Best strategy for collecting sets
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24 posts in this topic

I want to collect colorful toned Morgan’s of all mints from each year. My goal is to have 65 or better except for the more rare years/mints where I’ll have to lower my ambition somewhat. 

The question is in the title. What is the best strategy for completing my goal?  I have been perusing the auction sites Great Collections and eBay. I have watchlists on both sites with notes about what I like and don’t like, the strike sharpness, the tone quality, etc. But I have so many on my list, it’s hard to choose a favorite and I end up missing out on a coin because of my indecisiveness. I tried to narrow my search to a single year starting with 1878 but there weren’t any coins within my $500 price range that met the criteria I have in mind, so I expanded my search and ended right back at square one. So my question is, how do you long time collectors search for coins to fill your set without becoming overwhelmed?

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On 11/3/2021 at 10:46 AM, Morpheus1967 said:

Nevermind, I misread your question.  

I didn’t get to read your response before you edited it. I should probably add clarification. Would you (by “you” I mean everybody) suggest to concentrate on one year at a time, filling all the mint marks available for that year?  Do you try to find the best strike you can or do you buy what is available now and replace it with a better specimen at a later date. 
The choices are plenty, almost too much so. I’m sure my self imposed $500 limit isn’t helping either. I have other hobbies that cost as well so I don’t want to raise my limit. Maybe I should just put the $500 away and add to it monthly so I can get the quality coin I want. But at that rate, it will take ten or so years to build up a nice collection. Patience is definitely not a virtue of mine. 

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If you are going for a toned set, it's all personal choice on what you like.  Even if you weren't, and were jsut going for a full set of Morgans, well, some guys like blast white coins, and won't consider anything but.  It's really a matter of personal preference.  But a full set of Morgans, at MS65, and toned, is going to be really expensive.  Sure you will be able to knock out quite a few, but the harder date/mintmark/toned/MS65 combos are going to be ridiculously expensive.  The toner market can be insane.  Add that to one of the most popular sets to collect out there, and well....

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On 11/3/2021 at 2:42 PM, 124Spider said:

The first step is to get rich.

With Jblindy's collecting goal, that would indeed be a necessary step, I would say.  

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I realize my goal is going to cost quite a bit but if I take it slow, the financial hit will be easier to manage. The more expensive coins, I will have to lower my expectations. 

On 11/3/2021 at 1:25 PM, Morpheus1967 said:

The toner market can be insane.  Add that to one of the most popular sets to collect out there, and well....

I quickly found this to be true, especially for the more eye pleasing rainbow toned coins, but it is what is is. 

I was just curious as to how others who collect sets of a particular coin go about filling them. @Mohawk You collect a particular set or style of coin. What is your strategy?  Do you buy coins as they become available or do you hunt for a particular coin, not moving on to the next until that spot is filled?

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A tough topic that can have many different answers depending on the experiences that different collectors have had.   I know a little about your journey, a few years prior to covid I was able to locate (with the help of a dealer friend) the final MS coin to complete my 1909 to 1958 wheat cent registry set a total of 142 coins.   I am still working on the rest of the set 1959 to current, another 133 coins (and counting) not including varieties and proofs.  :insane:

Conventional wisdom says to buy the expensive coins first as those will generally continue to rise at a faster pace than the common coins.   In the past this has mostly been true and at least for the next few years I think this will continue.   So as long as you also expect the coin market to continue to rise my advice is rather than filling common date holes concentrate on the more difficult and less available issues.   This will test your patience but will have two benefits.   First you will have the tough expensive coins out of the way, and second if you lose interest in this set along the way and decide to sell it (in theory) will be easier to sell the keys than the commons.   A real key to a nice collection is to keep the FOMO in check, Morgan dollars are very very common coins and are not difficult to locate, so do not go crazy just because you did not win an auction lot.    There will be another, that is guaranteed.

Of course this will make the progress in the beginning slower but it will force you to make the tough choices on how much you need to adjust your grade goal for these coins.   This is how I mostly did my set, the very first coin I bought was the 09-SVDB, followed by many of the tougher branch mints from the teens and twenties.   However sometimes availability can force you to move on and come back.   While some will say that the entire Morgan set can be bought in a day at a large show (which is actually quite factual) it can take time to find the right coin for you in the grade you want.   Case in point my very last coin for the 09-58 set was my 26-S, while I had many opportunities to purchase this coin along the way it was one of the hardest to find in my target grade with the eye appeal that I required.

As to your other question; buying and then upgrading later; I strongly urge you to again hold the FOMO in check and not fall to the though process of "I must buy one now!".   This way of collecting will end up costing you way more in the long run and take longer to complete your set.   Again I speak from experience on this matter.  lol

Edited by Coinbuf
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@Coinbuf  Thank you. That’s exactly the type of advice I was looking for. It was very helpful. The FOMO is real, but I’m trying to practice some patience in not buying every coin I see. I was unaware or rather didn’t consider, when I first started with Morgan’s, that there could be a strike difference between the same year/mint. After reading the Red Book on Morgan dollars, I’m finding myself studying the coin in detail to ensure there’s not a light strike anywhere on the coin. 

Again, thanks for your advice. 

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On 11/3/2021 at 7:34 PM, Hoghead515 said:

Ive been working on a full set of silver Washington quarters. 1932 to 1964. Ive been working on it for almost a year and ive only got it almost half way completed. I started on the less expensive coins first. I also made a checklist where i can see which ones i like and which ones ive bought. Was wanting to get them all in mint shape but im going to have to lower my expectations when i get to the key dates. Ill have to settle for an XF or two. I just cant afford them. Maybe one of these days i will but not now. Ive also been watching auctions for good deals. Ive got some great deals on some that way. The main thing ive found with some wisdom of some of the wonderful veterans on this forum, is to take your time. At first i wanted to try and hurry and get them as fast as i could and settled for a not so pretty coin or two. Then see one a month or two later that is way more attractive at a better price. Good luck on your adventure. Ive had a blast working on mine. Layed eyes on some very nice coins i really really wanted and got outbid on them. Couldnt afford to bid no more but there will always be another one to replace it farther along on the journey you will come across and maybe they dont run the bid up on you. 

I am learning the patience part. It can be difficult. The second Morgan I bought was a rushed buy which I probably paid too much for.   Lesson learned on that one, but it is a nice VAM coin so I won’t complain too much. 

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On 11/3/2021 at 4:59 PM, Jblindy said:

I realize my goal is going to cost quite a bit but if I take it slow, the financial hit will be easier to manage. The more expensive coins, I will have to lower my expectations. 

I quickly found this to be true, especially for the more eye pleasing rainbow toned coins, but it is what is is. 

I was just curious as to how others who collect sets of a particular coin go about filling them. @Mohawk You collect a particular set or style of coin. What is your strategy?  Do you buy coins as they become available or do you hunt for a particular coin, not moving on to the next until that spot is filled?

That's a good question, Jblindy, but I'm probably not going to have a great answer for you.  I kind of just wait for the right pieces to come along, but that's the game with ancients....it's different than with something like Morgans in some key ways.  The first is that there really is no one agreed upon definition of what constitutes a set.  It's not at all like Morgan Dollars where it is known exactly what dates/mints were made in their entirety.  So, what I do is really apples and oranges compared with what you do as there's an agreed upon framework and definition of completion in your pursuit.  I'll never really know if my collection is truly complete.  There are no records from the time the coins were made that still exist, if there were any such records in the first place.  My exonumia project may be a better fit here, now that I think about it.  My exonumia project is trying to assemble a full set of the Egyptian Gods 2 oz silver rounds from the Sunshine Mint.  With that project, I've set goals.  The first purchase was the Sobek round, because Sobek is special to me.  From there, once Sobek was acquired, I went for the round with the lowest total mintage next.  After that, there was one round with an antique finish that was a lower mintage with that particular finish, so I acquired that next.  Now that I have these pieces, I'm just working on completing the set as all of the remaining pieces are of essentially equal difficulty.  So, that's my strategy there.  I hope it helps!

 

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Following up on my flippant post earlier in this thread, I am truly impressed with the goal of a complete set of Morgans in MS65.  

Even assuming you're talking about the "normal" 96-coin set (and not varieties, which seem endless with Morgans), that's a very, very tall order!

I have ten left before I have a full set of Morgans.  I started with the easy ones (there are a LOT of those), and now have very expensive ones left.  I started that way, because I had no thought of ever completing the set, or even coming close (I still know that I'll never get the 1895, and possibly not the 1893-S; but I have always loved big silver coins, and just wanted to own some).  I don't have one coin in that set as high as MS 65 (my top is MS 64+--1883-CC GSA), and I have a number that are VF/EF.  And I have still spent a LOT of money on this set.

If you're serious about getting a complete set, I agree with Coinbuf's excellent post--start with the most expensive first.  I would add that perhaps you should, very early, put some thought into your strategy for the 1893-S and 1895, which are ruinously expensive.

I have spent some money upgrading coins I bought long ago, when my goals (and means) were even more modest than they are now.  I haven't felt bad about my upgrades, but few have been at all expensive.  For a project like you're outlining, however, I again would point you in the direction Coinbuf did, again with the added caveat to consider how you're going to deal with the most expensive ones.  And I second Coinbuf's admonishment to be picky about the ones you buy; to me, Morgans are beautiful coins, but I have seen very high-graded examples that are not attractive to me.

Good luck!

Mark

Edited by 124Spider
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On 11/3/2021 at 6:38 AM, Jblindy said:

I want to collect colorful toned Morgan’s of all mints from each year. My goal is to have 65 or better except for the more rare years/mints where I’ll have to lower my ambition somewhat. 

The question is in the title. What is the best strategy for completing my goal?  I have been perusing the auction sites Great Collections and eBay. I have watchlists on both sites with notes about what I like and don’t like, the strike sharpness, the tone quality, etc. But I have so many on my list, it’s hard to choose a favorite and I end up missing out on a coin because of my indecisiveness. I tried to narrow my search to a single year starting with 1878 but there weren’t any coins within my $500 price range that met the criteria I have in mind, so I expanded my search and ended right back at square one. So my question is, how do you long time collectors search for coins to fill your set without becoming overwhelmed?

That is quite a task ahead of you my friend, I wish you well. I am also working on building my set of Morgan's 63 or higher but my budget per coin is one zero less than your $500 mark  LoL.  I do a lot of hunting for the best deal and I always end up spending  more than $50 but I still try to only pay 33% of High list price. I am sure it will be a long time before my set is done if ever. So good luck with your Toned Coin Hunt.

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@Mohawk Any advice is better than no advice. Yours is much appreciated. You just threw common coins to the wind, didn’t you?  Lol

@124Spider Yes, my initial goal is a complete set of just date/mint Morgan’s. Once that is complete maybe I’ll go for the Hit List 40, Hot 50, and Top 100…Maybe.  Maybe I’ll move on to Peace Dollars. I’m not sure yet, that’s a long way down the road.  I figure it will take at least five years to build this set up. I’ve already checked out the “ruinously expensive” 😆 coins and have resigned myself to buying a much lesser quality coin.  But, who knows, maybe a wad of cash will fall out of the sky and smack me in the head.  One can wish. 🧞‍♂️
I have seen some nastily looking high grade coins as well.  When I first started looking, I’d add to my list regardless of the look…now I find myself being a lot more picky about what I put in my watchlist.

@J P Mashoke Thanks for the well wishes.  It will be quite the journey, that’s for sure, but I’ve piqued the interest of my youngest so now I have a helper which is an extra special added bonus.

Good luck and best wishes for you on your own journey.  It’s nice to know I have a few collectors who are already on the same path as me. I’m sure I’ll reach out for mental support. 😂

 

 

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Quote

Any advice is better than no advice. Yours is much appreciated. You just threw common coins to the wind, didn’t you?  Lol

I really haven't thrown common coins to the wind so much as I've thrown U.S. and more modern World coins to the wind.  I haven't collected U.S. coins in more than a decade.  Faustina the Younger's coins are some of the most common Roman coins there are and I wouldn't call the Egyptian Gods 2 oz rounds rare, either (with a couple of exceptions)  I basically go with what I find interesting or what speaks to me and that's what I pursue, whether it's common or not.  But I likely did a very poor job explaining myself in my earlier reply......it's very difficult to apply a collecting goal like a full set of Morgans to collecting ancients because it's a whole different type of collecting and a very different headspace.  It's like looking at a bird and a turtle.  Both are reptiles and belong to the same family of animals, but they're extremely different in their physiologies and ways of life.  

Edited by Mohawk
Another freaking typo. I can type fast, but I cannot type well.
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On 11/4/2021 at 11:17 AM, Mohawk said:

 
But I likely did a very poor job explaining myself in my earlier reply......i

Your post was perfectly clear. I understood what you were trying to convey. I find it the differing goals of collectors interesting. The collection you are putting together is vastly different than the well defined set I am hoping to achieve. We’re both still attempting to reach the same end state, being a collection of coins we admire and enjoy. I do appreciate and respect your insight though. 

Edited by Jblindy
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I don't collect Morgans.  But, here is how I am planning my set of half cents:

  • Braided Hair - MS63-64RB (Business Strike Only)
  • Classic Head - MS63-64BN (1811 XF45, Skip 1831 and 1836)
  • Draped Bust - AU55-58 (1802/0 VF20-30)
  • Cap and Pole - XF40 (Skip 1796)

My process:

  1. Cost analysis using a combination of Greysheet and Auction Results to identify costs and grades for each coin
  2. Set boundaries:
    • Date Set vs Full Cohen Set vs Full Manley Die State Set (I went date set ;)) 
    • Set strategy to degrade coins by sub-series to allow for consistent look and feel while preserving resources.
    • Understand what coins are in/out of scope during my "primary" goal phase (I reserve the right to come back)
  3. Start buying coins that fit the definitions
  4. Keep an eye out for harder/keys and hold back capital for when they come available
    • Set a limit when keys become available (see #1)
  5. Develop relationships with dealers that cater to your coin specialty. 
  6. Join coin club that caters to the series I am trying to assemble (Early American Coppers - EAC)

I am sure you will make similar decisions with VAMs and defining the scope of your collection.  Good luck!!!!

Edited by The Neophyte Numismatist
date off by 100 years - whoops.
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@The Neophyte Numismatist  That was a very insightful and well thought out post. Thank you. I have been doing the cost analysis as you do. Grey sheet and auction results. I also look at PCGS just for comparison as they seem to price some coins higher than Grey Sheet. But with color toned Morgans, price guides may just as well be blank sheets of paper. People are paying ridiculous premiums for color toned coins. I’ve set my limit to 2x’s the Grey Sheet and not a penny more. 

On 11/4/2021 at 7:56 PM, The Neophyte Numismatist said:
  1. Set boundaries:
    • Set strategy to degrade coins by sub-series to allow for consistent look and feel while preserving resources.

What exactly do you mean by this?

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@powermad5000 Thank you for your insight.  I suspect that eventually I might grow tired of searching for Morgans to fill my set and will take a break for something else, but I’m quite sure after taking a small hiatus I will return with a renewed vigor. There’s just something about the story and history of the Morgan that has intrigued me. I have started a journal and will document my successes and failures for my boys and hopefully my grandkids for when they get to take over the collection. My youngest, he’s 12, has taken an interest, so hopefully I can inspire him to continue the collection and continue in the hobby once I am unable to. 

 

On 11/8/2021 at 12:55 AM, powermad5000 said:

Grade is one thing. As for toning, I do know there are some collectors out there that want ONLY the most insanely rainbow toned Morgans and could care less about blast white. You will be going up against those buyers and believe me, I have watched some auctions on toned Morgans just to see the outcomes and was trying several times to put my eyeballs back in their sockets after seeing what they paid for rainbow Morgans versus what the approximate was in the price guide for MS white :whatthe:

I know. It’s crazy ridiculous the prices they are paying. Sometimes 3x’s what the price guide shows. I was watching an eBay auction for an MS65 with a very nice rainbow tone on the obverse with a golden crescent tone on the reverse but it had a very weak strike. Price guide put the coin at $250. It sold for just over $800. That one definitely made me scratch my head. 

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On 11/7/2021 at 10:34 PM, Jblindy said:

@The Neophyte Numismatist  That was a very insightful and well thought out post. Thank you. I have been doing the cost analysis as you do. Grey sheet and auction results. I also look at PCGS just for comparison as they seem to price some coins higher than Grey Sheet. But with color toned Morgans, price guides may just as well be blank sheets of paper. People are paying ridiculous premiums for color toned coins. I’ve set my limit to 2x’s the Grey Sheet and not a penny more. 

What exactly do you mean by this?

By "degrading by sub-series" I meant "by type".  My Draped Busts will all be AU (except for 1802/0) while my Braided Hair types will be 63-64RB.  It's a way to help me keep the coins looking cohesive in the set.  I cannot afford to buy them all in MS.  Because of all the different designs in the half cent series, I can take a step down in grade every time I take a step back in design/time.

Most series have early, middle and late dates.  Unfortunately, I think you have some tough later dates in the 1890s with Morgans, but I am no expert on that set.

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