US Coins

Bowers: A collecting approach for increased enjoyment

The Joys of Collecting column from the Nov. 14, 2016, weekly issue of Coin World:

When I began collecting coins in 1952, the emphasis was on collecting coins. No one cared about the price of gold or silver bullion, there were no telemarketers, and no coin sellers advertised on television. Collecting was a lot of fun.

Today, many coin buyers are not collectors at all. They do not acquire coins systematically to build sets. At the moment, the coin market is in a state of flux.

Studying coin price cycles is one of my favorite things to do, and over a long period of time I have written a lot about them. Most are predictable. If you want an overview, read my 2005 book, The Expert’s Guide to Collecting and Investing in Rare Coins. Although it is not the best-seller among the books I have written, it certainly is a candidate for generating the highest number of letters.

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Today, many series are cheaper than they were five to 10 years ago. Some of this is illusory due to grade interpretations being loosened, but a lot is real. 

If you are contemplating something to collect, consider Morgan silver dollars 1878 to 1921, averaging Mint State 63 to MS-65. Of the nearly 100 different pieces listed in A Guide Book of United States Coins, the majority can be bought for under $500 per coin, many for below $100. 

Don’t just buy these coins. Read about them! A few years ago I de­voted an entire chapter of a book to the 1903-O Morgan dollar.

Most classic silver commem­orative coins (those struck from to 1892 to 1954) are cheaper now than they were in 1988, which was over a quarter century ago! Each one has its own story to tell. Buy them slowly and, again, read about each. There are 50 different designs and a total of 144 variants.

If your budget permits, consider a type set of six different double eagle designs 1850 to 1933.

A rather foolproof way to buy is to review certified coins from graders that guarantee authenticity (it would be interesting to know details of such policies) and pick out those that are well struck and have good eye appeal. Although you can do this yourself, coins with green Certified Acceptance Corp. stickers indicate that they have been reviewed by that company and are considered to be attractive within the grade listed.

Reading is the key to knowledge and success. Coins have stories! Build a small working library.

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