Much of this post is quoted from a response to a recent post by thisistheshow entitled, "Let me try this again, for the first time." I made a lot of points in that response that I thought are worthy of an expanded stand-alone post. In a nutshell this post is an autobiography of my 40+ years of collecting coins.
Thinking back on my 40+ years of coin collecting I liken my numismatic experience to that of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son. I started my numismatic journey as a youth with type collecting. I was fascinated by the variety of coinage designs throughout our nation’s history. At the time I was also interested in odd denomination coinage.
I soon bought a Red Book and wore out the bindings. I literally spent hours paging through that book dreaming of the coins I wanted to buy. It didn't take too long for me to become fascinated with the coins in the back of the book. No, they weren't the classic commemoratives but the gold coins and especially coins minted at obsolete mints like Charlotte, Dahlonega, New Orleans, and Carson City. Here again, I was interested in another type of type set, that of mintmarks. Still as a youth growing up in Wisconsin, I was glad to see a Wisconsin coin in the back of the Red Book! Today I proudly own a Wisconsin commemorative half dollar.
Enter my time in the US Navy and my collecting took a different direction. From every foreign port I had visited I collected that country's circulating coinage. The same happened after I got married and lived in Europe for a year. Today, I still own many of these coins mounted in albums. Following this my prodigal journey into the numismatic far country began in earnest. This began several years of hit and miss but mostly miss in my collecting. At that time, I was collecting things like Silver American Eagles and modern commemoratives. In fact, I had so many interests I couldn't keep up with them all. It's kind of like the jack-of-all-trades but master of none.
At the peak of my numismatic prodigal journey I started a collection of Morgan Dollars beginning with the New Orleans minted Morgan’s and toners. After this I thought, “why not collect them all.” For two years I was buying Morgan Dollars at a phenomenal rate. I even bought the granddaddy 1893-S in VG-10 condition. Following this I hit burn-out before completing the Morgan collection. This led to a momentary hiatus from buying Morgan Dollars. I thought that the Morgan Dollar hiatus would help to renew my interest in them but to no avail. I ended up selling most of my Morgan's including the 93-S.
I did end up keeping the Morgan's grading MS-65 to 66 and all my CC mint marked coins including several GSA CC's. Keeping the CC's was the first indication that I was heading home, to my childhood fascination with obsolete mint facilities. Interestingly, this did not extend to New Orleans. Keeping the 65 and 66's grew from a love of numismatic beauty. This did not include the heavily abraded ugliness of lower graded MS Morgan's. Ultimately this may have been the main reason for my loss of interest.
Concurrently with the Morgan's, I thought to collect Eisenhower Dollars. With those I completed the set in short order. Then I sat back and thought what now and sold most of those. Still I found what I had learned by assembling the Ike's to be a worthwhile experience.
Serious numismatic soul searching brought me back home to my roots and type collecting. I just love the variety of our nation’s coinage, always have, always will. Now my focus is upgrading the coins in my type sets with coins that have higher eye-appeal. With these coins I am engaging my love of numismatic beauty.
Notwithstanding, while I was in the numismatic far country, I discovered that I liked thematic and topical sets. I started sets entitled, "Inspirational Ladies, The Use of Seated Imagery in Numismatics, and The Coins and Medals of Laura Gardin Fraser". In all these sets I continue to add coins as I discover good candidates.
When you boil it down what I really like is variety! Consider this, with the exception of commemoratives all the other far country sets were series-based sets. Thematic sets are based on a theme with DIFFERENT coins that match the theme! In these sets I can mix and match coins, medals, and tokens from all over the planet.
I wish I knew how much money I wasted in the far country. Sometimes, I refer to the money I lose as the cost of learning and participating in MY chosen hobby. Think of it this way. Say a person likes to golf and spends hundreds of dollars if not thousands on green fees in a year. Is there any means for the golfer to recover his or her losses? No and even more significant you never here them complain about the money spent enjoying what they love to do. Still, I am not in this to lose money and I don’t like throwing good money after bad. Just like the prodigal son came to his senses after he wasted his inheritance so have I in terms of what I like to collect. Just like the prodigal son learned some important life lessons in the far country, so have I.
In the end though, you still have to try different avenues of collecting if for nothing else to see if you like it. My problem was not that I started the Morgan set but that I put very little thought into it and went into a full throttle buying binge. When I came to my senses, I had already spent thousands of dollars!
Now that I know what I like, I won't be taking any unnecessary journeys away from home and what got me interested in collecting coins as a young lad living under my parents’ roof. I have come full circle back to my numismatic roots.
Please enjoy my picture collage of the many different types of coins, medals, and tokens from my collection.