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New spin: same type, old and new

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walking liberty coin

Type collecting makes a unique challenge in numismatics. It’s more than just filling holes in an album. Even if you can find an album for a type set, the collector has to answer a few questions. Does he want a 20th century type set, a 19th century, the full type set back to 1793, or what variation of these themes? Does he want subtle varieties, major varieties, metallic changes, or something entirely different?

Fans of type collecting and modern coinage can combine these two favorites and come up with a new kind of type set. Call it type collecting with a twist. Older United States coins can be augmented in a set by adding some modern issues bearing the same designs.

The gold First Spouse $10 coins have been issued since 2007, featuring the First Ladies, as companion pieces to the Presidential dollars. Those Presidents who did not have a First Lady during their term are still honored with pieces featuring the Liberty figure used on coinage of the time. These modern renderings of Liberty can be collected along with coins bearing the original designs.

The 2007 Thomas Jefferson Liberty shows the Draped Bust, a design used on copper and silver coins of his time. Type collectors may want to assemble a set of the Draped Bust coinage – the half cent, cent, half dime, dime, quarter, half dollar, and silver dollar – and add a 2007 First Spouse gold coin to this set. Comparing the 2007 rendering of this old-fashioned design to the coins in actual use can be interesting. How does the modern Draped Bust look? Are there subtle differences? Has the design held up well over the years? How does the design appear on a gold piece?

Type collectors have a few more First Spouse coins to obtain. Andrew Jackson’s Liberty is the Capped Bust, a design so popular that a special collector’s club exists for fans of this Liberty. A 2008 Capped Bust gold coin would look great alongside the circulation coins: the half dime, dime, quarter and half dollar.

Speaking of specialty clubs, the Gobrecht Society boasts a number of members who appreciate the long-used Seated Liberty design, struck from 1840-1891 – and even earlier, if you include the famous Gobrecht pattern silver dollars. Martin van Buren’s Liberty, shown on another 2008 First Spouse coin, is the Seated Liberty. Add this piece to a run of Seated Liberty coinage, and add some modern touches to your type set.

James Buchanan’s Liberty was the Coronet head, used on gold coins from 1838-1907. That’s a long span, and quite a challenge for the gold coin collector who wants one of each date in any denomination. But a type collector can choose beautiful specimens of the quarter eagle, half eagle, and eagle for his set and include a 2010 First Spouse gold piece.

Look at the reverse of that old $5 gold coin, bearing the Coronet head of Liberty. An eagle with spread wings, shield on its breast, appears on this coin. This lovely design made a comeback in 2006, on a $5 coin commemorating the Old San Francisco Mint. Even the denomination, “FIVE D.” appears the same. When you see these two coins side by side you conclude they are indeed very similar.

A silver dollar was also issued to commemorate the Mint in 2006, struck with the Morgan dollar reverse. The differences between the old and the new are not apparent at a quick glance, but take a closer look at the lettering and the rims. A bit modernized.

One modernized issue that attracted many collectors at a major convention was the 2009 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens gold $20. The original design, considered by many to be the most beautiful United States coin, could not be struck in large quantities, but modern technology made it possible for many more ultra-high-relief pieces to be made for collectors, art lovers and gold aficionados. The first strikes of these pieces were shown at a World’s Fair of Money; collectors stood in line to view these stunning coins.

There are quite a few differences between the original double eagle of 1907 and the 2009 piece. The motto “In God We Trust” appears on the 2009 piece, along with 50 stars on the edge to represent the 50 states; there were only 46 states in 1907. The modern coin is a bit smaller in diameter at 27mm and is made of .9999 fine gold, not .900 gold.

The 1907 ultra-high-relief double eagle, technically a pattern, is rare. If you can’t afford even a high relief gold coin, a Saint-Gaudens double eagle would look fine next to the modern 2009 piece.

Always a favorite with collectors, the Saint-Gaudens design was brought back in 1986 for the obverse of the gold bullion American Eagles. The design was a bit modified, or modernized, including a slimmer figure for Miss Liberty. Perhaps a specimen of a 1 ounce Eagle, or a set including the three fractional Eagles, would be great companion pieces to a Saint-Gaudens double eagle.

One of the most beloved designs in American coinage appeared from 1913-1938 and has been brought back twice. That’s the Buffalo nickel, designed by James Fraser. An All-American design still popular with collectors, a commemorative silver dollar of 2001 featured the Indian head and the buffalo, although much enlarged.
There was some criticism at the time, especially concerning the appearance of the buffalo’s legs. Show one of these dollars next to an uncirculated Buffalo nickel and note the differences. Was the criticism justified? Is the obverse rendering true to the original?

The first .9999 fine gold pieces struck by the United States Mint were the 1 ounce American Buffalo coins of 2006. Only 1 ounce pieces were struck in 2006 and 2007, with fractional Buffaloes following in 2008. One of the fractional American Buffaloes, next to an old Buffalo nickel, would look interesting due to the contrast. How does a well-struck modern gold piece appear next to a Buffalo nickel of 70 or more years ago? Some Buffalo nickels, especially some mintmarked coins of the 1920s, are notorious for poor strikes. Does the design hold up well and still look impressive after many years?

The Walking Liberty half dollar of 1916-1947 is considered to be America’s most beautiful silver coin. This design, too, was brought back for 1 ounce silver American Eagles in 1986. The obverse of Adolph Weinman’s famous design, a bit enlarged, appears on silver Eagles to this day. A Walking Liberty half dollar next to a new American silver Eagle looks great, and I have seen specially made holders for these two coins.

Add some depth to your type set of older United States coins by adding some modern issues bearing the same designs. Compare and contrast, admire the old and the new, and gain a new appreciation for the beautiful designs that will always remain favorites.

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