Monthly Supplement: THE MANY BENEFITS OF TYPE SET COLLECTING
There are gold sets and there are silver sets, but there are no sets quite like type sets. So it seems, at least, to the many hobbyists who enjoy assembling sets of their favorite coin designs and denominations. Type sets, which generally feature one coin of each given design from a particular denomination or certain period of time, open up a realm of collecting possibilities for hobbyists who wish to obtain a variety of coins.
A type set serves as a numismatic sampler platter, or an exciting array of coins that can be enjoyed in an organized, visually appealing format. A collection of each different half dollar design displayed in a fancy coin holder, an upscale collection of third-party certified Liberty Seated coinage varieties, or a representative assemblage of each design by 19th-century United States Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre are just three of the countless possible type set objectives.
“I think being a type collector is a fun way to acquire coins because you can go on a variety of avenues,” says Matt Crane of L&C Coins in Los Alamitos, California. “You can collect the first year of each coin, you can go with a specific denomination and acquire one of each minor type, build a type set for a century, or get one of each coin in the price range and condition that works for you.”
While a type set often complements a hobbyist’s larger collection of coins, for many numismatists, building a type set is a sole collecting goal, and one that’s not necessarily easy to complete. For example, filling every portal in a traditional Dansco 7070 U.S. Type album, which accommodates most of the major design varieties minted since 1800, is a noteworthy achievement even for the most advanced collector.
The Dansco 7070 album, which is reportedly being revamped by the manufacturer, contains 76 ports for copper, nickel, and silver coins ranging from Bust and Liberty Seated coinage to modern pieces such as commemorative half dollars and 1776-1976 Bicentennial coins. Some financially well-heeled collectors expand this particular type set album with a Dansco 10-port gold type coin update page, allowing a whopping total of 86 coins in this type set. All told, completing an 86-coin Dansco 7070 type set, including gold and non-gold coins, easily sets a collector back by well more than $10,000.
Perhaps a slightly more modest type set goal is completing a Capital Plastics model 407 19th- and 20th-century type set. This 12” x 12”, 3-panel Lucite display requires 43 non-gold coins ranging from early type coins such as Bust-motif silver coinage to modern coins such as the 50 States Quarters series from 1999. This basic type set has a slot for just one representative large cent, only one half cent, and doesn’t account for all design modifications (like motto, no motto, stars, and no stars varieties of some Liberty Seated coins) for some major types. Still, it’s a challenging set that can cost well more than $2,500 to finish and would serve well as a hobbyist’s singular collecting objective or as an attractive centerpiece for a larger coin collection.
Whether or not a finished type set represents the completion of a hobbyist’s overarching collecting goal or is merely a launching pad for more specialized numismatic objectives, assembling type sets can be wonderfully challenging and thoroughly rewarding. For example, a 20th century set—one of the most popular type collecting objectives—entails a beautiful array of coins, including an Indian Head cent, Barber coinage, the Morgan and Peace silver dollars, a host of other 90 percent silver coins, and a variety of modern-era coins such as the Washington quarter and Kennedy half dollar.
Such a collection may consist of common-date circulated coins that, for a total cost of less than $300, can be handsomely assembled within a wall picture frame or mounted in a blue Whitman coin folder. Meanwhile, a more advanced collector with greater discretionary income might spend several thousand dollars building a 20th century set consisting of higher-grade specimens of the same array of type coins, and perhaps showcase them in a deluxe Capital Plastics holder.
No matter a collector’s budgetary constraints or the particular scope of the coins involved, many coin dealers believe type collecting is beneficial for hobbyists since it exposes them to a much wider array of coins than might be encountered in more narrowly focused collecting pursuits, such as date sets. Dealer Jack H. Beymer, who has been buying and selling coins since 1971 and operates a showroom in Santa Rosa, California, specializes in type coins. “With type collecting, all you really need is one nice coin to represent a design in the set,” he remarks.
“When I first got involved with collecting back in the early 1960s, I was interested in Lincoln cents,” Beymer recalls. “Before long, I had finished set one, set two, set three… I wish I had bought one really nice coin rather than 50 mediocre coins.”
Beymer recounts at least one long-ago scenario where he would have done better on the investment side had he pursued type collecting then.
“In 1963 or ’64, I could’ve bought a Choice Brilliant Uncirculated Barber dime for $30 or a 1950-D Jefferson nickel in Choice B.U. for $30 – it was $1,200 for a roll of 50-D’s then,” he says, recalling the early 1960s coin boom, when uncirculated rolls of certain modern issues were selling for sky-high prices due mainly to intense market speculation. “Now, a 1950-D Jefferson nickel can be bought for $10, and a Choice B.U. Barber dime costs $500!”
A high-grade Barber dime of the semi-key date variety is the type of coin Liz Coggan of J.J. Teaparty in North Easton, Massachusetts, suggests hobbyists acquire for their type sets. “Buy semi-keys or better dates so every coin in the set can stand on its own,” advises Coggan, who has been professionally involved with numismatics since 1983. “Also, if the collector decides to pursue a date-and-mintmark set of the series represented in the set, he or she will already have some of the scarcer, more expensive coins.” She says buying nicer coins also behooves the hobbyist in another way. “If the collector needs to sell the coins, the nicer sets with semi-key coins will definitely make more money.”
Quality type sets composed of original, problem-free specimens with excellent eye appeal are satisfying for any coin collector to own and admire. However, buying choice type coins is often a daunting task, especially in the case of early issues, like 1790s large cents or Draped Bust silver dollars, which are often afflicted with detracting surface problems. According to Michael O’ Higgins of Gobrecht Numismatics in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, building a type set of solidly original coins can be accomplished more readily when the collector establishes a good relationship with his or her dealer.
“A dealer with a lot of experience can educate the collector on what a quality coin looks like,” he says. “Early type coins, such as 1700s half dollars and dollars, are especially hard to find, and many are cleaned. A dealer with a broad range of contacts can seek out original, problem-free coins and, because he’ll go through fewer middlemen to get those coins, can usually sell them to the collector for a lower price,” says O’ Higgins, who has been a professional coin dealer for nearly 50 years. “It’s actually fun when a collector comes to you as a dealer and says he’s going to build a really nice type set, because you get to go on a search for coins that you know will all end up in the same place,” he says. “It’s like you’re building your own type set.”
O’ Higgins suggests the current market is one of the most favorable for those who wish to buy classic coins. “Actually, now is a really good time to buy type coins,” he comments. “If I weren’t a dealer, and I had the time and income to collect, I’d be putting together a nice type set myself.”
BY, JOSHUA MCMORROW-HERNANDEZ, GUEST CONTRIBUTER