Jeff Garrett: Consider Collecting Colonial Coinage
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Unlike other Coin Week articles which exaggerate how interesting a coin or series may be, this is an interesting segment with wide variety and more challenge than most.

It's also one that isn't actually affordable to the overwhelming proportion of the collector base.  If world coinage circulating in the colonies is included, more is affordable but at minimum a substantial minority of the coins traditionally listed in the Red Book are not.

The Whitman book is one that sounds interesting and unlike other areas I do not collect, one I might actually buy.

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Several generations ago, this was a common area of collector interest. But then prices jumped to high that even ugly pieces became unaffordable. I think that continues to be the problem. Additionally, adding the "ignorance premium" from needless "grading" and interest is further depressed.

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Speaking of which, has anyone been following the thread over at CCF regarding a NE threepence found in an old coin cabinet in the Netherlands? It's been discussed since May. Apparently it was sent to Paris about a month ago for authentication, and if real, will be auctioned in the US at some point. The images, weight, dimensions, and XRF all look good. There is only one other example, in the Massachusetts Historical Society. There was one in the Yale collection, stolen in 1965 and never resurfaced.

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"There was one in the Yale collection, stolen in 1965 and never resurfaced."

I would not want one that had been resurfaced. They did that to the highway recently. Ground it right down to the nub, then topped it off. Looked and drove nice, but not original any longer.

 

:)

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2 hours ago, RWB said:

Several generations ago, this was a common area of collector interest. But then prices jumped to high that even ugly pieces became unaffordable. I think that continues to be the problem. Additionally, adding the "ignorance premium" from needless "grading" and interest is further depressed.

Has there been an increased interest in die variety collecting?

I ask, as this seems to drive the demand and prices for many of these coins.  Seems to be similar as EAC and other early federal coinage, though the prices vary.

As for grading, this is another area where I believe using the Sheldon scale makes no sense.  I would use the same one NGC uses for ancients.

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28 minutes ago, World Colonial said:

As for grading, this is another area where I believe using the Sheldon scale makes no sense. 

For some coins, maybe. For the NE threepence mentioned, if it's real, no grading scale would really matter anyway.

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2 hours ago, Moxie15 said:

too much money chasing colonials for too long causing prices to be too high for easy collecting for folks in my price range. 

Equally true of a noticeable percentage of US coinage generally.  

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There are some areas of Colonial collecting that are relatively affordable.  You can still find quite a few Connecticut copper varieties for $20 to $40 dollars, even some R5 varieties. The Hibernia coinage by William Wood is another area, and there is now an excellent reference book on the series written by Syd Martin.

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1 hour ago, l.cutler said:

There are some areas of Colonial collecting that are relatively affordable.  You can still find quite a few Connecticut copper varieties for $20 to $40 dollars, even some R5 varieties. The Hibernia coinage by William Wood is another area, and there is now an excellent reference book on the series written by Syd Martin.

Yes, but what is the proportion?  I know what is out there but haven't looked at prices extensively.

What I do know from my limited reading (mainly auctions and TPG population data) is that I see (very) high prices for what are frequently either rather common or not particularly scarce coins.

I asked my question about die varieties as it's a likely explanation for price increases.  I believe the Partrick collection has or had an extensive accumulation of one or a few but can't remember the coin(s).  I have also seen it with Fugio cents and Pine Tree shillings.

When I started collecting in 1975, my step grandmother's family had an extensive US collection which included several hundred low grade Virginia halfpenny, probably mostly in what is now VG.  This is one of the few I would consider affordable to most collectors.

I wouldn't expect most of this a coinage to be affordable to most collectors but it seems to be a lot less affordable than when I started.  Using a cut-off of $300, I'd estimate that around 80% of the collector base is priced out of most.  It might be somewhat better for those who are willing to buy very low quality but possibly not very marketable coins but not many are willing to do that at any noticeable outlay.

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I would love to enter two areas of US coinage, colonials and patterns, sadly as discussed in other posts the prices in both of these areas have become far out of reach for the quality I enjoy.  Colonials offer a fantastic chance to combine history and coins; two of my favorite things; but with prices out of sight I am at best a window shopper of major auctions.

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20 minutes ago, Coinbuf said:

I would love to enter two areas of US coinage, colonials and patterns, sadly as discussed in other posts the prices in both of these areas have become far out of reach for the quality I enjoy.  Colonials offer a fantastic chance to combine history and coins; two of my favorite things; but with prices out of sight I am at best a window shopper of major auctions.

I like my primary interest more (pillars) but can impartially recognize that US colonials (the ones made for the colonies traditionally listed in the Red Book) are more interesting in the aggregate due to the much wider variety.

I'm willing to settle for quality lower than most US collectors will who have a comparable outlay in their collection to mine.  Concurrently, I'm not spending "large amounts" on what would generally (by those who spend equivalent amounts) be considered circulated "dreck".  That's the reality with both this coinage and most early federal US types.  I'd really have to like the coin a lot to do that and even most of this coinage doesn't fit that standard to me.

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I have over 40 Connecticut varieties and most I didn't pay over $50 dollars each for.  Many are certainly lower grade but fit my budget.  Prices are actually lower now on some than they were several years ago.  You can still cherrypick rarer varieties of the Hibernia's as the Martin book is fairly expensive and not everyone has it for attribution.

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I performed a search on the Heritage archives after my last post using a cut-off of $300.  Out of 21,000+, somewhat over 6,000 sold at this price or lower.

I didn't look at every recent sale but in the last year, it's concentrated in a very low proportion.  Overwhelmingly also in ":details" holders with various problems or in grades of VF or lower.  Those in somewhat higher grades were mostly restrikes (which I would never buy) and struck for the French colonies which have a much lower preference.

One I saw was the more common variety "No Period" 1773 -Virginia half penny in F-12 or F-15.  It realized $215 whereas when I owned my slightly lower quality examples in the 1970's, I doubt it would have been worth $20.

Edited by World Colonial
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On 8/28/2020 at 1:50 PM, World Colonial said:

Has there been an increased interest in die variety collecting?

An increase?  Not really, these coins have been collected by die variety for over 125 years.  The standard references were published around 100 years ago and one of the premiere ongoing publications on them, The Colonial Newsletter, has been published since 1960.

When you are collecting colonials, if you insist on high grade problem free coins, yes you are going to pay through the nose.  For all practical purposes  these coins don't exist (Yes I know there are some but NOWHERE near enough to meet demand,.  And many of the varieties don't exist in high or problem free condition.  If you are going to collect colonials by die variety you need to be prepared to settle for problem coins for some of them. (possibly MANY of them unless you have deep pockets.  I don't.)

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5 hours ago, Conder101 said:

When you are collecting colonials, if you insist on high grade problem free coins, yes you are going to pay through the nose.  For all practical purposes  these coins don't exist (Yes I know there are some but NOWHERE near enough to meet demand,.  And many of the varieties don't exist in high or problem free condition.  If you are going to collect colonials by die variety you need to be prepared to settle for problem coins for some of them. (possibly MANY of them unless you have deep pockets.  I don't.)

My opinion on affordability isn't based upon buying high quality or even higher grade coins where the TPGs routinely ignore problems that they would not with other coins.  I have seen many contemporary coins with less noticeable issues end up in "details" holders.  Same applies to early large cents.

It's that even in average and lower circulated grades, so many of these aren't even close to affordable to the vast majority of the collector base.  I'd have to go back to my old Red Books (which I don't have with me now) to see how much this has changed over time but the very common Virginia half penny is only one example.  I'd describe $215 for that NGC fine example as borderline affordable to maybe 25% of the bottom 80% of the collector base budget wise.

The two examples I gave of Pine Tree shillings and Fugio cents aren't remotely rare.  I'd describe both as relatively common (Fugio very common), except by die variety.  I wouldn't expect the shilling to be affordable to most collectors since it is scarcer with a higher perception. 

NGC and PCGS have graded close to 4000 Fugio cents with several hundred MS.  Maybe noticeable number of duplicates in higher grades due to the price but still not scarce.  A straight grade VF seems to be worth somewhat less than $1000 based upon recent sales at least for the more common varieties.

What I am describing here, it's equally true for an outsized proportion of US coinage, defined in broader terms.

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