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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Advice for beginning and intermediate collectors of U.S. coins

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #22

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Until CoinFest occurs at the end of the month, there will not be a live event conducted by any of the four leading auction firms of rare U.S. coins. Plus, I am not aware of any private sales of newsworthy rarities over the last week. So, this is a good time to address another topic. Often, I hear about collectors who have decided to start acquiring U.S. coins and who are unsure as to how to proceed.

Sometimes, adults who collected coins as kids wish to return. In many other instances, people who have never before bought a rare or very scarce coin wish to get started. Further, people who collect paintings, sculptures, baseball cards, antique silver objects, or rare books, frequently find themselves drawn to coins. This week’s theme of suggestions for beginners will, I hope, be of interest to many intermediate collectors as well.

I. U.S. Coins valued from $250 to $1000

The focus here is on advice for a collector who seeks U.S. coins valued at over $250 each. Of course, I realize that not everyone can afford to pay $250 for a coin. I am not ignoring people who cannot. I strongly believe, though, that collectors who buy $10 to $100 coins may learn by reading this column. In order to understand the coins that a collector owns, the collector needs to understand coins that he (or she) cannot afford. It is important for all collectors to learn about the values and traditions relating to the coin collecting community. Besides, I will devote a future column or article to coins valued in the $10 to $100 range.

Advice and suggestions put forth here are geared towards a collector who is just starting, though may be of use to any collector who is willing and able to spend $250 or more per coin. Suppose he (or she) has decided to collect U.S. coins and thus will not be considering (at least not yet) colonials, territorials, patterns, or world coins. Also, further suppose this collector is not likely to will spend hours studying books on die pairings or other technical matters.

In general, the average collector spends a limited amount of time reading about coins, and is much more likely to read articles than books. Indeed, most collectors I know do not take the time to read entire books on coins, though I would recommend doing so.

Most collectors wish to have fun. It is true, however, that beginning collectors tend to enjoy coins more after they spend a few weeks or months learning.

So, herein, consider a collector who plans, over a period of years, to buy plenty of coins in the $250 to $1000 range, plus a few that cost more or less. Such a collector is flexible. On occasion, this collector may spend $1000 to $3000 per coin. The emphasis here, though, is on getting started collecting U.S. coins in the $250 to $500 range.

Rather than focus on my own advice, I have asked experts to provide their respective opinions. I selected experts who are knowledgeable about a wide variety of U.S. coins in copper, nickel, silver and gold, and have each played different roles in the coin business. Moreover, it is beneficial for collectors to be aware of the views of several experts, especially from highly qualified people that may not be available to most collectors. Below, please find recommendations from John Albanese, Kris Oyster, Nick van der Laan, and Andy Lustig.

Before putting forth detailed recommendations from these four, I relay Ira Goldberg‘s more general advice. Ira is a partner in the Goldbergs auction firm and he has been a leader in the coin auction business for decades. (more…)