Coin Collecting Strategies – What should I collect? Tips for building a meaningful set of U.S. Coins
By Vic Bozarth – Bozarth Numismatics ………
I often reflect on the many blessings I have in my life. One of those blessings is the joy I receive from handling and looking at rare coins. In fact, I love my job. I get to look at coins virtually every day as a coin dealer. I enjoy looking at most coins, but some coins are better than others. The coins I really get a ‘charge’ out of handling usually have a couple of factors that make them ‘special’.
What makes a coin ‘special’? Scarcity or outright rarity can make a coin special because you don’t often see them. Incredible eye appeal is always a big factor in making a coin special. Indeed, eye appeal can make a relatively common coin ‘special’. A strong or full strike, glowing luster, originality, and especially a high state of preservation (grade) are all factors that can make a coin ‘special’. When buying coins, I am always looking at the grade, but these other factors (strike, eye appeal, luster, and originality) all contribute to whether or not I find the coin ‘speciaI’ and write the check.
In last month’s RCMR-Rare Coin Market Report I discussed three sets of U.S. Coins that are always in demand. This month I am going to discuss three additional sets that are loved by collectors. First let me explain the difference between collecting a set of coins by DATE versus collecting a set of coins by TYPE.
In most cases, a date set of coins is every date and mint of a particular denomination and design of U.S. coin. For example, last month I explained DATE collections of a short set of Walking Liberty Half Dollars (from 1941 to 1947), Peace Dollars (from 1921 to 1935), and $2.5 Indian Gold coins (from 1908 to 1929). All three of these sets contain all the dates and mints of their particulate design type of that denomination.
There are a few variations with some DATE sets. Often times a collector will collect a single coin of each year of coins for a particular design type of coins. Budget and availability often contribute to a collector starting with a single coin of each year versus all the different mint examples of each date. I have often seen a Year DATE set of Morgan Dollars assembled. In other words, the collector collects one coin from each year that Morgan Dollars were made, which would include one coin from 1878, 1879, 1880 etcetera through 1904 and including a coin from the last year of issue in 1921.
A TYPE coin collection is different from a DATE coin collection, because the collector is trying to collect ONE coin of each design type for a particular area of U.S. Coins. For example, the classic U.S. Commemorative Coins were produced from 1892 through 1954. There are 144 different issues in the complete DATE set. This includes ALL the different mint issues from the multiple mint issues like Arkansas, Boone, Columbia, SC, and Oregon Halves among others. Most often classic U.S. Commemoratives are collected by design TYPE. This collection contains 50 different design types so a collector has one example of the Arkansas, Boone, and Oregon halves. Not only is this easier to complete, but collecting by type is more affordable.
One of the neat things about collecting coins by ‘type’ is that the collection can always be expanded to include more or all the dates within the set depending on your preference or budget. For example, I am currently expanding an eleven piece type gold set for a customer to include some of the No Motto issues as well as some of the earlier issues. This particular customer liked these coins so much he decided to keep going!
This month I am going to discuss the following desirable sets of U.S. Coins:
Two-Cent pieces in Mintstate: 1864 through 1872, 10 coins total
All years plus the 1864 Small Motto variety.
Classic Commemorative type set: 1892 through 1954, 50 coins total
One of each of the 50 different design types, Including 48 different Commemorative 50C designs and the 1893 Isabella 25C and the 1900 Lafayette Dollar.
Gold Type Set-11 piece design type set:
One of each of the three different $1 Gold design types: Type One 1849 to 1854, Type Two 1854 to 1856, Type Three 1856 to 1889.
One of each $2.5 Liberty Head and $2.5 Indian designs.
One of each $5 Liberty Head and $5 Indian designs.
One of each $10 Liberty Head and $10 Indian designs.
One of each $20 Liberty Head and $20 Saint Gaudens designs.
The Two-Cent piece was produced between 1864 and 1872 for circulation strikes. You can complete this set in most grades up to MS65RD although the Red specimens can become quite a challenge. Depending on your budget, this is a desirable set in even circulated grades, although a Uncirculated mint state set should be your goal. Look for spot free coins with good luster. Nice full Red specimens are difficult to find and the pricing guides are often inaccurate on higher grade examples in both Red/Brown and full Red. Both the 1864 Small Motto and the 1872 are considered keys to the set, but virtually all the dates are scarce, except for the more common 1864 Large Motto and 1865 issues. On a personal basis I have put together two sets of these over the years and did very well on both sets when I sold them.
Classic Commemoratives are incredibly cool. Each design tells a different story. Classic Commemoratives should be assembled in uncirculated Mint State condition. These were not meant to be circulated, although many were. Your goal for each coin should be a grade of MS64 or better. Look for coins with eye appeal. Whether your personal preference is blazing luster or lovely toning, there are coins out there in virtually all the different designs that will fit handsomely in your set. If you are contemplating a pretty toned set be prepared to pay a premium for pretty coins because they are very highly sought after.
Especially with rising gold prices, the eleven piece Type Gold Set is a great collector/investor play. Buying rare gold coins allows you to participate in both the bullion market and the rare coin market at the same time. Although all the coins in this set are desirable in all grades (for their bullion value in lower grades), I would recommend you concentrate on the highest grade you can find within your budget. I am currently assembling several sets of Type Gold coins for customers. These are always highly desirable. Many coins in this set are trading at a smaller premium over their bullion ‘melt’ value than we have seen since the early seventies.
Bozarth Numismatics would love to help you build a meaningful set of U.S. Coins. Not only will we actively look for the particular coins you need for your set, but we will call or email you first when an item becomes available. This ‘want list’ service carries no obligation and you always have a full return privilege with any item you order with BNI.
Bozarth Numismatics Inc and our website bozarthcoins.com stock and list hundreds of PCGS, NGC, and CAC certified U.S. Coins. We are constantly traveling to buy ‘fresh’ coins for our customers. Whether you are looking for one particular issue or need guidance in putting together a ‘meaningful set of U.S. Coins’ we can help you. Best Regards, Vic and Sherri Bozarth.