The story of a set from start to ?Finish?
About a year ago I was still deeply involved in trying to build my set of silver American Eagles. I was feeling temporarily burnt out on the set. Some will consider that heresy but it?s true. I like a little bit of variety in my purchases. That?s one of the reasons that I usually have multiple projects going at the same time. While I was having this apathetic feeling towards (what was) my main project, I happened upon a listing on eBay for a coin like none I?d seen before. It was an Australian lunar horse (2002). It looked awesome; I loved it. I purchased the coin and it was like a breath of fresh air, a nice break from getting ?another? silver eagle. It was still very early in most of my collecting projects though. I had not yet learned about most of the non-US silver bullion series and had not yet decided to build my signature set for them. That would come much later.
Shortly after buying the horse I renewed my efforts with the silver eagles and a couple of other projects. The Horse sat alone in my lunar dollars set. I had found pictures of the other coins and liked them. I wanted the set and decided to collect the rest of it after I finished the set of Eagles. They would have to wait because I could only go after a few projects at a time financially. About 2 months later though I received a very generous offer from one of the other collector?s here to sell me 6 of the coins in MS69 (the same grade as the horse and my Eagles) for just a little over the spot price of silver at the time. That was a little too good to pass up, so I accepted the offer and suddenly this set was over half finished! True to my priorities though, the set made no more progress until after the Eagle set was complete. When the Eagles were finished though (around May 2008), this set became one of my new priorities and the first seeds for the idea of my signature set had begun to grow in my mind. I decided to try and finish the set by the end of 2008.
At first I made good progress. I obtained one or two of the coins I needed to finish the first set and bought the first coin of the second set. The plan was to finish the set in MS69 just like with the eagles; but then I ran into a problem. After acquiring all the other coins, the MS69 rabbit and dragon could not be found at a reasonable price. Looking at the prices, with what most sellers wanted for a MS69, I could almost buy a MS70. That in itself was a problem. I like matched sets and prefer it when all the coins in a set like this are the same grade. That just feels right to me. I worried that having a mixed MS69/70 set would compel me to start upgrading the whole set to MS70. It has happened before, just look at my mint state presidential dollars. I couldn?t decide what to do, so in November the set just stalled out. I would not complete the set buy the end of the year.
In early January, about 1 year after buying the first coin, the future of the set seemed in doubt. I just couldn?t overcome this internal battle over how to finish the set and the frustration was sapping the fun out of it. Finally though, I decided to go ahead and order a MS70 rabbit from a seller on eBay and finally try to finish the set. A few hours before I made this decision though, someone else had purchased the coin, and my frustrations deepened. Again, the set was very much in doubt. About 2 weeks later, as if it was a sign, I saw a MS70 rabbit get listed with a low starting bid. I made up my mind to bid in the auction and win the coin. This was the chance; this was the time to push forward with the set again.
The ending day arrived after about a week of waiting and I did indeed win the coin, for about $40 less than what it would have cost to get the other one. I was so thrilled that I went ahead and bid on a MS70 snake for the same seller and won it to. There was already the Snake in MS69 in my set. This was an upgrade. Was I setting a dangerous precedent? It didn?t really matter much though. I was too happy to have the rabbit. A couple of days later I couldn?t stand having the set so close to completion. I had to have the dragon. After a bit of negotiating, I purchased an MS70 dragon at a price that still made it more than twice as expensive as any other coin in the set. I didn?t really care though; I had finally done it. The first lunar set was complete at long last. I still need the new 2009 Ox but that too shall come.
I now have the 3 earliest coins in MS70 and the rest in MS69. When I acquire the 2009 ox, it will most likely be a MS70. What then do I do about the set? Do I start upgrading the other MS69s like I did the snake? Or leave it alone? Some of the coins have very low populations in MS70. Completing the upgrade could be difficult, if I could accomplish it at all. In the end, what does having the MS70 set really gain me? A little bit of bragging rights and a certificate at the end of the year. Little else. Is that worth the time effort and money required to complete the upgrade? I haven?t really decided yet. For now, I?m just happy to have finally finished the first set, even if it was about a month past my original goal date.
Starting this set, alongside the Eagles, set me down the path toward my signature set. I?m happy that I made the decision to buy the Horse back in early January of 2008. Now, even though I?ve filled all the holes in this set, I?m only getting started on a much grander project.
(If you read this entire post, either I?m a better author than I thought or you have the patience of a saint. Probably the latter. Congratualtions on that.)