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Higher coin prices prompt changes in collecting habits
By Mark Ferguson
COIN VALUES Market Analyst

The broad-based bull market in coins during the past four years has caused many collectors to put their collections on hold or to refocus their collecting patterns. Many coin values have increased by multiples, leaving collectors in a quandary as to how to proceed toward finishing their collections.

Some have simply sold their collections, reaping the high prices that have caused them to quit collecting, while others have changed collecting directions. This isn’t the first time collectors have had to scale back their endeavors. A great example was collector extraordinaire John Jay Pittman Jr., who began collecting in the 1940s or earlier.

Pittman, being of limited means, diligently studied particular coins before buying them, making shrewd purchases and trades, but when prices climbed too high for him he switched from collecting U.S. coins to world coins in the early 1970s. His lifetime investment in his coin collection was approximately $100,000; when his coins were sold during the late 1990s after his death, they realized a fortune of $40 million.

These days most collectors of average means have had to make similar changes.

Some are collecting coins in lower grades than what they bought when they began collecting.

Other collectors have switched from collecting coins with additional attributes that make them worth more money to coins of the same grades but lacking the special characteristics. To illustrate, a 1924-D Standing Liberty quarter dollar graded Mint State 65 full head would retail for about $4,800, but one graded MS-65 without a full head can be purchased for about $600. A 1920-S Winged Liberty Head dime goes for about $9,500 in MS-65 full bands, but comparatively costs $1,400 in MS-65 without full bands. So a nice-looking collection can still be built for much less money, if one is willing to compromise a little.

"Gradeflation" is another factor that has caused some collectors to change their collecting habits. Even if a collector can afford to pay more for coins than in years past, many collectors are disappointed that examples of numerous coins, such as early Flowing Hair and Draped Bust design coins, once judged About Uncirculated, are now graded Mint State by some grading services that "slab" coins. Many coins previously considered to grade Extremely Fine are now slabbed as AU coins.

Higher prices have led some collectors to abandon series collecting (buying coins of various dates and Mints within a single series) and instead embrace the popular way of collecting by design type, known as type coin collecting. This method allows collectors to find nice examples of coins of many different designs and denominations, rather than just sticking to one or more series of coins.

Still other collectors have taken new directions. Instead of collecting traditional U.S. coins, some have switched to collecting tokens and medals, fractional currency or even circulated counterstamped coins, all of which fascinate some collectors.

So, get creative with your collecting plan and you might be able to turn your frustration with high prices into fun again!

COIN VALUES Market Analyst - June 11, 2007


Coin Prices - Collecting Habits

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