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The generalized coupon collector problem

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Applied Probability
Issue number3
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)621-629
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Coupons are collected one at a time from a population containing n distinct types of coupon. The process is repeated until all n coupons have been collected and the total number of draws, Y, from the population is recorded. It is assumed that the draws from the population are independent and identically distributed (draws with replacement) according to a probability distribution X with the probability that a type-i coupon is drawn being P(X = i). The special case where each type of coupon is equally likely to be drawn from the population is the classic coupon collector problem. We consider the asymptotic distribution Y (appropriately normalized) as the number of coupons n → ∞ under general assumptions upon the asymptotic distribution of X. The results are proved by studying the total number of coupons, W(t), not collected in t draws from the population and noting that P(Y ≤ t) = P(W(t) = 0). Two normalizations of Y are considered, the choice of normalization depending upon whether or not a suitable Poisson limit exists for W(t). Finally, extensions to the K-coupon collector problem and the birthday problem are given.