What You Need To Know: Collecting with a Purpose
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This post is less an explanation of what you need to know than an opinion on “what you might consider” when building a collection. For me, collecting means assembling a set of coins in which each enhances the significance of the others. Few of us can afford to spend money unwisely. That’s a good thing when it comes to coin collecting. It’s too easy to succumb to the temptation of “accumulating” instead of “collecting” without the discipline that a limited budget imposes. Having limited resources – the disposable income that we talked about in other threads – helps to define a purpose that brings coherence to a collection. Finding that purpose means assembling a collection in your mind before buying a single coin. Serving that purpose makes it hard to find coins on which to spend money and ensures years of enjoyment in learning, searching, and purchasing.

 

Each collector finds his or her own purpose in assembling a collection. My purpose is to create a collection of coins that tell a lively story of an interesting period in our history. I chose Shield Nickels to tell a story from a numismatic point of view for several reasons. First, a lot of history took place during the post-Civil War years. This turning point in our nation – everything from politics to our monetary system – is reflected in the Shield Nickel series. Second, the die varieties in the series reveal information about the minting process that “perfect” coins keep secret. I don’t think there’s another type with varieties listed in the Red Book for both the first and last years of issuance. The well-known varieties of 1866 and 1883 are bookends with volumes of varieties between them. Third, I can afford to tell a story that spans 18 years without any branch mint issues. Fourth, I have an affinity for Shield Nickels for personal reasons. My collecting aspirations started by finding a Shield Nickel buried in the flowerbed when I was a kid.

 

The same purpose that led me to Shields guides me in deciding which coins to purchase (or at least try to acquire). Selecting a coin that serves the purpose of a collection is like choosing the right word to express an idea. I’ll give a couple of examples to illustrate my thinking. The 1866 RPDs introduce the story by signaling the varieties that would follow. It’s not nearly as important for me to collect all the RPDs of that year as it is to find the one that best makes the point. That variety, in my opinion, is an FS-001.1. The same idea holds true in finding the best 1883/2 OVD to conclude the story. The different hub marriages are key to the plot; so, for me, one well preserved reverse of 1868 is a necessity. But, with limited resources, I’ll choose to add an FS-005.9 (two hubs of slightly different design used to impress the reverse die) before seeking the full complement of 1868 broken-letter varieties. And, if I had the money to buy a mint state 1880, I would probably choose to spend it on a transitional pattern piece, J-507, which says much more about the series as a whole. I will always look for a coin that best represents a variety based on its attractiveness and state of preservation.

 

I won’t say that I’ve not deviated at all from my original goals; sometimes there’s an opportunity to acquire a coin that I just can’t pass up. I also have an outlet in helping my daughter with her F-VF Walker collection. Still, after looking at hundreds of coins, I’ve purchased just 34 Shields over the past four years. Some might say that 34 coins isn’t much of a collection. I’d answer that the fun is in creating and telling a good story – not in bringing it to an end as quickly as possible. This approach to collecting certainly isn’t the only “right” way; it’s just one way that has served me well. I will say, though, that finding a purpose for your collection – no matter what it might be – helps to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual pieces. Serving that purpose makes it hard to find the right coin but easy to spend money once it’s found. And, above all, it’s just plain fun.

 

In future installments – if Bob and CT extend an offer to write another after reading this piece – I’ll provide detailed information on the Shield 5c series including suggestions for type sets, grading, varieties, resources, and maybe a little history behind the series.

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Great post and I look forward to reading more about the Shield Nickel.

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Great post thanks.:)

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Excellent post, and very inspiring. Thank you!

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Thank you Lou for the terrific post. thumbsup2.gif I find this perfectly stated:

 

"collecting means assembling a set of coins in which each enhances the significance of the others."

 

Hoot

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My purpose is to create a collection of coins that tell a lively story of an interesting period in our history. I chose Shield Nickels to tell a story from a numismatic point of view for several reasons. First, a lot of history took place during the post-Civil War years. This turning point in our nation – everything from politics to our monetary system – is reflected in the Shield Nickel series.

 

So true. The period of 1866-1883 was actually the true "old west" that we read about and see in the cowboy and Indian movies. Before this, especially before the California gold rush, the west was mainly pioneered by mountain men, however, there were settlements of Hispanics in the Southwest and Los Angeles with large rancheros were lorded over by dons. There were no six-shooters or repeating rifles in those days, either, just single-shot, black power firearms.

 

Post civil war Texas was a rough period. Union soldiers policed the state and most Texans lost their homes and land because of taxes implemented by the union. Hard currency was very scarce in those days. The only thing of value were the wild longhorn cattle found in the mesquite bushes of northern Mexico and Texas. They were a gangly legged and hardy breed, able to go days with little water and feed. To those bold enough and brave enough to face 16 hour days ropping and dragging these critters out of the brush, enduring desert heat, lightning storms, flash floods and the occasional tornado with the constant threat of the Commanche and Kiowa on the warpath to count coup and then to face a trail drive of hundreds and even thousands of miles, these men became the legends of the old west.

 

Despite the many dangers on the trail, whether be by indian, outlaw or stampede, many made their fortunes and became the future cornerstones of society. A two dollar steer could be turned into $30-60 in Kansas, especially when the railroad pushed its way west across the Kansas plains. This allowed easy shipment to the east where beef was in demand. The occasional contract was fulfilled to provide beef to forts and then, later, the US gov't contracted beef to feed indians confined on reservations.

 

These trail drives are what actually opened up the west. Not only did these cowboys blaze new trails to Kansas, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, they also braved their way across hundreds of miles of desert to San Francisco.

 

Following their paths came more and more settlers and miners further opening the west. Of course, among them came the outlaws, gunswingers and gamblers.

 

By the early 1890's, most Indian tribes had been defeated and subdued all in the name of Manefest Destiny. Actually, the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 was the beginning of the end for the Indian's way of life. A massive, concerted effort to eradicate this proud race of people was enthusiastically undertaken.

 

One of the stategies was the erradication of the massive herds of buffalo which not only provide food but the skins, tendons and bones were used to support their way of life. This did more to conquer these people than actual combat. Most greenhorn's unwise of the frontier methods of battle did not last long. Victory came only when the tactics of the early mountain men and scouts were adopted. Then, it was only a battle of attrition.

 

So, you see, the years 1866 to 1883 really was the era of the old west. In this light, the Shield Nickel series embodies an age that will never be seen again.

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IGWT [ Lou ]------Think that I can speak for CTcollector and myself----Please enlighten us about Shield nickels! It is an area of Numismatics that most of us do not venture into. I, for one, would like to learn a little more about them.

Again, to everyone out there. If you have a series---or just a topic of interest that you would like to put on our 'What You Need To Know' thread. Just PM me and I will be glad to give you a date to post. It is a great way to call everyone's attention to a topic that means something to you. Bob [supertooth]

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Now I feel bad. I have no purpose frown.gif

 

Well, I sort of do. I stick anything I can find in order by type, date, mint, etc. just for the fun of looking at them smile.gif That's a carry-over from childhood that will never go away. But, at near 40 and finally able to justify the expense, I do want to also start specializing besides just the "keep the best I can find and toss the duplicates".

 

Since it's a smaller set, and I'm just now trying to learn how to grade (or, even relearning what I learned and studied as a kid when I couldn't even apply it), I am thinking of making an SBA set to start, since it's a small set, and sticking with graded coins at least until I feel comfortable treading further into deep waters. But, once complete, I'll be adrift again frown.gif There are so many coins I like the history of (time period anyway), look of, etc. I don't know where to go!!!!

 

Am thinking Buffalo nickels or Indian Heads down the road though. Those always captivated me the most. Time will tell. Will have to make all my mistakes on along the road before I get there.

 

Still keeping my "Keep anything you don't have" theme though smile.gif I don't intend to ever keep duplicates, rolls, etc. I want a "History of US coins" even if much of it is of low grades. Oldest I have so far is an 1858 Flying Eagle, it isn't pretty, but I love it !!!!!

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There are so many coins I like the history of (time period anyway), look of, etc. I don't know where to go!!!!

 

Perhaps your "purpose" is to gain a greater breadth of knowledge of the many types of federal coinage and the periods during which they were minted. See Tom's "What You Need To Know Thread" on collecting by type. I'm sure that you'll find goals to pursue and a direction to follow; and I bet that you'll feel energized and when you do.

 

There's no reason to feel bad just because you haven't yet found your numismatic calling. Thinking through all the possibilities for defining a collection is half the fun!

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You know I have no real collecting objective EXCEPT that I want every coin that I see.

 

No really I just see something I like and if I can afford It I buy it.

 

 

 

 

I'm a Whoarder thumbsup2.gif

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Well, first, I will always keep a coin I don't already have. I am starting with SBA's for reasons other than what I "like" so could be a mistake there. Otherwise, I am a history buff, primarily either WWII or the Civil War (Am a CW reenactor too, want a reproduction CS penny?) so would like to pick something to coincide with the history interests. Problem is, coins spanning WWII seem so extensive, and coins from the Civil War era seem too rare, harder for a newbie to grade, etc. I think that's why I like the Indian Cents though, and is probably where I belong, newbie mistakes and all.

 

I also hope I didn't pull this great post off topic or hijack it. Just seemed like a good place to discuss "pupose".

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Don't collect something that you don't enjoy just for the sake of collecting!

 

If WWII is an interest, see what you can find to pursue it. Check out the Wartime Jeffs (1942-45), or military -script (something I know nothing about), or the adoption of the Roosevelt 10c, or any other tie between coins or paper money and the war.

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Yes, you should all stay far, far away from SBAs. Please keep the demand down. As a matter of fact, anyone who owns any SBAs (particular those ugly 1979 and 1981 type two proofs - ugh!) should immediately sell them off. Sure the market will be flooded with them and the prices will drop, but really, the benefit to your personal collections ought to justify it! 'Course, if I were to buy them up at really low prices - just to keep them off the streets and out of the collections of respectible YNs - well, it would be like I was doing everyone a personal service, wouldn't it?

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Oh, maybe I didn't express myself well. I LOVE coins, so startinf with SBA's wasn't meant to mean I wont enjoy it. As I said, I'm also happy just with an album showing the history of the coins regardless of condition. I would be MORE than pleased to see a complete set of SBA's to start.

 

However, THEN is when the issue comes up. I want to move to something that also has other meaning to me ABOVE just being a coin.

 

I've always liked the Indian Cents, even without considering the era, but they are Civil War era besides smile.gif Jeffs always scared me because there are just so many to come close to a "set". I guess that's the newbie part though, because I never thought of collecting just "Wartime" Jeffs ! That's an awesome idea !!!!

 

See, the forum pays off again !!! Is probably a dumb question, but have any sets been sold based on time periods? Ie: Not just nickels, but a set of all WWII wartime coins (or any other time period)? I'm not wanting to collect for profit anyway, but your idea just made me think a bit. If I ran out out of Jeffs I could afford, why not work on the era instead of a particular type?

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Speaking of SBA's, has anyone heard anything more about the removal of them as part of the 2005 Presidential $ Coin Act? Unless it is changed by Congress, I understand that the Federal Reserve will begin taking them out of circulation in 2007.

 

Chris

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Needcoins-----IGWT has an excellent idea. But, as you hinted, you could go after cents, nickels, dimes, quarters and halves from say 1940 to 1945. If you went just one more year, you would get a Roosevelt Dime too. Most would also be 'silver' coins. Also, as a civil war person, do not forget the civil war tokens [CWT]. They are many and varied----from all over the country. Usually most can be bought for reasonable money. And you can learn a great deal about American History while collecting these pieces. Bob [supertooth]

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I understand that the Federal Reserve will begin taking them out of circulation in 2007.

 

That's not hard...

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These are very good stories and yes, I agree that having collecting goals will help build a better collection.

 

I basically collect six world coin series. These are South Africa colonial (1874-1960), Bolivian Republic (1864-1909), Spanish Cross silver (up to 1760), 1790 Austrian Netherlands Insurrection commemorative, Spanish colonial quarter real and Spanish colonial pillars.

 

I lived in a couple of these places which is why I initially picked these series but I have also come to collect them because I want to build a collection that is very difficult and that most other collectors cannot build. This is particularly so since I will only accept most of these coins in mint state and there are not that many of them available.

 

While I do like US coins, I will never have enough money to build a world class set for any of the ones where I have a real interest. With what I have chosen to collect, I at least have the opportunity to do so...eventually.

 

Finally, I believe that selective foreign issues might have a better financial potential and even if they do not, you can buy more with the same money. To give one example, I recently bought the 1790 Type 1 Austrian Netherlands 10 sols for $250. It is a brilliant mostly untoned example (with a few adjustment marks) and NGC subsequently graded it MS-63.

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Speaking of SBA's, has anyone heard anything more about the removal of them as part of the 2005 Presidential $ Coin Act? Unless it is changed by Congress, I understand that the Federal Reserve will begin taking them out of circulation in 2007.

Chris

 

The Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, which initially proposed taking all remaining Susan B. Anthony Dollars out of circulation, merely directed the Secretary of Treasury to take a deeper look into the matter and report back to Congress sometime in 2006.

 

It's possible they'll take them out of circulation, but honestly, I don't know how they'd go about it. Every banker I know could care less about dollar coins. They see them as a nuisance. Since they're the same size and electronic signature as a sac, I don't know how they'd do it.

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IGWT, excellent post and great thoughts about collecting.

 

I was formerly a major hoarder/accumulator. I'd grab anything that caught my eye. After doing this for several years, I have settled into a few collections for reasons similar to yours. I am now focused on a U.S. Type Set to basically tell the story of the U.S. through the coinage; a date set of U.S. Large Cents which I think tells the story of the early U.S. Mint and coinage techniques of that era; a date set of U.S. Half Cents just because they're an odd denomination from the earliest times of our country; a British Victorian Type Set because of the varied changes made in England during her lengthy reign (plus I think Vickie was a hottie wink.gif ); and a variety of British Conder Tokens which were used for small change during the period when the British monarchy thought it was beneath them to have their image placed on such a lowly metal as copper.

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Excellent post, Lou. I have been watching your posted nickel pictures with great interest. No, I won't be collecting them, but they are an undercollected and interesting series with some better dates to challenge anyone that wishes to complete the series. Good luck with your set.

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Tom & Charlie: Thanks for the very kind words. Let us know when you make it back to Maine for a visit, Charlie.

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IGWT,

Thanks for a great post. I also collect nickels, but Liberty nickels. This is mostly because my first fascination with coins came when my Grandfather gave me a few dozen Liberty's and got me started. These early issues, also including 2c, 3c, flying eagle 1c really represent, to me, an interesting area: small denomination coins, struck in non precious metals, and heavily circulated by poor working class people throughout the country. These are the coins that the people used most, not the double eagles and silver dollars. These bought stamps and groceries and glasses of ale. I'm new to this site and am fascinated by the depth of knowledge here.

 

Thank you.

AP

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Thank you, Aaron. I can see myself expanding into the Liberty 5c series one of these days. thumbsup2.gif

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