Do you have a list of coins you would love to add to your collection, but you realize you’ll never be able to get? For example, do you collect Lincoln cents but will never be able to afford a 1909-S VDB in a grade that would match your other coins? In my case, one of the earliest such coins was a decent 1901-S Barber quarter. At one point, I had a circulated set of Barber dimes, quarters, and half dollars with a single hole: the 1901-S quarter. I never filled that hole.
On CoinTalk recently, I ran across a thread headed similar to the title of this column. For most of us, there are many coins we would like to have, but it would be futile to add them to our list. I’m thinking specifically of coins such as the 1927-D Saint-Gaudens double eagle, the 1804 silver dollar, the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, and the 1894-S Barber dime.
These fantastic and super expensive rarities weren’t the coins that the framer of the question (the original poster or OP) had on his list. The coins he felt he would never obtain included the 1877 and 1909-S Indian cents, the 1909-S VDB and 1955 Doubled Die Lincoln cents, and the 1916-D Mercury dime. In fact, his list consisted mainly of the key coins in popularly collected series.
The first response to OP came from a collector with about as much experience with coins as I have, which is more than 60 years. He wrote, “I don’t have a list of coins I’ll NEVER get. My list is of coins I’ll ONLY get if (when!?) I hit one of those lotteries. Of course, that’s VERY close [to impossible], but not equal to never.”
Another respondent wrote that the two coins at the top of his list were a 1915-S $50 Pan-Pac Octagonal gold piece and a 1905 Lewis and Clark gold dollar. These two commemorative gold pieces are in dramatically different categories price-wise, with the $50 coin worth $81,000 in MS-63 and the $1 coin worth $1,200 in the same grade. Values are from “Coin Market” in Numismatic News.
Another respondent put it more succinctly: “The Red Book is all of my lists in one. The list of ones I have, want, and can’t afford (i.e., not pursuing).”
A few respondents expressed a willingness to accept coins on their “Never” lists with problems. For example, one wrote, “I didn’t think I’d ever get a 1916 Standing Liberty 25c or 1918/7-S overdate, but I found a 1916 (Fr02 damaged) ... and then saved up/got a promotion and found an NGC 18/7-S overdate recently that sold relatively low at auction... (holed/cleaned VF details) ...” He also purchased a 1923-S 25c that was VF-30 but corroded and cleaned. “I think the key for me in not thinking the things I want are out of reach is that I don’t aspire too high.”
In a similar vein, another respondent said that he didn’t think he would get a 1793 Liberty Cap large cent but that he might “... get very, very lucky and find one with the date worn off and a huge bisecting die crack in a junk bin one day. You never know.”
Some respondents took a pragmatic approach to coins on such a list. One wrote, “If a coin [on my list] pops up I just stop spending. I eat less, cook all my meals, plan trips to use less gas, etc. I save wherever I can and before I know it, I buy that coin. A never own list is not in my vocabulary.”
Another collector in the “never say never” category spoke from experience. “When I was younger, I was not sure I would ever own gold, yet I worked hard, [got] promotions, etc., and today maybe I own 50-70 of them. Life can change, finances can change. Key is to still be knowledgeable about them, and if affordability changes be in a position to get what you want.” He added: “Plus, dirty little secret, that list will never go away. Just because you buy some from your wish list, you will add others.”
Another respondent focused on the “impossible list,” citing such coins as the 1870-S half dime (unique), the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, the 1885 Trade dollar (5 minted), the 1804 dollar, and the 1933 double eagle. At the end of his list of 10 impossibilities, he noted, “I think there are thousands of coins I’ll never own.”
For coins he would never get, one writer mentioned coins of a particular metallic composition: gold. “I HATE that ... yellow color.” As for coins he would probably never get, he listed the 1796 and 1797 half dollars. These are dates with values close to $30,000 in AG-3. “I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of spending more on a coin than I did on my house.” I say “Amen” to that.
Yet another respondent wrote, “A Never Get List’ is a defeatist attitude I was never introduced to. As a family, we were guided by our parents to always strive to achieve, not fail… Do your best to effect positive changes in your life to hopefully get you to succeed and accomplish the lofty goals that don’t always come [easily].” Now, that’s an attitude to applaud.
One collector talked specifically, and negatively, about classic commemoratives, those minted from 1892 through 1954. “As far as ones I could get but just won’t, I generally avoid classic commems, as they seem to lose value even in hot markets...”
The string ended with the following comment: “I never worry about the coins that I won’t have and concentrate on the ones I’m going to get. The ones that I own that I thought I’d never get, I found a way and made it happen.”
Perhaps the best lesson to learn as a coin collector is that there’s no way you’ll ever be able to obtain all the coins you might desire to own. Either they’re too expensive, not available, or you simply won’t live long enough to fulfill the collection of your dreams.
In other words, be content with what you have and keep your eyes and pocketbook open for coins you want. Bottom line: Enjoy your collecting adventure.