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Not sure if you can tell the difference between having no instances of a Notification template, or not having the History tags initialized, but you could experiment around with the ANSDK GetLastInstance of the ANNotification object and see if there is a way to tell the difference.
Some background info here: Re: GetActiveInstances() method of ANNotificationList does not return anything
Unfortunately there is not an actual property you can check for that. Roger's method is solid, but if there is ambiguity between no instances or no tags, you would have to check directly from the PI Server, as you have previously mentioned.
Also please note that the history tags are created when the notification is first run.
Thank you for helping me with this!
Roger - checking if GetLastInstance() on the ANNotification object returns null solves the issue for the overall purpose of my application.
Samuel - thank you for the information. In our case, for various reasons we might not enable some notifications once migrated to Production; I did not realize that the auxiliary tags were not created with the AFNotification.