What Should I Collect? Tips for Building a Meaningful Set of U.S. Coins. Part One.
By Vic Bozarth – Rare Coin Road Warrior – Bozarth Numismatics Inc………….
I am often asked what I collect. I have collected things since my earliest days. I often tell people that ‘you either have the collecting bug-or you don’t’. I certainly have the bug. As a child I collected baseball cards, stamps, comic books, rocks and Indian artifacts. I still have quite a few of these items I just mentioned, but none of these items give me the pleasure I get looking at a beautiful coin. You know what I am talking about!
When I was seven or eight a neighbor moved and left a garage full of racing magazines at the curb. The magazines were musty and mildewed, but I filled my wagon with several loads. At that age, how could a boy resist free hot rod magazines? Wow, I was even able to ‘cherry pick’ the best magazines out of the boxes set out for the trash man.
Fortunately, we had a small shed in our backyard. This was the time of the ‘Snake’ and ‘Mongoose’ drag racing rivalry. I had dozens of magazines! My mom wasn’t thrilled that her garden shed was overflowing with boxes of mildewed magazines. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before my mom demanded that these ‘really cool’ magazines be put back out for the trash man in front of our house.
My father collected coins. Although he isn’t with us anymore, I still have his Lincoln Cent and Mercury Dime collections. He had some really cool stuff. My dad’s sets aren’t anything really special, but they are priceless to me. My father gave me a gift. He inspired a love and fascination for coins that still burns within me today.
I wanted some coins of my own. When I was eight I started accumulating coins. I didn’t have any Whitman coin folders let alone any direction, but I loved looking at them, handling them, and researching them. Within a couple of months I had a pretty good sized cigar box full of ‘stuff’. There wasn’t anything special about my ‘stuff’, but I was learning. I was learning what I liked and what I wanted to collect. I was learning what coins were meaningful and what coins fell into the ‘stuff’ category.
Fast forward forty plus years and I am still collecting. I have some nice slabbed U.S. coins as well as a raw Buffalo Nickel set I started in junior high school. On a professional basis I have handled or seen most of the coins listed in The Guidebook of U.S. Coins which most of us commonly refer to as the Redbook. Bozarth Numismatics carries an extensive inventory of PCGS and NGC graded U.S. coins and we list quite a few of them on our website, bozarthcoins.com. I am a member of Professional Numismatists Guild as well as most major numismatic organizations. I also write a column each month titled Rare Coin Road Warrior. I am the Rare Coin Road Warrior. We travel over 200 days a year to buy nice coins. We buy and sell thousands of U.S. coins every year.
Our tastes are always evolving, but many people like me still get a charge out of a low end circulated coin that sparked that collecting desire during childhood. For me it was Indian Cents and Buffalo Nickels. Although I specialize in high grade U.S. coins, a bag full of circulated Indians or Buffalos can still catch my eye. The difference between then and now is that not only do I have the choice about what I want to collect, but also I can afford to collect nicer coins. Desirability is in the eye of the beholder, but nice coins are naturally more desirable. A full Red Indian Cent is breathtaking. A lustrous and fully struck BU Buffalo Nickel is truly a piece of art. Ultimately it all comes down to what floats your boat, but if you want something meaningful you have to be discerning about what you buy and decide to collect.
Putting together a meaningful set of U.S. coins should be fun and rewarding. The amount you spend on a set certainly has a tremendous impact on what you can collect, although I have seen some really cool sets put together over the years without breaking the bank. In this month’s RCMR, I am going to list several sets than can be put together for a reasonable amount of money depending on the grade. Part one of my series on ‘desirable sets’ will focus on three sets with a modest number of coins. These sets are perfect for those collectors that don’t yet have the patience for a bigger project.
The three sets I want to recommend to you today include:
Walking Liberty Half Short Set 1941-47
Peace Dollars 1921-35
$2.50 Indian Gold 1908-1929
I have started with these three sets because they have several factors in common. This first is that all three sets can be completed. All three sets have between 15 and 24 total coins. The second factor is affordability. Depending on the grade you can put together all three sets on a modest budget over time. The third factor is desirability. People love Walkers because they are one of the most gorgeous U.S coins ever produced. People love Peace Dollars because they are cartwheels (dollars) and display an art deco design that is so unusual today. People love $2.50 Indians because they are gold and they are one of only two series produced with the encused design. The coins in these three sets are always in demand because people love them.
The Walking Liberty Half Dollar Short set comprises coins from 1941 through 1947 with a total of 20 coins. There are Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mint issues for all years except 1947 when halves were not produced at San Francisco. The set is very affordable in MS64, affordable in MS65, but becomes more difficult in MS66. MS67 sets are very expensive with a couple of coins that bring over five figures. I recommend the set in MS64 through MS66 depending on your budget.
Peace Dollars were made from 1921 through 1935 sporadically at all three mints. The total number of coins in the set is 24. Peace Dollars are affordable in MS63 and MS64, but are very expensive in MS65 and MS66. Putting together a well struck and brilliant set of Peace Dollars in any grade is a challenge, but they are available if you are willing to put in the time looking for them. I recommend the set in MS64 and MS65 depending on your budget although I have seen some really nice MS63 sets.
The $2.50 Indian Quarter Eagle Gold set is one of my personal favorites. Not only are these coins 90% gold, but the total set comprises only 15 pieces. You can complete the set for a modest amount of money in MS62 and under, but the 1911-D issue is several thousand dollars in even circulated condition. MS63, MS64, and MS65 sets are significantly more expensive and challenging, but you can always upgrade later.
If you are interested in putting together a meaningful set of U.S. coins please contact me through our contact page on our website, bozarthcoins.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best Regards, Vic Bozarth-The Rare Coin Road Warrior.