US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for April 19, 2021: What's your strategy?

What is your collecting strategy? Would you rather spend $105 on a 2021 Silver Proof set, or budget that amount and a little bit more to purchase an example of a common die marriage for the 1798 Draped Bust cent (though in a lower grade than the coin shown)?

Original images courtesy of Heritage Auctions and the U.S. Mint.

One of the realities of numismatic journalism is that the news of the hobby often features coins that our average readers will never be able to afford because of their price and rarity. Coins like the 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle (see Page 10) and the 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent (see my cover feature) are beyond most of our budgets.

However, even if we have limited funds to spend on our hobby, we can still build a meaningful collection with the right plan and the patience to take years to meet our goals.

A recent posting at the Collectors Universe U.S. Coins forum by a collector with the online name of MidLifeCrisis is titled “100 Greatest U.S. Coins for the Average Collector.” The collector’s list still includes some pricey coins, like the Proof 1895 Morgan dollar, 1796 Draped Bust quarter dollar and 1808 Capped Draped Bust gold quarter eagle, but it also features more affordable coins that are on a lot of want lists: the 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent and 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dime — coins that, in higher grades, are beyond the means of many of us, but that are priced within our budget in lower grades. I bought the two key Lincoln cents — the aforementioned piece and the 1914-D Lincoln cent — when I was a teenager working at a local fast food joint for $1 an hour in the early 1970s. I saved my money and scrimped, and bought both coins from area dealers. When I was a senior in high school in 1972 and making more money at a new job, I bought a 1972 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent from a Harry Forman ad in my issue of Coin World.

The point is, I had a plan that worked for me at the age of 16 or 17 or 18.

You, too, can develop a plan to buy that much-desired key date coin to join all of the common dates in your collection.

One thing you can do is to compare and decide what coin or set of roughly equal value might make you happier. Recently, readers who were longtime customers of the U.S. Mint have complained about the increases in prices for current coins and sets, like the annual Silver Proof set, which now costs $105. That same $105, with a few extra dollars, could buy a low to mid-grade 1917 or 1936 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent; a 1943/2 Jefferson, Doubled Die Obverse cent; an 1875-S Seated Liberty 20-cent coin; or even a 1798 Draped Bust cent. What would make you happier, one of these older coins or the current year’s Silver Proof set?

Sometimes, pleasure can be derived from owning a smaller number of coins, rather than lots of common coins. By establishing a savings plan, most of us could save enough money over the course of a year to buy a single rare coin, rather than dozens of common coins.

Ultimately, your collection should make you happy and give you pride of ownership, not frustrate you because of higher prices for sets of lower value (the aforementioned Silver Proof set).

What is your collecting strategy?
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