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Coin Collecting Terminology – Is it a Widget Coin and What does that Mean?

By Doug Winter  – ……

What is a Widget Coin?

One of the newer catch-all coin terms that’s been making the rounds is widget coin or simply “widgets” This is a derogatory term meaning a coin that is common, boring, and lacking in character. I would primarily characterize a widget coin as something that is generic in nature. No one goes out and says “I’m putting together a collection of widget coins,” but then again, the definition of this term seems a bit vague to me.

I thought it might be helpful to take a random array of United States gold coins, describe them and posit as to if they qualify as widgets or non-widgets.

Widget coin 1. 1905 Quarter Eagle Graded MS65 by NGC. Even though this is in theory a relatively scarce coin, I think it qualifies as a widget coin. It has no real character to speak of and it is a coin that lacks any real collectors as end-users. I think that in order for a coin to be considered as a non-widget it has to have a solid collector base as opposed to being an investor-dominated type or series.

The exact same coin with some cool mint-made copper spots or extremely deep Prooflike fields becomes more interesting. A 1905 quarter eagle in MS65 with exceptional multi-hued color or one that is designated by NGC as being DMPL is actually not a widget.

2. The same coin but in MS63, raw and enclosed in an old presentation box with a note that reads “To Son, with love from your father Xmas 1905.” The presentation box makes this a unique item and gives it character. So, I’d have to say that this coin, even though it is worth less than the coin mentioned above, is not a widget coin.

3. 1859-D Quarter Eagle, Graded VG-8 by PCGS. Yes, its a low grade coin. But it is scarce in any grade and the fact that it is a Dahlonega quarter eagle that somehow circulated for years makes it (at least to me) fascinating. It is clearly not a widget.

4. 1859-D Quarter Eagle, Graded MS61 by PCGS. Sounds like a cool coin, right? But what if said coin is covered with deep artificial color and it looks like the Deep Southern first-cousin to a Cheeto? Is it a widget? This is a tough question to answer. I would personally say that it is not a widget but at the same time it is not a coin that a connoisseur would want to own. It may actually look nice after being conserved. But I would have a hard-time calling this coin a widget.

5. 1927 St. Gaudens Double Eagle, Graded MS66 by NGC. High grade, pretty coin, etc. etc but still the ultimate widget.

6. Same coin, same grade but now with a CAC sticker. Here’s another tough call. The CAC sticker shows it is a nice coin for the grade and I doubt if 10% of all the 1927 Saints that have been sent to CAC have been approved. But its still a widget, albeit an accurately grade one.

7. Same coin, same grade, same CAC sticker but now in an old green label holder. I’d vote that the coin while “witget-y” is no longer a widget. The old PCGS holder gives it some character and, all of a sudden, a level of demand that wouldn’t exist if the coin were in a fresh, new holder.

8. An 1861-D gold dollar with a hole at 12:00. I’m not a fan of damaged coins and a gold dollar with a hole in it ranks pretty low on my list of coins to buy for inventory. But the rarity of the 1861-D makes it deisrable in virtually any grade. If the hole were small and not not overly crude and I could still see the date and mintmark, I’d buy this coin (as long as it were reasonably priced). It is most definitely not a widget.

9. A recently conserved PR66 Indian Head half eagle. Even though this is an expensive ($40,000+) coin, it is a coin whose value is predicated more on its appearance than on its grade. I would rather own a PR63 Indian Head half eagle with nice original color but a few shiny spots than a PR66 with no semblance of originality.

One of the points I’m trying to get across here is that a coin can be worth $50 and be a cool, numismatically desirable item while another coin can be worth $100,000 and be an expensive widget.

What are some coins that are expensive that you feel are widgets? And what are some inexpensive coins that you find to be very interesting and far from widgethood? Leave some comments below and let’s talk widgets!

Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

Doug Winter
Doug Winter
Doug Winter founded Douglas Winter Numismatics (DWN) in 1985. The nationally renowned firm specializes in buying and selling rare United States gold coins. He has written over a dozen books, including the standard references on Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans gold coinage, and Type 1 Liberty Head Double Eagles. Douglas has also contributed to the A Guidebook of United States Coins, Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins, Q. David Bowers’ Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, and Andrew Pollock’s United States Pattern and Related Issues. He is a member of the PNG, the ANA, the ANS, the NLG, CAC, PCGS, and NGC - among other professional affiliations. Contact Doug Winter at [email protected].

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  1. You make a good point. Widgets may be expensive but are so boring. I try to populate my type collection with non-widgets.

    Widget: A generic 1907 No Periods Indian $10 graded MS65 by NGC or PCGS. I don’t think I will ever bother to buy one of these.

    Not Widget: A semi-prooflike 1885 gold dollar with full LIBERTY on the headdress and graded MS65 Star by NGC with a CAC sticker. Cost me about a quarter of what I would have to pay for a generic MS65 1907 Indian $10, but so much more yummy!

  2. I am not in the same gold coin league as you Doug, but I’ll try to add my two cents in regards to my date & mm silver coin collecting. I read on a message board post many years ago that “every coin in your set should stand on its own”. I’ve tried to follow that advice, and I think that it has helped me avoid “widgets” for certain dates. When I do have a coin that classifies as a widget – I at least have a nice collectible coin for the date.


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