Skip to main content

Pick a set, any set

There are a number of collectors who are enjoying the pastime of collecting coins in the worst grade possible, a Poor-1.

These coins are so worn that they can barely be identified. They are the worst of the worst.

I have done a few stories on this collecting phenomenon.

While I do not have any desire to join in that activity, it has gotten my mind thinking a bit.

As the circulation finds era is now almost 50 years in our past, too many coin collectors are divorced from their coins.

I have advocated that collectors purchase old clad proof sets and break the coins out of the holder to feel them, smell them, heft them, study them and to do things with them that are impossible to do with high-grade coins in third-party slabs.

This is the only way to learn.

Taking this idea another step, collectors should undertake to collect a series of coins in a circulated grade to continue their education.

As an example, they should put together a set of Buffalo nickels in VG. Buy them raw, collect them raw and put them in a Whitman album raw. This will help them learn how to grade if they do not already know how and it will keep them in contact with real coins at reasonable prices.

Nobody will make a fortune doing this, but the experience will make them better collectors of other coins.

It has long been the advice of experts that we should all buy the best coins we can afford.

This is good advice. But too often nowadays it sterilizes our experience of collecting. It takes life out of it.

I cannot repeat the glory days of my youth with Whitman albums, but I can recommend to others the next best thing.

To be a collector you must come into contact with as many coins as possible. This aids learning. The knowledge once acquired will help the individual make smarter purchases going forward.

So rather than being a net cost, putting together a circulated coin set will be a net benefit.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."