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
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!