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What should you buy now?

If you wanted to make money from coin collecting, what would you buy?

It is not an easy question to answer. The keys to numismatic value are rarity and top condition.

To find both, a collector basically has to be seeking something that most collectors do not have.

With hindsight, it is easy to do.

I was working on the 2013 edition of North American Coins and Prices. It will be published this summer.

There are graphs in the book that show changes in value of certain coins since 1972. And boy do I wish I had had the foresight to buy some of these coins back then, but I didn't.

An MS-60 1933 $10 gold piece has gone from well under $10,000 in 1972 to about $180,000 today. The scale of the graph is such that I cannot tell how much less than 10 grand the coin was priced at.

But you know what? I didn't have that kind of money then, so I can't kick myself now for not having the profit.

That's the story of life.

There is one coin that makes me feel the pangs of what might have been. A 1923-S Walking Liberty half dollar has gone from under $50 to about $300. Now that is a nice gain, but not spectacular. It is a coin that I might have acquired had I been more diligent 40 years ago and not been distracted by life in high school. I even had a set of Walkers that I had started but never finished.

The beauty of an XF-40 1923-S Walker is I can see myself owning it. Coins that have gone up in price during my hobby career and routinely made headlines are interesting, but they get truly personal when I have one or could easily have had one had I been a little more attentive.

Going forward, I guess I will look to see what I can find that interests me, that I can afford and that might have added hobby appeal when I decide it is time to sell.

That isn't easy, is it?

But I know I can rule out that $180,000 MS-60 1933 gold $10.

I still can't afford it.