by Al Doyle for CoinWeek
For many Americans, the idea of having $1000 for totally discretionary spending is a dream that sometimes happens. Anything from a tax refund to an inheritance or other bit of good fortune can put the average guy or gal in a position to cut loose and toss cash around in a less restrained manner than normal.
When it comes to coin collecting, what are some of the wiser ways to drop a grand in the current market? Thinking at this economic level could be a big change for the lower-budget numismatist who normally considers a $50 to $100 item as a major purchase. This is not a time to be impulsive and buy the first thing that crosses your path, but trust your instincts and pounce on the right deal if you have some experience and coin knowledge.
The need to be decisive can apply especially when semi-keys and better dates are available, as such coins move quickly. For those who seek to build date sets, Barber quarters and half dollars in Fine or better can be quite a challenge.
Try and find an uncleaned 1895-S or 1904-O quarter in Very Fine or Extra Fine. Likewise, the 1893-S and 1905-O Barber halves are anything but common in higher circulated grades. These and dozens of other elusive dates from U.S. series of the 1800s and early 1900s get less publicity than they deserve, and putting $1000 into several of these coins is money well spent.
Need more examples of underrated dates? See how many decent looking (VF to MS-63) 1855 three-cent silvers, 1879 three-cent nickels, 1852-O and 1872-S Seated Liberty half dimes, 1871 Shield nickels, 1884 and 1888 Liberty nickels, 1847 and 1886-S Seated dimes, 1901-S and 1909-D Barber dimes, 1841 and 1855-S Seated quarters and 1850 and 1875-CC Seated half dollars you find in a month of diligent searching. Going with certified coins when obtaining scarcer dates is a sensible move.
Taking a current specialty and rising to the next level can easily be done with a $1000 budget. This would be the ideal opportunity for Indian Head and Lincoln cent collectors to go for some vintage copper. Why not pick up some problem-free Draped Bust, Classic Head and Coronet half cents? Draped Bust and Classic Head large cents in Fine or better definitely have the "cool" factor going for them, as do Colonials.
The inability to afford gold is hardly uncommon today, but it's possible to pick up some pre-1933 U.S. coinage for $1000 or less. Go ahead and grab a $10 Liberty, $5 Classic Head, Liberty or Indian or a $2.50 Classic Head, Liberty or Indian gold piece and have money left to spend. The gold selection includes a number of lower-mintage and scarcer dates.
Going for broke and putting all or most of a windfall into one special type coin or rare date is hardly uncommon when a wad of cash appears. So what are some great coins in the $700 to $1000 range?
Seated Liberty dollars are scarce (approximately 6.3 million total minted over the 33-year history of the series) in general and doubly so with original, uncleaned surfaces. Eye-appealing specimens in the EF to AU range that have been evaluated by a major grading service won't come cheaply, but this is a prime example of getting what you pay for.
Draped Bust half dollars of 1801 to 1807 have captured the attention of everyone from novices to the most sophisticated numismatists. A slabbed VF can gobble up a $1000 windfall, but there won't be any regrets. Likewise, Capped Bust dimes and quarters in the AU to MS-61 range are the kind of coins that stand out in a collection.
Why not take some of that $1000 and put it towards travel expenses to a major show? Visiting a major convention such as FUN (Florida United Numismatists), Central States, Baltimore or an American Numismatic Association convention will provide an intense hands-on education that can't be duplicated elsewhere, and being on the bourse floor provides the opportunity to shop the inventories of hundreds of dealers.
Whether $1000 falls into your lap or is saved a little at a time, having a grand on hand can provide a significant boost to your collecting activities. Go for it!