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20th Century Type Coins for the New Collector, Part. 2

Read part 1 here.

Previously, I talked about a novel approach to coin collecting for the novice collector: putting together a 20th century type collection using the Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins) as a guide. I think this exercise will enable the new collector to learn a great deal about 20th century coins, about their designers, mintages, grading, and values. With this knowledge, the collector will no longer be a novice and will have gained some idea of coins he or she particularly likes and would like to collect in greater depth. Because I discussed type collecting cents, nickels, dimes, and quarters last month, this month’s type discussion will begin with half dollars. Most values are from Numismatic News “Coin Market” (CM). (All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Barber half

28. Barber Half Dollars. In any grade beyond VG8, Barber half dollars are fairly pricy for a new collector. The least expensive XF40s list for $215, and they’re difficult to find as well. In F12, the 1913-D lists for $105, and the date had a mintage of only 534,000 pieces. Look for an example without problems such as scratches, rim nicks, and evidence of cleaning.

Most of the other dates after 1900 have the same value listing for F12 so if you can’t find a 1913-D, look for another date priced similarly. If $105 seems too steep, many different dates in VG8 are valued at $20.

29. Walking Liberty Half Dollars, Obverse Mintmark. With a design by Adolph Weinman, coins with obverse mintmarks were made in 1916 and 1917 only. The least expensive date for type purposes is the 1917-D, which had a mintage of only 765,400 pieces. In XF40, this is a coin worth about $265. A decent F12 should cost around $110.

30. Walking Liberty Half Dollars. Any date other than the few with obverse mintmarks will do for this type. The least expensive coins for type are going to be those minted in the 1940s. Most of these list for $18 in XF40, and you can also find coins in MS63 for about $60 apiece. With a mintage of slightly more than two million, the 1946-D is a winner at $60.

Franklin half

31. Franklin Half Dollars. John R. Sinnock designed the Franklin half dollars, which were minted from 1948 through 1963. For type purposes, any date will do. The least expensive one I found in MS65 is the 1954, which lists for just $40. If you want one with a smaller mintage, the 1955 has the smallest mintage in the series but is only worth about $70 in MS65.

32. Kennedy Silver Half Dollars. With an obverse design by Gilroy Roberts and a reverse design by Frank Gasparro, Kennedy half dollars were minted on 90% silver planchets only in 1964. The planchets for 1965-1970 halves were clad with a 40% silver content. The former list for $22 in MS63 and either $50 (1964) or $45 (1964-D) in MS65. The latter are mostly less than $10 in MS63 and less than $20 in MS65. If you want something a bit different from all the other clad/silver dates, the 1970-D was issued only in Mint Sets, had a low mintage of 2,150,000, and is valued at $12.50 in MS63, $100 in MS65.

33. Kennedy Clad Bicentennial Half Dollars (1776-1976). Like the quarters I talked about last month, the reverse of the half dollar was changed to an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia to celebrate the bicentennial of the nation’s founding and the obverse bore the dual dates of 1776-1976. With a bit of roll searching, you should be able to find one of these in circulation. They list for less than $20 in MS65.

34. Kennedy Clad Half Dollars. Any clad Kennedy half dollar before 2001 will do for this type. Again, you should be able to find a suitable example with a little roll searching, or you can purchase one for less than $20 in MS65.

35. Morgan Dollar. With a design by George T. Morgan, these are large, contain 90% silver, and are very popular with collectors. Between 1901 and 1921, the least expensive dates for type are 1901-O at $80 in MS63 and the 1921 at $85 in the same grade.

36. Peace Dollar, 1921 High Relief. Anthony de Francisci’s design for a Peace dollar proved too difficult to mint in High Relief, rendering this date a one-year type coin. Although the mintage was substantial (1,006,473), because of its type status, the coin is pricy in all grades. An XF40 is a $300 coin, but you won’t save much by dropping to a lower grade. In MS63, the listed value is $1,350!

37. Peace Dollar, Low Relief. Any date other than 1921 will do for this type. A few of the early Philadelphia dates list for less than $100 in MS63 (1922, 1923, 1924, 1925).

Eisenhower

38. Eisenhower Dollar, Eagle Reverse. Frank Gasparro designed this large dollar coin to honor both President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the first landing of a man on the moon. Minted from 1971-1974 and in 1977 and 1978, the clad Ike dollars were mostly coined in large enough numbers that you should be able to get one for type for less than $10 in MS63. They may even be available occasionally for face value at your local bank.

39. Eisenhower Dollar, Bicentennial Issue (1776-1976). Like the quarter and half dollar, the dollar coin gained a special reverse design to celebrate the country’s Bicentennial. This consisted of the Liberty Bell superimposed on the moon in a design created by Dennis R. Williams. MS63 values of most of these are less than $10.

40. Susan B. Anthony, 1979-1981, 1999. With a design by Frank Gasparro, this was the first of the small dollar experiments. Like later efforts, this coin didn’t circulate to any great extent. Because of its diminutive size, color, and edge reeding, it was easily confused with the quarter. In addition, as long as the BEP keeps churning out dollar bills, people will continue to use them in preference to a dollar coin. Most Anthony dollars are available in MS65 for $20 or less.

Sacagawea

41. Sacagawea Dollar, 2000. The coin’s obverse design by Glenna Goodacre depicts Native American Sacagawea carrying her infant son on her back. Sacagawea served the Lewis and Clark Expedition as both interpreter and guide. The eagle in flight on the reverse was the work of Mint sculptor-engraver Thomas D. Rogers, Sr. When issued, the coins had a golden hue and a plain edge to distinguish them from other similar-sized coins. The so-called “golden dollars” achieved the same degree of success in circulation as the previous effort, which is to say, virtually none. An MS65 example of this first year of the series should be available for $10 or less.

The Sacagawea dollar brings to a close the non-gold part of a 20th century type set, and we come now to 20th century regularly issued U.S. gold. The biggest difficulty in putting together a gold type set is cost. Even the smallest of the gold issues, the quarter eagle ($2.50 face value), contains .12094 ounces of pure gold. With gold well over $1,800 an ounce as I write this, the dime-sized quarter eagle is worth more than $220 for its gold content alone.

The pandemic may have provided a silver lining for your numismatic purchases, however. You may have been able to put aside more cash to spend on your coin collection. If you’ve been working from home, you’ve probably been saving money that you would have spent eating out or visiting your local Starbucks. With movie theaters closed, that’s another expense you don’t have. If you’re limited to driving to the nearest big box store, you may have been saving money on transportation expenses as well. And other than truckers, who drives across country anymore?

42. Quarter Eagle ($2.50 Gold Piece), Liberty Head. This lengthy series (1840-1907) bears Christian Gobrecht’s venerable design. Focusing on the 20th century dates, the first one, 1901, had the lowest mintage (91,100). All of the dates have the same CM values ranging from $495 in XF40 to $660 in MS63. For the gold issues, I would urge you to purchase only coins certified by the major services (ANACS, NGC, PCGS).

On eBay, I found slim pickings for the 1901 date. A few were uncertified, and the most reasonably priced certified example was a coin graded MS64 by PCGS listed for $839.99 postpaid. The price on another PCGS MS64 piece struck me as outrageous at $3,450. It did have a CAC (Certified Acceptance Corporation) sticker, which is thought to add about 10% to a coin’s value. Coincidentally, I just received the latest pricing guide for CAC coins, and the 1901 is listed at $949 in MS64. As high as the dealer’s price is for the coin, he also requires $27 for shipping costs! I’m beginning to think the $839.99 coin is a bargain.

At any rate, if you can’t find the 1901 at a reasonable price for its grade, any of the other dates through 1907 would be good for the type.

43. Quarter Eagle, Indian Head. The first U.S. gold coin I ever held was a circulated Indian Head quarter eagle. I thought Bela Lyon Pratt’s design was fantastic then, and I still feel that way more than 65 years later. Minted between 1908 and 1929, this is a set you might consider collecting in its entirety.

For type, however, most any date will do. CM indicates that with one exception (1911-D), all list for just $505 in AU50. In MS63, the least expensive dates are all the ones in the 1920s (1925-D, 1926-1929), which are valued at $700 each. Most of the ones I found on eBay were priced a bit more than $700 but not significantly so.

44. Half Eagle ($5 Gold Piece), Liberty Head. The Liberty Head half eagles minted between 1901 and 1908 have the same design as the quarter eagles of the same vintage, but they contain twice as much gold. Surprisingly, however, the values aren’t twice as much, as all of the dates between 1901 and 1908 have a value of $600 in AU50. With a couple of exceptions, all of the dates in this range list for $750 in MS63. The ones I saw on eBay in this grade were mostly priced above $800.

Indian Half Eagle

45. Half Eagle, Indian Head. Minted between 1908 and 1929, the half eagles share the quarter eagle’s Indian Head design by Pratt. Although a few of the dates are scarce and quite expensive (e.g., 1909-S and 1929), most have the same $750 value in AU50. In MS63, however, the least expensive dates list for more than $1,000.

Certified AU50 Indian Head half eagles on eBay were priced around $850 each. A few had problems, however, and you should avoid these for your type set.

Eagle

46. Eagle ($10 Gold Piece), Liberty Head. Liberty Head eagles were minted between 1838 and 1907. As before, the coins were designed by Christian Gobrecht. In this denomination, there are no dates with values below $1,000, and it would make sense to look for the least expensive MS63 you can find if you’re trying to save money.

Looking at mintages, there are some dates between 1901 and 1907 with low mintages that have listed values not that much different from their counterparts with copious mintages. For example, only 82,400 1902 eagles were minted, yet it lists for just $1,475 in MS63. I found one on eBay in that grade for $100 more that looked like a nice coin for type.

47. Eagle, Indian Head, No Motto on Reverse (1907-1908). Here we have an Indian Head gold piece designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, not Bela Lyon Pratt. As such, it’s not a realistic depiction of an Indian. Instead of a reeded edge, the coin features raised stars, 46 at first, then 48 on 1912 and later dates. The coin has a magnificent eagle on the reverse.

Because this design is found on a very limited number of halfway affordable dates (1907 No Motto and No Periods, 1908 No Motto, 1908-D No Motto), finding one for your type set may be difficult. With the largest mintage (239,406), the 1907 may be the best bet. According to CM, it’s worth $1,273 in AU50 and $2,450 in MS63. On eBay, I found a PCGS-certified AU58 for a bit over $1,700 and an MS63 for about $3,400. Another possibility would be to skip this type entirely and settle for one of the next type.

48. Eagle, Indian Head, Motto on Reverse. Here, you have lots of different dates and even a few with mintages of more than a million pieces (i.e., 1910-D, 1926, 1932). CM values are $1,273 for an AU50 and $1,700 for an MS63. The least expensive certified examples on eBay cost about $1,366 for an MS61, $1,377 for an MS62, and $1,460 for an MS63. I think I would pay the extra $100 and get an MS63 example.

Double Eagle

49. Double Eagle ($20 Gold Piece), Liberty Head. James B. Longacre designed the long-running Liberty Head double eagle. The series began in 1849 and ended in 1907. Several of the date/mintmark combinations between 1901 and 1907 had sizable mintages of more than a million pieces. All of the combinations list for $2,020 in AU50 and several are valued at $2,140 in MS63. The 1901, with a mintage of only 111,430, would be a good choice if you could find one.

On eBay, the least expensive 1901 listed was priced at $3,620 for a PCGS-graded MS64 example. I found additional common dates (e.g., 1904, 1904-S) priced around $2,100 for an MS62 and $2,232 for an MS63. Any of these would be fine for type.

50. Double Eagle, Saint-Gaudens, Arabic Numerals, No Motto (1907-1908). As the Red Book puts it, “Many consider the twenty-dollar gold piece designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens to be the most beautiful U.S. coin.” The first versions of this design were struck in either High-Relief or Ultra High-Relief, and these will not be considered here because of scarcity and value.

Saints with Arabic numerals and without the motto IN GOD WE TRUST were minted in 1907 and 1908. The most common of these, 1908, is valued at $2,041 in AU50 and $2,155 in MS63. On eBay, I found MS62 examples priced at $2,087 and MS63 coins for only $11 more. Obviously, you should opt for the higher grade for type.

51. Double Eagle, Saint-Gaudens, With Motto. The motto was added in 1908, and any date with the motto would be appropriate for the type. The least expensive examples, according to CW, list for $2,041 in AU50 and $2,132 in MS63. Given that small a range in values, I would recommend the MS63 grade. On eBay, I found two common dates, 1924 and 1927, listed for $2,099 in MS63.

There you have it, a list of 51 different types for a 20th century type collection, most available without too much financial pain. I suspect you’ll discover as you obtain the coins that some of the designs strike you as more attractive than others. If that’s the case, you may decide to pursue the series in its entirety.

Although I haven’t mentioned them, many of the coins in this list are available as proofs, often for prices the same as or less than the coins made for circulation. If you find them more attractive, feel free to include them in your set.

I could tell you the coins that I particularly like, but I suspect you’ve figured most of them out by reading these articles. Good luck in assembling your type collection. I guarantee you’ll be proud of the result.