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When the hobby is a ‘Bust’

While we are all absorbing the latest hobby drama over the issue of more 2012-S silver American Eagle proofs in a new set issued to celebrate jointly the anniversaries of the Bureau of the Engraving and Printing and the Mint, I feel like changing the subject.

I was editing a feature story about collecting half dollars by type yesterday and I was updating prices. I noticed that many of the early half dollars issued up to 1807 have seen some very nice price increases for coins in circulated grades that are within the reach of average collectors.

Coins in the G-4 or VG-8 grades have seen their prices double in the last half dozen years.

Unless you are already active in this field, I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

I didn’t.

How could I when the Mint has serial dramas swirling around it regarding new set issues?

How could I when I daily watch every jiggle in the gold and silver markets and read the predictions about the next wave of demand?

How could I when I am basically intimidated by those early issues? After all, I never got one in circulation. I never had the opportunity to set a group of them side by side to learn how to properly grade them as I could with more readily available coins.

Rather than spend $150 for the latest San Francisco proof silver Eagle set or $300 on last year’s 25th anniversary silver Eagle set, why not look to buy a VG-8 1803 or 1805 Bust half dollar for around $300-$400 that looks very much like an 1804 dollar worth multiple millions of dollars?

The half dollar is a classic American collectible.

I don’t think buyers of these coins yell at their computers with every new Mint press release or get ulcers over their retirement plans if bullion happens to be retreating.

While I don’t think collectors should shut out the world in their thinking, there is nothing wrong with picking a specialty area that can serve as an oasis of calm hobby progress.

Whatever you might think of an 1803 or 1805 half dollar, Mint Director Elias Boudinot cannot change his mind tomorrow and issue more of them.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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