one of these characteristics. You should “multiply” them to get a final rarity level.
Without further ado, here it is: My Relative Rarity Estimation Guide.
Ink Colors’ Rarity
Our starting point here will be the cards with black ink. We can find cards with other ink colors such as blue, cyan, pink and red but it’s worth to mention that these colors were only used on Printing I, the rest of the printings were only printed with black ink.
That said, the Relative Rarity (RR) for the different ink is as follows:
|Ink Color||Relative Rarity|
This data establish the cards with blue ink as the rarest of the series, being 250x rarer than a regular card with black ink. In other words, for every 250 random cards you should expect to have one blue card and three red cards.
I mentioned there are cards with pink and cyan ink. I’m not totally sure they were printed with these colors intentionally. I have the feeling that they are just faded versions of the red and blue ink cards respectively. Regardless… they are even more rare than the regular red and blue inks.
Our starting point is going to be the number of pieces of the Third Printing. The pieces belonging to Printing III are consistently the most numerous so I established a relation between the cards of this printing with those of other printings.
In the following table you’ll see how, for Printing III, we’ll have a RR of 1:1, and the rest of the printings are compared to this one. Let’s see.
As you could see, Printing I is the rarer of all printings: It has a RR of 1:5, that means that every card of this printing is 5x rarer than a card from Printing III.
Sounds crazy but based on my pieces -almost 450 now- some transfers are definitively rarer than most. This is not uncommon in other stamp series like the different ESCUELAS series, where on some printings one specific transfer could only be found once or twice per sheet.
We now know that there were eight cards per sheet (two rows of four columns each.) and that helps explain why some transfers are rarer than others.
So let’s assume 8 cards per sheet for all printings but before we get into why this assumption is important, let me show what I think is the rarity ratio of each transfer right away.
I don’t know you folks, but I found really intriguing that there were always two transfers rarer than the rest. Every. Single. Time. And that they were always approximately three times rarer than the rest. Every. Single. Time. That’s why I had an epiphany when I heard about the 8-cards sheet. That explained it all!
Let me elaborate.
The first printing have four transfers. And the distribution for its rarity -assuming a sheet of 8 cards- would be explained by a transfer distribution similar to the following:
This is a purely speculative arrangement for a totally made up situation… but it perfectly explains the statistical distribution I see in my pieces for the first printing. And I’d like to add that pieces in blue are only found on transfers 1.2 and 1.4. That might means that these rare pieces were printed on smaller sheets. Probably 2×2 sheets?
For Printing II and III, with five transfers each, a distribution like the following would explain the rarity of their pieces:
|common 1||common 1||common 1||rare 1|
|common 2||common 2||common 2||rare 2|
These comments are speculative, of course, but I think they are informed guesses based on the number of pieces studied and the fact that a sheet of 8 cards has already been recorded.
If you are the lucky owner of it, please pretty please, send me a good scan/photo of it (or, even better, sell it to me!)
Paper Colors’ Rarity
Please refer to the article dedicated specifically to this topic.