Rare Coin Road Warrior- Coin Collecting by Design Type
By Vic Bozarth – Rare Coin Road Warrior – Bozarth Numismatics Inc………….
Dear Rare Coin Enthusiast,
Over the last several decades I have started collections of quite a few different and varied items. While maybe not a ‘hoarder’, I do enjoy searching for and acquiring different items. Coins have been my ‘drug of choice’ so to speak for decades, but I also collect St. Louis World’s Fair items from the legendary 1904 fair. In addition, I collect pre-prohibition Missouri Whiskey items. While the whiskey items are somewhat esoteric, the SLWF items are quite popular and enjoy a fairly large following both in Missouri and nationally. Collectors are different. We enjoy looking at, handling, and most importantly searching for items for our collections. In fact, the hunt is often the real joy, while the acquisition is anti-climactic.
One of the biggest reasons why many collectors lose interest in rare coins is because they get so far into their collection and either ‘hit a wall’ financially or logistically. Many coin series are virtually impossible to complete because of either cost or availability. Because the KEY dates are often very expensive, some collectors just can’t afford to complete their set. Yet, the biggest reason most collectors quit coin collecting is lack of supply. If you can’t find anything interesting for your collection, you lose interest. When you lose interest, you either find other coins to collect or leave the hobby completely quite often out of frustration.
I have also encountered many ‘wannabe’ collectors who have completely unrealistic expectations. Contrary to what many folks, who aren’t coin savvy, might think, ‘nice’ coins are NOT easy to find. You can’t go out in the backyard and ‘pick one off a tree’. Many times these unrealistic expectations are tied to the COST of a coin. I frequently encounter collectors who think they will be able to buy an item for significantly less than the item sells for-even among dealers at wholesale levels.
As a kid, growing up in a small town in Missouri, I didn’t get to see a lot of coins. Like many young people, I started with Lincoln Cents. With a small ‘stake’ from lawn mowing money, I would go to the bank and buy rolls of pennies. With my Whitman tri-fold album, I would search the rolls and try to find dates and mintmarks I didn’t have. I also saved all the ‘wheat’ back cents and the occasional 1943 zinc cent. At one point, there were roughly ten or eleven kids in my seventh grade class who were collecting Lincoln Cents. What was a common denominator for our group was ‘lack of supply’, especially for San Francisco mint ‘wheat’ cents.
There were three of us who were more dedicated than the others and we all knew about a small country auction that was going to be held one evening locally. The household goods and other items up for auction included a nearly complete set of Lincoln Cents including lots of the early semi-key S mint dates. The three of us convinced one of our parents to drive us to the auction. While the parent patiently sat watching, we ‘bid each other up’ far past the true value of these $5 to $10 coins.
During this auction, I realized ‘this wasn’t going to work’ and I either needed a new source of coins or I needed to collect something different. I remember being upset at the time. I was only able to afford one or two coins, because I had less money in my pocket than my two friends.
Sometimes the best lessons are painful. One of my buddies, who had nearly $100 on him at the time (he had earned it himself), bought most of the dates we (all) needed. But, although he was certainly ‘crowing’ about having a MORE complete set of Lincoln Cents, my other buddy and I both realized that he had overpaid, and many of the coins had been cleaned. We also realized that we didn’t want to ‘go down that road’.
Several months later, I was given a handful of type coins by my grandfather. He had purchased the small group out of an estate. There were two cent pieces, three cent silvers and nickels, large cents, and some barber coins. He probably spent $10. Although nothing special in terms of rarity or scarcity, I WAS FASCINATED! You see, although I still really appreciate a ‘nice’ Lincoln Cent, ‘the train had left the station’ so to speak. I was on to bigger and better things.
During a trip to Kansas City sometime later that year, I was able to buy a Whitman Twentieth Century Type Set tri-fold album. I had already started my first TYPE COIN set, and was disappointed that the book store didn’t have albums for 19th Century Type coins. Needless to say, with a Redbook, a few coins, and an album to put them in, I was ecstatic!
Do you remember the last time YOU were this excited about a coin purchase?
Collecting U.S. Coin by Design Type
Collecting U.S. coins by design type is simple. You try and find one of each ‘type’ of different design and denomination. There are dozens of different ways to collect by ‘type’. You can collect by metal: copper, nickel, silver, and gold. You can collect by denomination. You can collect by time period: 19th century, 20th century, etc. And, you can even collect by grade: low grade, high grade, mintstate, or proof.
One of the most interesting variations I have seen over the years was by a gentleman that collected high grade mint state type coins in two sets: one slabbed and one raw. This incredibly astute and interesting gentleman took his type sets a step farther and would alternate brilliant and gorgeously toned from one coin to the next in each set. In other words, his raw coins housed in a custom Capitol Holder had a brilliant coin, a toned coin, a brilliant coin, etc. The contrast was both lovely and striking.
Coin Collecting by type can be done by first and last year of issue. You can collect the highest grade you can find of the most common date in the particular design series, or…you can take it that ‘extra’ step and go for the KEY date of each type! One of the coolest aspects of collecting by design type is that you can start small and expand your parameters as you continue to collect.
Although there are those who limit their purchases to ONLY raw, ONLY slabbed, ONLY PCGS or NGC, or ONLY CAC, I will concentrate on the contents of the collections vs. the ‘Holders’. While I understand the preference by some to collect only ‘raw’ uncertified coins, my recommendation HAS and ALWAYS WILL BE to buy certified coins if you are spending a significant amount of money. In addition, CAC approved coins not only provide the ultimate challenge currently, but the assurance of their ORIGINALITY is quite appealing.
Both PCGS and NGC have registry set programs available to collectors for their coins. The PCGS Pedigree Set Program does a fabulous job of outlining collections by denomination as well as by Design Type, but ultimately YOU as a collector are limited only by what appeals to you MOST. The PCGS Pedigree Registry merely provides the scoreboard.
Beginning in December and continuing over the next four months I am writing a four part series on Collecting U.S. Coins by Design Type broken down as follows:
- U.S. Copper Coins
- U.S. Nickel Coins
- U.S. Silver Coins
- U.S. Gold Coins
While some might argue that my humble beginnings in numismatics began with modern coinage, I am limiting my series of articles to coins produced up until the end of 1945. Modern coinage also has endless opportunities for the ‘TYPE’ collector, but frankly these coins hold little interest to me and many are of little value (beyond their FV-face value) because of incredibly large mintages.
To summarize, collecting U.S. coins by design type is one of the most interesting and ‘personally’ directed means of collecting U.S. coins. When it comes right down to it, your TYPE collection can be determined BY YOU. Over the next several months, I am writing about the coins that YOU might choose to be part of YOUR set.
Bozarth Numismatics Inc is a full service rare coin dealer. We buy and sell PCGS, NGC, and CAC graded and approved high grade U.S. coins. We sell coins at shows and on both our website bozarthcoins.com and in our Ebay store bozarthnumismaticsinc. Because of our extensive show and buying travel schedule we can often locate those ‘hard to find’ items. We offer free confidential want list services and will call or email you ‘first’ if we locate an item for you. Thanks and Best Regards, Vic Bozarth/The Rare Coin Road Warrior