By Stewart HuckabyRe-posted with Permission by Heritage Auctions

About a year ago, I wrote an article in this space about Type Sets, and some of the considerations involved in putting them together. At a recent coin club meeting, I decided to talk a bit about some of the topics I had covered in the article, but beyond that, I decided to do a little bit of research to cover the question — what are the best coins to put into a type set?

For a coin to be a good type coin, it should have three things:

  • Quality. It should come nice, or at least be readily available nice.
  • Availability. By and large, type coins are very common.
  • Low price. Most of us are looking for maximum quality at the lowest possible price.

There are some series where the ideal type coin is obvious; the Liberty double eagle and the Buffalo nickel immediately come to mind. Often, good type coins will come from either the first or the last year of the series, when coins are more likely to be saved.

Other times, sheer availability, often notable by a high mintage, dictates what a good type coin is, and there are some series where one date is simply better produced than others.

In addition, the definition of a good type coin can change based on what quality level you want in terms of grade or strike; the most available coin in MS65 might not be available at all in MS67.

I reviewed population figures from the major grading services for the US coin series that extended into the 20th century, stopping at about 1964.

Here are some of the coins you might target to complete your collection:

Indian Cents:

This generally requires three coins, including the 1859 as a one year type. The copper-nickel variety produced from 1860-64 is well-represented by the 1861 or 1862, while the most available bronze cent in grades above MS65 Red is the 1902.

Lincoln Cents:

Again, you will probably need three coins. One of them will be the 1909 VDB for reasons that should be obvious if you’ve ever compared its prices with its San Francisco mint counterpart. Thankfully, it comes nice, being one of the most available coins in the series in grades up to MS66 Red. You’ll need a steel cent, and the good news on these is that they all come very nice, with the 1943-D probably the best of the bunch. And while it fairly easy to find, and sometimes even cherrypick, outstanding examples of many dates among the bronze coins, the most commonly certified Lincoln Wheat cent in MS65-MS67 red is the 1955-S.

Liberty Nickel:

1883 No Cents is a one year type that you’ll probably want regardless of whether you can find it in a high grade. Thankfully, it is, by a huge margin, easily the most common coin in the series in all high grades up to MS67, and it is also the least expensive in such grades. 1903 is the most available With Cents nickel in high grades up to MS66; anything nicer is tough to find from any date.

Buffalo Nickel:

You want two coins here and they’re pretty obvious — the 1913 Type 1 for its mound reverse and the 1938-D. Both come very nice, and neither circulated much.

Jefferson Nickel:

Before the design changes of 2004-2006, there were only two varieties generally collected from this series: nickels with the normal copper-nickel composition and wartime nickels. Early Denver mint nickels are generally either well-preserved, well-struck, or both. If you’re looking for grade without regard to strike, the 1938-D Is the best-certified copper-nickel coin; the 1941-D is more common in high grades with full steps. War nickels were generally very well produced, and the 1943-D or 1944-D should fit the bill here.

Barber Dime:

1892 and 1911 are generally the most available in high grades. Several others are almost as common.

Mercury Dime:

1944-D in grades up to MS67 with or without full bands. 1945-S in MS68, and 1939-D in MS68 (or higher!) with full bands.

Roosevelt Dime:

1946-S is the most common silver coin in the series in MS67; if you want full bands, try the 1950-D.

Barber Quarter:

1916-D in Gem. 1892 is a close second choice in MS65 and the first choice in higher grades

Standing Liberty Quarter:

1917 is an easy choice for Type One; besides being readily available in high grades, it comes fully struck. 1930 is probably the choice for Type Two, although the 1930-S is more common in MS67 if you don’t need the full head.

Washington Quarter:

1958 is the most commonly certified silver coin in the series in MS66-67.
1881-S $1 MS68 NGC
1881-S $1 MS68 NGC

Barber Half:

1892 is a clear choice in any grade from MS63 up.

Walking Liberty Half:

Stick to the short set (1941-47). There is no standout choice overall, although 1946-D, 1943, and 1941 can all be good choices depending on the level of quality you want.

Franklin Half:

Anything dated 1958. The D is your choice if looking for strike.

Morgan Dollar:

1881-S is the most common in high grades; 1880-S is almost as common and comes a bit nicer.

Peace Dollar:

1923 is most common in nice grades up to MS66; 1925 is most available in MS67

Liberty quarter eagle:

1907 is an easy choice.

Indian quarter eagle:

1925-D is the most common coin in the series in MS65; in higher grades, 1908 is the choice.

Liberty half eagle:

1901-S or 1899

Indian half eagle:

If you’re targeting MS64, choose the 1909-D. 1908 is the choice in higher grades. The low mintage 1908-S is as available as any coin in the series in MS66 and MS67, but you’ll need to pay a premium if you want one.

Liberty eagle:

1901-S is a clear choice.

Indian eagle:

1932 is the choice if you’re looking for a Gem, but in higher grades you probably want the 1907 no motto.

Liberty double eagle:

1904 because of overwhelming numbers in any collectible grade.

Saint-Gaudens double eagle:

1924 up to MS66, but in higher grades you’ll probably want a 1908 no motto. Of course, no 20th century gold type set will be complete without a high relief; if you’re in the market, buy the best one you can afford (or win our annual survey contest!).

Keep in mind that these suggestions were compiled based on population reports from the major grading services. With some of the newer series, it might very well be possible to cherry-pick outstanding raw examples, sometimes for a fraction of the price of what a certified coin would cost.

There is, of course, no requirement that you complete your type selection with common coins; if you choose to put together your type collection with key dates, then more power to you — and we’ll definitely want to talk to you when you are ready to sell!


  1. Thank you, Mr. Huckaby. This is a well-written article, and it contains good, clear information for a beginner such as I am.