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Resources I Used on my Collecting Journey

Desert Gold


Many of the things I discuss in this post are “no brainers”, but I’m hoping that some people may find this information to be useful.  I discuss some of the mistakes I made and hope that it may keep other people from doing the same things.  I also briefly discuss some resources that I found useful.

My Early Collecting Years

When I started collecting coins in the 1970’s as a teenager, I really didn’t have many coin collecting resources available to me.  Since I was only collecting US coins at the time, of course I had the standard Red Book.  I also used to visit the library occasionally and read coin magazines.  I purchased a few coins from the ads in these magazines, but I mainly collected coins from loose change.  Finally, my parents used to take me to a local coin shop after I had saved up my allowance so I could purchase some inexpensive coins. 

My Coin Collecting Reawakening 

As I mentioned in my previous journal post on Collecting US Coins, I stopped collecting coins once I entered college because of a lack of time and money.  However, my previous passion for coin collecting re-emerged and led me to focus on collecting gold coins from the United States of America in 2008.  

When I started collecting again, I went back to a resource that I was already familiar with.  The first thing I did was purchase the latest copy of “The Official Red Book, A Guide Book of United States Coins, 2008 (61st) Edition.  Since I wanted to focus on gold coins and had never bought one before, I studied the Red Book and decided to collect $3 gold pieces since they typically had low mintages and the series wasn’t too long. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had some money to reallocate and was anxious to buy something.  The first thing that I found were hundreds of coins on Ebay.  With all the coins available on eBay I thought that it was going to be really easy to form a set of $3 gold pieces.  At the time I didn’t know anything about coin holders or third-party grading services.  In short order I proceeded to buy three $3 gold pieces within a week that were in NNC holders: an 1882-P in AU55, 1878-P in MS64, and an 1854-O in AU55. It seemed like I got a great price on these coins when I compared the prices in the Red Book with what I paid for these coins. 

Luckily, shortly after buying the first three coins from eBay I came across a Stacks auction on the internet. While looking at their coins I noticed that they were all in either NGC or PCGS slabs.  This led me to the NGC website.  Here I found the chat boards and started learning more about coins. I searched for NNC and found a thread that was like the one in the link below:

It was at this point that I realized that I had probably made a mistake with my first three purchases. I also learned that NGC is a valuable resource.

A couple of years after I purchased the coins in the NNC slabs I had a coin dealer send them into PCGS to be graded and they all came back as genuine.  No wonder I got such “great deals” on these coins.  I now look at the cost of these three coins as being “tuition” that I spent on learning about this hobby. The key to collecting is trying to spend your money on great coins instead of “tuition.”

When I look back on the situation things could have been a lot worse (more money wasted) had I not found the NGC website.  I now know that the reputable third-party grading services include NGC, PCGS, ANACS, and GENI.  So, for many years after my first mistakes, I only purchased coins that were in one of these reputable holders.

Here are some morals to this story so far:
•    Don’t rush into things.
•    Take your time when you are building your collection.
•    They used to say, “Buy the book before the coin.”
•    Today it’s more accurate to say, “Do the research before you buy the coin” since there are so many excellent, free resources online today.
•    If a coin isn’t in one of the previously listed reputable slabs then treat the coin as being un-slabbed when making your purchase decision.  

Of course, after seeing all of the wonderful coins in the previously mentioned Stacks auction, I purchased a 1870 $3 gold piece in a PCGS MS-62 holder (see the middle coin in the above header).  After making this purchase, I spent some more time on the NGC website and found the NGC population reports. This resource led me to change my collecting goals from $3 gold pieces to scare or rare US gold coins that had NGC populations of less than 150 coins.  It turned out that the 1870 was the last $3 gold piece that I ever purchased. Although I started my collecting journey with a known destination, the course and destination has changed many times during my journey.

Once I decided to collect scarce or rare US gold coins then I tried to find resources to help me in this endeavor.  In a local library I had the good fortune to find a six-volume set of books that were published by David W. Akers starting in 1982 titled “United States Gold Coins; An Analysis of Auctions Records.” I checked out these wonderful books and photocopied the pages for the coins that I was interested in. 

In these books, Akers used previous auction records to comment on the rarity of every US gold coin.  I used his valuable comments for the basis of my US coin collection.  Fortunately, if you are a collector of US gold coins today you don’t need to find David Akers’ books because all his comments are included as part of PCGS Coinfacts.  

PCGS Coinfacts contains a tremendous amount of very valuable information for collectors of US coins.  For example, it provides auction records, rarity and survival estimates, a condition census, and a list coin varieties.  

For US gold coins, PCGS Coinfacts also includes comments by Doug Winter, in addition to those that by David Akers.  It turns out that I also used Doug Winter’s website extensively when I was collection US gold coins, i.e., https://raregoldcoins.com .
On his website he has a link to a market blog and another link to coin articles that he writes.  I found his articles to be very interesting and learned a great deal by reading them.  He also sells very nice gold coins.  I purchased a number of his coins.  In fact, the second coin from the left in the above header is a coin that I purchased from Doug.  

There is also a lot of great information about US coins available in the NGC Coin Explorer. They have a price guide, a nice graphical plot of the grade summary, auction records, and a brief Description and Analysis of each coin, courtesy of Heritage Auctions. 

One of the best resources out there are the auction records with pictures, which are available at auction houses like Heritage Auctions and Stacks Bowers.  I always use this this historical auction information together with NGC’s population records to decide how much I want to bid on a coin.  

As I have discussed, there is a tremendous amount of valuable information available to collectors of US coins.  Unfortunately, there isn’t nearly as much information available to collectors of world coins.  Fortunately, there are still auction records and population reports available for world coins, just like for US coins. 

Right after I decided to start collecting coins from Brazil I ordered bound copies of the first three time periods of the “Standard Catalog of World Coins”, which was published by Krause.  They published five different volumes of this catalog for different time periods, i.e., 1601-1700, 1701-1800, 1801-1900, 1901-2000, and 2000-Date. These books are an excellent way to get started collecting world coins. It’s nice to be able to look through coins from most of the countries in the world when you are trying to decide what to collect.  Many auction houses use the Krause numbering system for their coins in their auction descriptions and I believe that NGC also based their coin numbering on the information in Krause. 

After using these reference books for a while I figured out that it would be better to use the digital form (pdf) of these books instead of using three thick books. The pdf versions really worked well because I could just edited the pdf when I purchased a coin and insert the grade of my coin. This was a great way to keep track of which coins I had.

However, these books have some shortcomings.  The biggest shortcoming involves the fact that they are no longer in print (hard copy or digital) since Krause went out of business a few years ago. But it looks like some people are still selling the pdf versions of these books on Ebay.  This is probably the main reason why Krause went out of business.  Once someone purchased a pdf they could also send a copy of the pdf to all their friends.  Other problems with these books include the inaccurate prices and the books don’t list all the different coin varieties.  However, I’m sorry to see Krause disappear.  It’s a loss to the coin collecting community.

Once I became more familiar with the coins from Brazil and Portugal, I decided to purchase more in-depth reference books for these two countries.  The key reference book for Portugal is “Moedas Portuguesas,” by Alberto Gomes.  This is a truly incredible book.  It shows all the varieties of coins from Portugal that were used from Roman times until the present.  It also includes the coins from all of Portugal’s colonies, including Brazil. Even though Alberto Gomes passed away in 1999, a group of Portuguese Numismatists continue to update the book and release new editions every few years.  The 7th edition of this book was published in 2021.

While Gomes’ book has information on coins from Brazil, I also use the following books:
•    “Moedas Brasileiras – Livro Oficial,” Rodrigo Maldonado, 8th edition, 2022.
•    “Livro das Moedas do Brasil,” Claudio Patrick Amato and Irlei Soares das Neves, 15th edition, 2018.

I use the Microsoft suite of applications to keep track of my collection.  I use Excel to record all the key facts about the coins, e.g., country, date, denomination, grading service, grade, rarity, purchase place, price, date of purchase, pedigree, etc. I have all this information in a sortable table so that I can filter out desired information and list the coins sequentially according to the metric in one of the columns.  I have found Excel tables to be very useful for storing the data for my coins.  

As an example, I could filter the country column to only display coins from Portugal. Then I could filter the denomination column to only display 400 Reis coins (Pintos). Next, I could sort the date column from the earliest to latest date.  This would be an easy way to quickly find all the information that I have entered about the Pinto type set that I discussed in my last post. 

I use PowerPoint to organize all the pictures of the coins I’ve purchased along with screenshots of the coin listings from the auctions.  I have also found that the NGC registry is an excellent way to organize and display my coins.  

I hope that some of this information has been interesting and helpful.



Recommended Comments

Love this entry.  Thanks for sharing your journey, mistakes, pivots and resources.  The biggest mistake I see from newbies is the inability to recognize a mistake, learn and pivot.  The second is not trying to find the right resources to help the collector to level the field.  Your entry is a clinic on the correct way to evolve through learning.  Evolution through education may seem like a "no brainer", but there are some the continue to reject facts because they do not align with their desires.  They fail to accept that the coin is "tuition".  Your post has wide applicability for those that are willing to to follow a similar path.

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