We have analyzed the direct records of sunspot number between 1749 and 1990 with the same technique currently used in the study of stellar activity cycles observed with Mount Wilson Observatory's 60-inch telescope. In order to mimic the stellar time series, which span only two decades, we analyzed twenty- and fifty-year intervals of the sunspot data in comparison to the entire record. We also examined the reliability of the oldest (pre-1850) sunspot records. The mean solar cycle period determined from the entire record (1749 1990) is 11.04 yr with a computed precision of ± 0.01 yr, but an overall accuracy of only ±1.1 yr. The large uncertainty is caused by variation of the cycle period with time and not observational uncertainty. The ‘correct’ sunspot period is found slightly more often (82%) in 50-year intervals compared to 20-year (74%). The cause is twofold: first, a more precise period results from the longer sample length, and second, other periodicities exist in the sunspot record, so that a more accurate determination of the dominant 11.0-year period results from the longer time series. As a guideline for cycle periodicities in other stars, the solar results indicate that the 50-year intervals would produce more precise and accurate periods than the 20-year time series. On the other hand, useful statistics concerning long-term activity could be obtained from a less-frequently sampled group of stars that is substantially larger than the group of ˜100 lower Main-Sequence stars currently observed at Mount Wilson, although knowledge of short-term variability would be sacrificed.