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Change The Focus Of Your Collection!

19 posts in this topic

Okay, perhaps the exclamation point after the title was unnecessary, and the title should not be taken literally as a directive, I simply didn't want the title to end in a question mark.


Who here has changed the focus of his/her collection over time? I would think that most, if not all, of us have done this as long as we have been collecting for a certain amount of time. Believe it or not, I started by collecting white coins only. 893whatthe.gif My first attempt at a unified sub-collection was with white classic commems. These are very cool coins, but I remember walking down the aisle of a major show and seeing four consecutive eight-foot tables each having nothing but slabbed white classic commems. They didn't have one or two coins, they were stuffed with them. For some reason this put me off on the series.


I then bounced around a bit and bought a little of everything until I realized that early high grade Washington quarters were a little tougher than the then-prices indicated. This started a long-term goal of building the set while learing as much as I could about them. That was fun but the set was largely completed six years ago.


At about the same time my long-simmering love affair with superbly toned coins came to a boil and the chase for those pieces has been seriously fun. Of course, the market seems to have caught up with me on these coins, just as it did on Washingtons, and other members of the hobby/industry now value many of these coins more than I do. Hence, it is now very difficult for me to buy nicely toned coins unless they are nineteenth century pieces where the seller wants a minimal premium to the basal value. I still love these coins, but my buying position in this market has really dried up.


Luckily for me, I had also developed a strong interest in original, circulated, early type. Some of these coins are incredibly affordable when one considers their scarcity and their relative financial risk vs other areas of the market. The main problem with these is that, similar to superbly toned coins, there just aren't that many out there and I think this area is likely to see gains because of that. Also similar to superly toned coinage, one does not have to worry about what dates or types to obtain. I just buy the cool pieces and pass on the rest.


Lastly, although I'm not a big fan of putting together date and mintmark series, there were three series that intrigued me. These were Indian Head cents (VF-EF), Buffalo nickels (VF-EF) and Barber halves (F-VF). I debated which series to attempt for about three years until I settled on the Barber halves. A large reason for that is because the set is near impossible to find nice and original in mid-grades. This is a set I am still working on and expect to work on for quite a while.


While having the dedication, discipline and single-minded tenacity to stick with one series or era is amazing and something that is quite powerful, this wasn't for me. The interesting things about changing the focus of my collection have been many. These include reading literature about coinage series, politics and the art of coinage in areas that I otherwise would have remained ignorant. Meeting collectors and experts in areas that I entered and learning from these people through their generosity. This type of collecting has also allowed me to gradually diversify my collection. Perhaps most importantly, I managed to keep the fire for coins alive inside me better then if I were to have stuck with my original goals and interests.


So, how did your collection evolve? 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

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WHAT??? 893whatthe.gif And throw away this little gold mine of ....well, of mine? 27_laughing.gif


First it was Lincoln cents, then the Merc dimes, the herd nickels, proof sets, type set. But for now, its FS nickels! Sure, I could change if I could give up these darn cigarettes! 27_laughing.gif What could I switch to, would be for a better question!

I know......FULL TORCHES! 27_laughing.gif I could spend the next 15 years eyeballing the shape of that flame! 27_laughing.gif

stooges.gif aside! If I had to make a choice, it would be the buffalo nickels. And the first one I would buy would be the 1926-S in F, no make that XF, no lets just say as full of a detailed coin I could afford, but that's where I would start, I mean change to!


Did I miss the question? 893frustrated.gif



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My evolution as a collector hasn't been too dissimilar to most peoples'. I started with buffalo nickels though, and only was interested in obsolete type for many years. Early on I knew I wanted to collect just about everything and did collect most everything from large cents to peace dollars. In the mid-'70's I started getting interested in world coins and learned there wasn't as large a gulf between the old coins and the newer ones. One of my favorite series, the British penny, was minted from midieval times right up to 1970 which was just a few years old. In fact it had been almost unchanged since 1860. This caused me to start many new collections and increasingly it was obvious that modern world coins were in some cases even more ignored than their US counterparts. This required me to spend more and more time looking for coins which were supposedly common but were simply unavailable. In 1996 I dropped just about all collections which weren't growing because of market conditions or because no items in the collection were available. This left me with about 20 token and medal collections and lots of post 1950 world collections (and a few older sets). I still work on these as time allows but spend most of my efforts on modern US.


Even the token and medal collections tend to be pretty "modern". Most of them are from the 20th century.

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My collection is constantly evolving. Basically I try to work what I consider undervalued markets constantly jumoing around. In five or so years I've gone from building MS US sets (Franklins, Roosevelts, etc...), to modern commem.s, to early commem.s and key dated material, to what I am currently into superior grade world gold. One thing that's for sure, is my quantity of pieces goes down, but the quality is much higher. thumbsup2.gif

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Interesting question...


I used to collect circ stuff of some series and raw uncs of some others (like Walkers, Frankies, etc.) and tried to put together sets.


Now, I only acquire individual "cool" coins (especially eye appealing, key dates, better varieties, etc.) and couldn't care less about sets anymore.


You should see some of the stuff I've acquired over the past year!



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I've collected a few sets over the years - primarily moderns as the older US coins never really did anything for me. Occasionally I'd run across a particular coin outside of my normal interests that I found striking for whatever reason and purchase that. And I collected US Mint & Proof sets seemingly forever. And I've always had a fascination with columnarios - pillar dollars.


But a couple of years ago my interest in US coinage began to wane and my interest in world coinage began to increase. Until a few months ago I finally decided to give up on US altogether and focus on world coins - particularly gold.


I must say my passion has never been quite so robust as it is now. I can still look a very nice US coin and admire it for what it is. But somehow I no longer wish to own it. But with world coinage - I cannot say the same. I wish to own them ALL insane.gif


There are only 2 sets I am working on - one being a year set of columnarios struck from 1732 - 1772. The other is a year set of Netherlands ducats. One set has 40 yrs of issues - the other over 400 yrs od issues 893whatthe.gif Yeah I know - good luck. Nonetheless I'm trying.


And in between working on those I'll pick up a ducat from just about anywhere wink.gif Older French gold & silver - better not let me see it - or I'll find a way to buy it cloud9.gif Same can be said for some of the German, British, Austrian, Spanish and God knows what else. If the coin has that special something - well I want to own it.


Yeah I know - I'm nuts. But aren't we all ? 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

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I have always been interested in building sets. First Buffs (XF-MS), then Dollar sets (AU-MS "O" mint Morgans, MS Peace), then Type sets (i.e. gold type, small cents, nickels and seated dimes), MS gold sets (half-eagles, double eagles). Now, I think that I want to concentrate on completing my US Circulation Type set in the highest grade that I can reasonably afford (XF to MS). The first coin being a w/stars, no arrows Std Lib dime in MS63.


Problem is that I have several high grade sets that have been started and abandoned (i.e. Lincoln cents, Trimes, modern minors). I need to stir some motivation and sell some of this dead end stuff and use the money toward more useful purchases.


I also need to learn more about early US large copper coins.

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Some fantastic stories! It's like a thread of everyone's personal quest for value. wink.gif Outstanding. Zen and the Art of Coin Collecting. Works for me.


I suppose that I really began collecting (as a kid) any coin that truly caught my eye and that I could afford from the revenues of lawn mowing, copper collecting, and aluminum cans (rather a new thing for recycling in my late kid-dom). Most of what I bought were cents and nickels, with a half dime or silver dollar thrown in here and there.


But I became wooed by proof coinage when the 1982 Washington half dollar hit the market. So, I started buying every "special" proof set that the Mint put out, including the silver sets from 1992-1997, and the Atlanta Games monster of 1996.


It was 1998 that I started looking at coins again more seriously. By then, I was realizing that most of the coins AI had bought were worth less than what I had paid for them. So, I began to study coins more seriously, but didn't jump at any purchasing until I had discovered the ANA, PCGS, and a variety of other groups that spoke to me of more fervent endeavors. And I was highly suspicious of slabbed coins, knowing nothing about them.


In 2001 I purchased a complete set of raw Lincolns, 1934-58, all in BU red. That was the trigger. I immediately went to buffalo nickels - a long-time favorite, and by that time had learned enough about higher grade coinage that I began collecting MS buffalos. Shortly after that, my attention turned to the (then, still dragging) series of Jefferson nickels. I had always been a series kind of person, so those collections grew that direction until...


I realized that I could not afford the entire set of buffalo nickels in the grades I like. frown.gif Then I started listening to some of my own advice and began collecing buffs as two short sets (the nickels of 1913 and those of 1934-38) and a date set (1914-31). That has chaged a lot of perspective for me. I can better concentrate on what I like in that series and also still collect other series. And I'm nuts about raw coins, including Kennedies (although I also collect all the silver issues slabbed!), Franklins, Walkers, state quarters, Washington quarters, Roosies, Winged Libs, Jeff nickels, buff nickels (I also love the VF-AU set), and Lincoln cents! Oh, and V nickels (beasts) in MS64 - slabbed. Oh, and some silly type here and there, and modern commems and classic commems when they're purddy.


My problem is that I like too much! Large cents are a blast, but I mostly like them either AG-G or AU! insane.gif


But I find myself paring down my collection and trying to keep only those coins that really grab me.


One important thing for me is the purchase of raw coins. This is my favorite thing, by far. It is a great challenge and it helps solidify many of the guiding priciples of numismatics that I've learned along the way. A large fraction of my collection came from raw pieces that I've had graded, and most of the coins that I turn around and sell (lose money on laugh.gif) were raw when I bought them. This has really helped hone my skills, which are far from complete. This is one of the two great joys for me in this hobby. The other is learning - from books, fellow collectors (e.g., these boards), etc.


It's a great ride! smile.gif Hoot

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Excellent post!


Like many, I started with circulated sets; Buffalos and Walkers. I still love the look of a perfect gray-toned XF Walker - in fact, that coin still looks good to me worn down to G! smile.gif


I have put together a decent set of mostly FS Jeffs thru '64, and have dabbled in '36-'42 proofs (have a full set of nice Mercs and working on the Buffalos and Walkers).


Contemplating a new direction now, but am uncertain as to the path! smile.gif



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Excellent thread you've started, TomB.


As a kid in the '70's I colllected mainly Lincoln cents (1909-1975). I even got $50 for Christmas one time and bought a VG-F 1914 D Lincoln.


I had lots of circulated Buffs then, too. They were practically worthless then. I had even bought a nice 1914 D for a quarter.


When I started collecting again a few years ago, I got an assortment of everything. Kind of like shotgunning it.


I pared down some in Jan. and am now mainly concentrating on high grade types and on raw modern dollar commems.


I still enjoy my complete sets of Walkers and Mercs and other misc. items but I've found my focus.


I was getting into designer autographs but see little potential for appreciation. Most of these issues are tremendously overpriced anyway. i.e. The Elizabeth Jones sets have an approxiamate $300 markup just for her autograph. Gerald Ford's signature demands a $600-$1100 markup. Seems too extreme. When the limited edition autographs of the bicentennial coinage became available two years ago, I jumped on it thinking that they would sell quick. They're still trying to sell dem suckers after two years. Even multiple full page adds haven't been able to sell the 500 yet.


How my focus will change in the future is yet to be seen but I definitely enjoy my specialties now.

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It's pretty obvious you've chosen well in the past, and I can't imagine your current direction will prove any less successful. It is a wonderfully diverse hobby, and several areas seem neglected while others seem too competitive. The hobby as a whole seems to periodically change it's focus too, and you've been ahead of the curve. wink.gif The terrible thing about being early is that once the market catches up, it's difficult to convince yourself to pay market prices.


As a kid, I was a Lincoln collector and set builder. Over the years, I built complete sets (gem BU) of Roosevelts, Jeffs, Washingtons, Kennedys, Ikes, Franklins, Peace dollars, etc. At one time, my collection was complete from 1921 to date, excluding commems and gold. I enjoyed my collection very much, and found great satisfaction in it's completion. I hoped to work backward to 1900. All were purchased raw. Sometime in 1998, I decided to submit a few of the key date Washingtons for certification. Many of the coins did very well, and a few did not. I found the process absolutely corrupting. It changed my focus from one which was pleasure based and concerned with the "look" of the coin to one concerned with finance. Over a period of time, I learned which of my coins were mistakes, and which were bargains, but I became grade obsessed. I was disillusioned with my collection, as it was no longer something to be enjoyed, but rather imperfect and amateurish. I sold it away over a period of time. Amazingly, it was still reasonably profitable.


After a good deal of thought, I came to terms with my disillusionment. It was rooted in my lack of knowledge. I knew I still loved the hobby, but promised myself before I began rebuilding my final collection I would invest as much time as was necessary to understand commercial grading, and to decide what I would include in that collection. I've spent the last 5 years buying, selling, submitting, attending shows, attending grading seminars, talking to dealers and collectors, and reading, reading, reading.


Tom, yours is a really is a good question. Changing focus? What I've "learned", my personal truth, is that although the coins are at the core of the hobby, it's the process itself that has provided the most pleasure and satisfaction. I still have a million things to learn, and will likely never accomplish all that I hope. When I think about the last 5 years, I have seen countless coins I'd have almost certainly never seen, I've met lots of exceptional dealers and collectors with a true passion for the hobby, I've owned and enjoyed some very nice coins. I have come to enjoy the hobby as much as the coins themselves. Maybe it's about time to build another set or two. grin.gif

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"What I've "learned", my personal truth, is that although the coins are at the core of the hobby, it's the process itself that has provided the most pleasure and satisfaction."


No better words have been spoken!



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As a 7 year old I collected Mercs and Lincolns out of circulation, and still have those sets. In the 1980's and early 90's, a haphazard assortment of Morgans, large cents, gold, and type.


Nine years ago I bought an 1808 bust half, three days later another. I was hooked. A date set took 2 years, I did not originally want to collect by die variety, but the more you study these coins, the more you realize how different the die varieties are, much more variation than a mintmark. The die varieties, strikes, and die states all tell a story of the early US Mint's challenges.


I have always admired the Draped Bust and Flowing Hair series, so 6 years ago I decided to specialize in the these with half dollars, and most of my earlier collection was sold, no regrets. I will never finish the collection, no one ever has, with now 4 unique varieties, but this will only keep my interest going in this lifetime project.


I have an interest many other coins including darkside, but I have learned ownership is not essential to enjoy and study them, as we are just temporary stewards of these coins. Being around these coins at a show, the people who share a passion for them, the literature, and even the message boards, all add to the enjoyment of numismatics.

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Interesting progression and something I can very much relate to. I changed collecting directions not only from boredom and change in taste, but also due to income. I guess some of my "phases" are really transistions, but they took quite some time.


Phase 1: When I first started out collecting coins around the age of 12, I pretty much purchased anything that was interesting to me. It was the usual stuff like well circulated 2c, 3c, and Morgan dollars. I remember REALLY wanting a nice high grade Walking Liberty half. To me a nice uncirculated WL 50c was like the holy grail! I started several sets of coins. All were circulated and the majority of the coins didn’t cost much. The sets were Morgan dollars, WL 50c, Franklin 50c, Washington 25c, Lincoln 1c, and a few more.


As is usually typical, I was able to fill up the easy holes with cheap coins, but the keys were stoppers. I was either going to have to save up for a long time to buy some of my more wanted coins or make some money in this hobby. Varieties were shown to me and there was a market for them. Lots of money to be made.


Phase 2: Finding varieties was pretty easy and lots of fun since it was like beating the dealer at his own game. I began searching out varieties to sell in order to help buy some of the nicer coins for my collection. After a while my “main” collection got to be boring. Lots of coins that all looked the same, but just had different dates/mints. sleeping.gif There was no challenge to putting together one of these sets. Anyone with money could do it.


Phase 3: I sold off most of the date/mint set stuff and ended up buying errors and collecting varieties. Nothing like having an off center Large cent or broadstruck Indian cent. This stuff was neat, rare, and interesting. I also started to keep some of the varieties I found for myself. There are lots of neat doubled dies out there that don’t get too much attention since they aren’t plentiful enough to be mass marketed. I had quite an extensive collection of varieties, including MANY that were not known.


Like many, during college my collecting interest waned as I didn’t have as much time to collect and there were other important things in my life. After college I started looking thru my collection and pretty much decided it didn’t interest me anymore. I sent all my remaining raw coins into ANACS and found eBay and started selling off my stuff. I was planning on taking the money from the coins and buying stock.


Phase 4: Something happened along that way. While selling off the coins I found the messageboard across the street and slowly became interested in coins again. The stuff that I was selling still didn’t interest me, but I saw a coin on eBay that really did. cloud9.gif The coin is my icon. I decided to start putting together a set of colorfully toned commemoratives. I never figured it’d take so long. It’s probably been 5-6 years and I’m only around 1/3 the way done.


Anyone who follows the toned market knows that prices for nicely toned coins has exploded in value. Stuff that I used to be able to pick up at a nice premium is now multiples of “white bid”. Monster stuff is INSANE in price and way out of my comfort level.


Quite a bit of boredom set in as there wasn't much to buy. frown.gif


Phase 5: Along came JamminJ and his foreign thalers. Lots of history, big size, so many different countries, mints, and designs that it is impossible to get bored. Best of all, they are cheap. I wish I could say that I have set goals in this area, but I do not. I do know that I want to put together a set of Italian (Venice) coins with the winged lion of St. Mark’s on them. This is a set that is pretty much doable based on price, but they are hard to find in nice condition. Other than that, whatever looks cool.


I’ve still got my colorful commems and am still working on the set, but until prices cool down I’m not adding too many to my set. Until then, foreign thaler coins are my coin of choice.


As for Phase 6... a US type set is looking attractive, but that's a ways off. smile.gif

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Thanks for sharing your stories, I enjoyed reading them.


I started out buying a little of everything. After realizing I wanted to finish something but never would unless I focused I choose to complete a set of Proof Jefferson Nickels.


After that I figured I'd do a US type set. I'm not so sure I can finish it anymore. I'm still selling some of the coins I purchased 8 years ago in my mad, unfocused buying spree.

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I started off like virtually everyone else by putting a set of Memorial Lincoln sets together when I was a kid in the early 70s. At that time I had a red book and used to dream about getting a $20 Saint for a whopping $250! The only local shop I went to never even had one to see so dreaming was about all you could do.


I remember my mom buying me a Brown Pack Ike for my birthday in, I think, 1972. I think the Ike was a 71 since I wanted the first year. My "big" buy was an 1956 quarter in low grade for like $5. My big "find" was a 64 Roosevelt dime (silver!) that I nearly crapped my pants over when I found it. I also remember my neighbor finding a dateless Buff in change once.


After that fling with coins I lost interest but kept all my stuff. In 1992 a friend I worked with showed my an article in the Times (of which a copy of I still have) about the "investing" of coins, "grading" and the crash of this market. For some reason I got interested to start buying this stuff. Why? I have no clue. I suppose now that I had money I could get all those coins I dreamed of owning 20 years before.


I immediately started buying stuff with no rhyme or reason and naturally I didn't do a very good job of it. I remember buying some raw $2.5 Indians which is a no no 893naughty-thumb.gif I naturally got screwed with most of this stuff so I ended up backing off a bit and tried raw Ikes and Kennedys. I remember going thru TONS of that krap just to find nice examples. This was my first exposure to grading. Without "pop reports" (what were they?) I could tell you that the 71, 72 and 76 (1) were the hardest Ikes to find in nice condition. I also tried to put together a raw set of Franklins.


After this period of modern stuff I found that I was attracted to early 20th century coins, especially toned ones. So in late 1993 I made my first "big" purchase (uh oh...here we go again). It was a toned 19-S dime (from Dave Swietz) Here for $650 (ouch!). This got me going on a date set. But I was confused by the Full Bands thing. I really couldn't understand why it was such an important thing. After a time of figuring out no one cared about non-FB Mercs I gave up and sold most of what I had. Why I did this really makes no sense to me know. Who cares what others think?


I also had got interested in GOLD, which lead me to the Indian eagle and later the half eagle. Then in what must be an attraction to indian motiffs I started on Buffalos in 1994 or so and had picked up a 19-D and 25-S at one point. I had to sell the 25-S fairly soon after as I really couldn't afford it. I sold 19-D when I got it regraded to a 65 and sold it for a premium in 1998. I needed the money then too as we had just bought a new house. BOTH of these coins I wish I still had. I mean, I got the 19-D for $1200 in a 64 holder and that was a PREMIUM at the time. Which is CHEAP today. I'm a dolt.


So I continue to this day trying to find nicely colored coins and finish up the dates sets. To me THAT is the only way to collect....So there to all you "date set" bashers! grin.gif



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This is TRULY an AMAZING post. A very good one. So much to learn from so many people who are true collectors.


"Zen and the Art of Coin Collecting. Works for me." Hoot 2004




I sold almost my entire collection for one coin.

I learned so much.

I'm learning so much now without my coins.

In fact I'm not buying coins any longer, I'm buying currency. And I'm learning more about coins now, not having them. I just can't bring myself to buy any.


Then, maybe, someday, I'll sell all my currency for just one note.

Maybe then, I'll learn about currency.


edited to add:

as a child I collected anything

as an adult I collected gold, then silver, then deep cameo proofs, then copper.

I'm hooked on copper.

I'll keep studying copper and looking at it and maybe, someday, complete a set of classic head half cents in AU, the best AU I could find, never MS, all broken out of their holders (if they were in one to begin with). Proof copper, I'd slab, just to protect it. Not for the grade. The grade is the devil's work.



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I started collecting coins when I found a 1932 S quarter in change when I was 12. I did my best to fill Whitman albums. In high school, I went to some George Bennett coin auctions & bought what I could afford (he was an English version of a North Carolina tobacco auctioneer). You scratched your nose or belched, and it was a bid on the current lot!


I learned how to grade LIncoln Cents & most circulated 20th century material. Then I got interested in running, girls and went to University.


in 1980, I bought 12 GSA CC Morgans from the Mint. I wanted the random coins, rather than pay what at the time was retail for specific date Uncs (by then, I was very cynical of buying raw Unc. coins sight unseen for market prices).


A number of years passed, one May, the gold coins form the S.S. Central America were being auctioned by B & M at the hotel across the street from my office. I got curious as to what my old coins were worth.


It turned out that my type coins had gone up in value quite a bit. I always liked mint state 19th & early 20th century coins, but now I could actually afford some of them. So, I decided to build a type set of this material. I'll also buy any coin which I think is attractive if it's priced right, if I like the particular series.


Over the last 5 years, I've been able to find many attractive coins. Right now, with one exception, everything I am missing is open collar coinage, and is expensive.

Some of it is not affordable in Unc., even if I could find it. Still, from my experience as a marathon and ultra-marathon endurance athlete, I've learned to be patient. Who knows, if I wait around long enough for the next market crash, I may very well be able to afford that AU Bust $!

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