This registry set has a complete set of Walking Liberty Half Dollars and American Silver Eagles Dollars. I became a coin collector in February, 2019 solely due to fate and happenstance. I hope this introduction will provide some guidance for other beginners as well as perhaps some nostalgia for seasoned collectors that once were beginners. Here is my story:
It was my 10 year old nephew Aaron's birthday and had no clue as to what to give him as a present. After much thought, I just plainly asked myself "What does he like?". My family constantly compares us to each other, and comment how we are so much alike, so I sat on that question for a few days. The answer then became clear as day -- Aaron likes MONEY ! More specifically, he likes hoarding and saving money !! I had collected stamps as a child/teenager, so I took a leap of faith that he might enjoy collecting coins as I did collecting stamps.
So I went online and searched for a beginner's coin collecting kit and found one that also contained a written introduction guide to collecting, as well as a starter collection of coins and the rudimentary tools (magnifier, etc) for a novice collector, purchased it and had it shipped to him in New York. To say that he loved the present was an understatement of gargantuan proportions ! Immediately he went to work reading every book and online article on the subject of numismatics, as well as sorting through all his parent's spare change (and every coin he found on the sidewalk). In short, I created a monster !! Every conversation we had from there on by phone and email was about coins. He pursued the hobby relentlessly, managing to convince his father to take him to coin shops, clubs and local shows. His interests included wheat pennies, Jefferson Nickels, and Mercury Dimes and he couldn't be happier.
The interesting part of this story is the effect it had on me. While searching for Aaron's beginner's collector kit, I ran across beautiful coins for auction/purchase, as well as articles and books on numismatics. I was enthralled with the actual process of minting coins as well as the history behind the individual coins themselves. I purchased "The Coin Collector's Survival Manual" by Scott Travers and read it from beginning to end like a menu. With this rudimentary knowledge in hand, I went about further researching the process and steps to start collecting coins on my own. I joined both the Tampa and Clearwater, Florida Coin Clubs and later, the third party grading service, Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC). In the ensuing months, I also attended coin auctions, a coin grading course, and numerous lectures offered by the Tampa Coin Club. During club meetings, I asked numerous questions and listened more than I spoke, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. I purchased all of the necessary tools to coin collecting including a scale, caliper, hand held magnifier, a separate and proper lighting source and even a metallurgic analyzer from Sigma Analytics. I also discovered the NGC Registry where I could showcase coins to other collectors, as well as the NGC Registry Competition which appealed very much to my competitive nature. I also learned from my mother that my grandfather had left her some coins that she herself was curious about.
During the process of collecting coins, I made many friends locally as well as across the United States through online forums. We called each other and texted. Being a novice, I learned so much from these friends who mentored me since they were as enthralled by this hobby as I was.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. In the beginning, I decided that I needed a solid strategy to go about coin collecting. With different countries, denominations, and such, I first needed to focus my attention on one (or two) series of coins to collect. My goal initially was not to be #1 in any one competitive set (although that goal came later), but to complete a particular series in all years and mints if at all possible, given financial limitations. After much consideration, I found that American Silver Eagle Dollars and Walking Liberty Half Dollars are abundant in the marketplace and are not only majestic in beauty, but hold special significance, spanning the years of significant importance in my personal life as well as United States History. The American Silver Eagles span the years of my adult life (from 1986 to present day) and most year's coin represent significant events in my own life. The Walking Liberty Half Dollars (minted from 1916 through 1947) spanned the years representing some of the most devastating, as well as prosperous, times in United States History, including two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the notorious "Roaring 20's". When I hold these Walking Liberty Halves, minted before my birth, my imagination goes back to what life must have been like to live during those sometimes tumultuous (and sometime prosperous) eras. With these two series of coins readily available on Ebay, coin shows and shops, one could conceivably obtain the entire Silver Eagle and Walking Liberty series in a relatively short period of time. But where is the fun in that ?? Not to mention the significant cost of some of these issues in each series if I wasn't picky about my choices. Hence the need for a strategy that wouldn't break the bank. So that led me to another facet of my strategy -- budgetary allowance for purchasing.
For as abundant as these coins are in the marketplace, my budget wasn't nearly as abundant ! So, secondly, I decided to take a comfortable portion of my discretionary income and savings and go about my quest in a slow, strategic and meticulous manner to see how far I could go collecting my chosen series' while having the most fun in the process. That goal lead me to a key part of my strategy -- a term appropriately named "cherrypicking". I found that cherrypicking was a term made popular by B. Fivaz and J.T. Stanton in the book "Cherrypicker's Guide to Rare Die Varieties". It involved reviewing coins in the marketplace (and already graded by third party services) and, with that knowledge, picking out those coins that I believe are exceptional values within those grades (i.e. undergraded). So patience, by looking at many examples of each year and mintage, helped in finding the most rewarding coinage examples to add to my collection and this process yielded pretty good results in my opinion. I also paid attention to eye appeal/attractiveness and sharp strike, while somewhat trying to downplay the third party grading service's slab's label/grade (especially the early years of the Walking Liberties which were very expensive in mint state condition) which allowed more purchases while remaining within my budget (Although I have to admit that I made some mistakes in adding certain examples at lower grades to my collection which I will eventually replace with more attractive examples).
My strategy also involved deciding what my goal was -- I decided that, for now, I wanted to be primarily a coin "collector" building up my own personal collection, striving to complete one series at a time, as opposed to a coin "investor" to earn money from buying and selling coins. That being said, eye appeal played a huge role in my buying decisions. In other words, I would rather own an attractive MS-63 than a "blah" MS-64. Where Mint State coins were financially out of reach, I strived for collecting circulated coins that, for the grade and price, exhibited strong detail, minimal wear, and maximal eye appeal. By collecting for these characteristics, and not necessarily and solely numerical third-party grade with sometimes fancy labels, I was able to obtain as beautiful and broad variety of examples while making my budget go further. An added advantage to a strategy of owning the gamut of grades for a neophyte such as myself was that I could appreciate the superior characteristics in Mint State coins by comparing them to examples in lower grades and in circulated condition. Eventually my goal, as I advance in this pursuit, would be to own a series of purely mint state coins by either replacing third party graded circulated coins with their mint state counterparts, or gaining such a knack for technical grading of raw coins that I could purchase what I feel to be mint state coins and submit them for grading in hopes of being on target.
While in the process of pursuing a year/mintmark example of a particular coin for my collection, I preferred in-person inspection of a coin. But if that was not possible (i.e. purchasing a coin online), I made sure that there was a liberal return policy offered by the seller. That being said, the "in-person inspection" approach was not difficult in a city as large and central as Tampa, Florida. Since I began collecting, I've attended every coin club meeting within a 50 mile radius, most of the coin shows in my area (including the July, 2019 F.U.N. Show), public auctions, as well as even pawn shops to get my hands on as many coins as I could in order compare and contrast the years/mintmarks of as many coins as I could to cherrypick and snatch up the best of the bunch. I took copious notes and started to notice patterns in certain American Eagles and Walking Libertys from specific years and mints, and verified my findings with the current numismatic literature. Very often I managed to cherry pick the best, but unfortunately sometimes I missed the mark, later finding a coin in my travels that was "better" and kicking myself for buying too soon. But I figured this was just part of the process of learning. In speaking with other collectors however, my above approach differs somewhat in that many collectors are satisfied solely with the numerical grade assigned to the coin despite their appearance by not taking luster, wear in key focal areas/details, contact marks, hairlines, etc. into account.
With this basic strategy in mind, I forged ahead, facing many other decisions to be made -- earlier decisions that I also had to make, that I've glossed over in this introduction, included whether to collect raw coins vs. third party graded (slabbed) coins? Collect blast white coins vs. toned coins? Etc.
I made a few mistakes along the way. One of which was purchasing a rather expensive raw coin and submitting it to NGC for grading, only to find out it was "Not Genuine". From there on out, I decided that, at my current level of technical grading knowledge, I would only purchase slabbed third-party graded coins from well-established and reputable services (NGC or PCGS) until I reached a level of grading expertise to hopefully better navigate around such errors. I also decided that I somewhat preferred the clean "blast white" coin appearance as opposed to toned examples as, subjectively, I find them more attractive and, from what I learned, toning can hide flaws in the coin.
I've also joined the Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC) in anticipation of reaching a level of technical grading expertise whereby I can identify and then submit a third party graded coin and have it stickered as being the best of the best for the grade.
I discovered that the world of coin collecting is fraught with mine fields too. "Spotting" (or "milk spots") is a problem that I ran into that plagues American Silver Eagles and proved to be a formidable flaw to avoid -- from my understanding, they appear at random across all Mints and can appear as a single spot, multiple spots crossing fields and devices, or in large blotches consuming the majority of the obverse or reverse on silver coins. While the most current research I found cannot definitively say what causes these spots, some say that it has to do with the percentage of silver in the coins themselves, with American Eagles having .999 silver composition having a greater percentage of spotting, while the earlier pre-1965 90% silver coins rarely spot. However, others believe the spots could have something to do with the way the silver planchets are prepared or washed. An onerous problem, NGC and PCGS have reported grading spot-free coins, sent them off to customers, and then have them returned months later after developing spots. So even graded spot-free coins provides no guarantee that one's coin will not develop this problem later on. As you will see in my descriptions of the American Eagles, finding MS-69 spot-free coins was a very frustrating task. However, I found that it wasn't impossible to find MS-69 spot-free coins. In some cases, I sought out American Silver Eagles with a "MAC" label (certifying them to be spot-free) to be helpful in identifying examples supposedly without this spotting issue.
Finally, with these goals and strategies in place, I eventually completed my collection of American Silver Eagles Dollars and Liberty Walkers Half Dollars, as well as expanded my horizons by starting to collect other series, including Morgan Silver Dollars and some foreign coins, thus expanding my knowledge of history and my enjoyment of this wonderful hobby.
If you are not asleep yet from my ramblings, I'd like to share some guidance one of my mentors gave me and which I remind myself whenever I get frustrated -- "Coins are meant to be enjoyed. Enjoy the Pursuit !" and I approach this hobby with that in mind above all.
Facts and Keys to Collecting:
LIBERTY WALKING HALF DOLLARS (1916-1947)
Designer: Adolph A. Weinman
Weight: 12.50 grams
Composition: 0.900 Silver, 0.100 Copper (net weight 0.36169 oz. pure silver)
Diameter: 30.6 mm
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco
Key points to check for strike and sharpness: Obverse: Miss Liberty's left hand, the higher parts and lines in the skirt and her head. Reverse: evaluate the breast of the Eagle as well as the feathers on the left trailing leg of the Eagle.
AMERICAN SILVER EAGLES DOLLARS (1986-Date)
Designers: Adolph A Weinman ( obverse) and John Mercanti (reverse)
Weight: 31.101 grams
Composition: 0.999 silver, 0.001 copper (net weight 1 ounce pure silver)
Diameter: 40.6 mm
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco
Key points to check for striking and sharpness: Obverse: Miss Liberty's left hand, the higher parts and lines of her skirt, and her head. Reverse: the Eagle's breast is a major focal point.
NOTE: Information/owner comments for this registry was taken, in part, from the following references:
1) ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins 7th Edition Edited by Kenneth Bressett
2) American Silver Eagles A Guide to the US Bullion Coin Program by John Mercanti (Chief Engraver, United States Mint Ret.)
3) David Bowers " A Guide Book of Mercury Dimes, Standing Liberty Quarters and Liberty Walking Half Dollars"
4) NGC Website/Census/Coin Explorer
5) 100 Greatest US Coins -- Fourth Edition by Jeff Garrett with Ron Guth
6) A Guide Book of United States Coins Mega Red 5th Edition by RS Yeoman. Q David Bowers, Senior Editor
7) 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins (Fourth Edition) by Scott Schechter and Jeff Garrett
Note: The US Mint does not release bullion mintage data on a regular basis; the numbers given in this competitive registry set reflect the most recently available official data.Read more...
Complete Set Walking Liberty 50c and American Eagles - Photos and Interesting Facts
As its title reveals, this set includes all of the Walking Liberty Half Dollars 1916-47 and all of the Mint State Silver American Eagles 1986-2018. The first series is comprised of solid collector-grade coins of attractive appearance, with the SAEs being in the higher grades expected of modern pieces. What makes this set so memorable, however, is the owner’s delightful account of one person’s discovery of coin collecting. It is a must-read essay that captures the magic all of we collectors love about the hobby. Each of the coins is nicely illustrated, and the owner’s commentary is quite useful.
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