CoinWeek Podcast #152: Completing a DANSCO 7070
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Charles Morgan and Chris Bulfinch start off this episode of the CoinWeek Podcast discussing the recent high price paid for a coin in a very early PCGS holder and issues surrounding the potential redesign of U.S. Currency.
After that, Charles and Chris break down everything you need to know about completing various DANSCO albums, culminating with the DANSCO 7070 coin album.
The DANSCO 7070, also known as the United States Type album, collects one example of most major types of U.S. coins struck from 1800 onward.
This was always a deceptively difficult album for most collectors to put together, but it’s made even more difficult considering most higher-end classic U.S. coins are now encapsulated in certified holders.
Charles and Chris believe that spectacular coins should stay protected in encapsulated holders, but a certain type of coin makes a perfect candidate for a DANSCO album.
If you’ve ever wanted to complete a DANSCO 7070 album, this episode is for you!
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The following is a transcript of Charles’ and Chris’s conversation
Charles Morgan: I’m with Chris Bulfinch. I’m Charles Morgan, CoinWeek editor. We’re going to do Part Two of a conversation about collecting coins and albums, folders, what have you. In the first part we talked about collecting coins from circulation, pulling them out of change at face value putting them in— let’s just say, entry-level coin folders, something many collectors do at one point in their collecting experience.
We’re going to amp that up a little bit in this conversation. Today, we’re going to talk about, let’s just say a more advanced approach or more thoughtful approach to doing this, by putting them in more protective coin albums. For the purposes of our conversation, we’re going to talk about the Dansco Albums, as I have a few here at my office. However, Lighthouse makes albums, Littleton makes albums, there’s Intercept albums, other albums you can buy other than Dansco. Dansco has been a hobby staple for several decades. They were actually the makers of the albums for the FAO series, a series I collect. We’re going to talk specifically about US coins today.
Before we get into that, Chris and I have a few little pieces of information that happened in the news. We’ll start with Chris talking about a very crazy price for a 1962 Proof Franklin half dollar.
Chris Bulfinch: Yeah. GreatCollections have recently auctioned off a Franklin half dollar that on its face doesn’t really seem all that remarkable. It’s a 1962, like Charles said. The coin is certified Proof 65 by PCGS, which is not a remarkable grade, and 1962 isn’t really a remarkable coin. It was struck pretty late in the series’ life, it was retired after 1963. To look at, on its face, there’s nothing really remarkable about it but it’s sold for this massive price because of its holder. This whole story inverts the old numismatic truism that you should buy the coin, not the holder. The coin is in a White Label Rattler, which is a first-generation PCGS holder. This is among the first coins encapsulated by the service. The full certification number is 1080333, which some think might allude to this being the 333rd coin that the service certified, but what is known definitively is that it is among the first 350 graded by the service. Such an early holder, and this coin being one of the first-ever encapsulated, that apparently appealed to people enough that 31 bids were recorded, and it ultimately sold for $3,612, which is a pretty remarkable price. That was a really neat story.
I’ve heard about people paying a lot of money for coins, and really in older-generation holders among the earliest buy the different services. So, this offer is really a vivid illustration of how much a holder can be worth.
Charles: Well, when you think about it, I mean, one of the things that attracts people to coins is rarity. We’ve had commenters who were– I don’t know, maybe even use the word offended, but maybe surprised and had a sense of, I don’t want the coin hobby to be going this way, and what kind of person would pay such a price for a coin like this? I think I’m being a little bit polite. But the reality is that, like numismatics, there’s pretty much no wrong way to do it. If you go into it, because you think the holders themselves are an interesting and collectible part of the numismatic hobby, then guess what? You’re probably right. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen a White Rattler with that low of a certain number. Over the course of the next 10 years, you’re not going to find the other 300 first graded coins from PCGS. I’m reminded of the prototype black core holder that I was able to review from Mark Salzberg collection when NGC was just starting to formulate what its holder would look like. It had a Saint Gaudens $20 gold coin in it, but if you put that coin in that holder on the market at a major auction, who’s to say it wouldn’t bring heavy multiples over what the coin’s value would be just for the fact that it’s a unique item, it’s the very first NGC holder coin ever, as they were formulating what their brand would look like.
With the White Rattler, you’re seeing the beginning of a very important period of numismatic history, just like Colonel Green’s coin records came up for sale, people would pay for his books just to see what he bought and what he thought of them. Or, when the Newman collection was marketed, the coin envelopes that belong to Green were part of the pedigree and they were included in the sale. People do care about packaging. In this case, the packaging happens to be plastic with a white computer-printed insert. It’s a really cool price. If it was a really interesting coin, not a common Proof Franklin half dollar, who’s to say the price would have been even higher?
Chris: It probably would have been really high. I wonder if the prices would go up or down if you could positively identify the order in which the coins were certified. Just for my own personal curiosity, I’d love to know what the first coin ever certified by PCGS was. Before the show, I went through a few Google searches and read a few articles on the grading company’s websites to try to figure out what was the first coin that they created and I didn’t find anything, but which I didn’t– obviously, I wasn’t looking particularly hard.
Charles: I don’t know what the first US coin they graded is, but I do in fact know what the first World coin they graded was.
Chris: Oh, really? Wait, well, what is that? I’m curious.
Charles: It was the 1911 pattern Canadian dollar.
Chris: Oh, really? No, that’s a cool coin.
Charles: Yeah, they did a big full-page display on it in The Numismatist when they announced that they were accepting world coins, so that was the first coin they graded. I’m pretty sure the first American coin they graded wasn’t a major rarity.
Chris: No, it was just something that someone submitted that wasn’t particularly rare. I should mention that the final price was $3,612.38, in case that extra 38 cents makes any difference to our listeners. Yeah, I also wonder, not only about the first coins that they certify, but if you found the 10th coin, would it command a significantly higher premium than this coin? I don’t know how many old White Rattlers are out there, and obviously, they command a pretty serious premium. I guess, whoever’s collection of that coin came out of, I imagine they’re probably thanking their lucky stars that they didn’t break it out to have it upgraded. It ended up being worth more intact than if they’d cracked it out.
Charles: Well, another thing that happened this week is that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has resumed production of the $100 Federal Reserve Note at its Washington, D.C., facility. The issue had been suspended from production there for nearly a decade due to printing problems. So, every $100 note that would have been produced from 2013 onwards would have been produced at the Fort Worth, Texas facility. This may or may not matter to collectors of paper money in the sense that the very current issues may not be something they’re collecting today, but collectors in the future will probably make note of this important change and development. I’m sure the notes will not be immediately available for circulation but may come out at a future point. It’s not clear to me when that’s scheduled to happen. But that’s certainly a development, the old money factory in Washington, D.C., getting our highest circulating denomination of paper money back into production.
Chris: Do you have any sense as to why they were only printing them at Fort Worth? Is there was there a reason for it, or that’s just how [crosstalk]
Charles: I think there was a printing error that what was happening with the series 2009 notes, and that they had an Office of the Inspector General report look into it to try to figure out what was going on? They were trying to remedy the issue. There were different solvents that they were trying to use. It just turned out that the Fort Worth facility was able to print the notes and the D.C. facility wasn’t. It took apparently quite a bit of time for the approval process to get underway and for them to get to the point where they could print the notes. That may be one of the things that is factored into whatever redesigns or updates to the notes that are probably scheduled on a fairly routine basis, given the fact that advanced printing technology can easily counterfeit most of the older forms of currency. Who knows, I mean, the United States has used a cloth paper formulation for its paper money for quite some time, even as other countries have gradually slipped into polymer notes and other technology. I wonder if at some point we’ll follow suit or we’ll keep our traditional paper in place.
We want to get into basically a discussion of the strategies that may work best for you when it comes to putting together maybe a better collection of coins and albums. I would say that this is an intermediate step between taking coins out of circulation at face value and accepting what you find, and buying coins in certified holders with a focus on the precise grade of the coin. I have probably six or eight Dansco albums. Have you ever put one of these items together, Chris?
Chris: No, I never have. That’s something that I think I always meant to do and never had the presence of mind to just pick up a folder and just start getting type coins. I never have, but at some point in the next year or so, I’d like to just get a couple of Dansco albums and start, but to answer your question, I haven’t.
Charles: The interesting thing is putting a Dansco album is really about the process. The least fulfilling ones that I’ve ever completed have been the Eisenhower dollar one, The Susan B. Anthony dollar one. Any album that you can essentially buy your way through and one trip to the coin shop, in the long term, isn’t really going to feel that satisfying to you.
Chris: Well, you can buy them already assembled. There are dealers who have a full set of– to pick a coin we were talking about earlier in the show, you can buy full uncirculated sets of Franklin halves.
Charles: Yeah. No. I would never do it. I would just never–
Chris: Nor would I. I’m just saying that they do sell a complete Dansco album. You could either put it together yourself at a shop or at a show or you could buy completed, but again, I wouldn’t endorse buying a completed album either.
Charles: Yeah. Well, there’s a couple reasons. First off, the cost associated with it. Let’s say you’re going to get a Franklin half dollar, well, every Franklin half dollar is made out of 90% silver. So, you have many ounces of silver that you’re dealing with, from 1948 to 1963. The coin dealer gets to pick which coins to put in the album. They’re doing it in a package deal for the indiscriminate buyer. Even if they’re saying, they’re BU or choice BU, what does that really mean? I mean, that doesn’t always mean to you–
Chris: Broad range of grades.
Charles: Yeah. In that respect, you basically at that point, you didn’t buy coins, you bought a product, a finished product. I don’t know how much attention you’re going to pay to it or how much the journey is going to mean anything to you, if you open your priority mailbox in the mail and you have everything done. I felt that way, like I said, about the $8 Dansco I put together because pretty much I had all the coins lying around. They’re all Mint State, because I had a Registry Set collection of Ike dollars and these were ones that I didn’t get graded. I didn’t go crack out my MS-67 clads to put them in a Dansco album. These were not as good as my Set Registry set. It was very easy to put together.
I have in front of me though three sets that I have been working on for 15 years, I haven’t even finished. One is a Jefferson nickel set, which isn’t really that difficult to assemble. None of the coins are all that rare. We talked about this last week. In my set, this would go from the beginning of the series, the 1938, and I think the last ones I put in here were probably 2000… what is this date? 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. 2011 were the last ones I put in here. I have room for 2012, 2013, 2014, up to 2015, I think. Don’t quote me on that. I guess you will.
Charles: But every single one of these coins is a mint set coin. Think about what the cheap mint sets are. You’re talking about the mint sets in the post silver period when they started producing them again in ’68. ’68 to the present, you’re just buying mint sets, you’re cutting them out, you’re putting them in here. That’s a lot of mint sets or you can buy them as individual singles. Coin dealers sometimes will have these two-by-two flips or rolls they sell. You can do it that way. The coins start getting a little tougher once you go before ’64 because you have the silver content. If you’re buying them from mint sets, at a certain point, you’re starting to buy double mint sets and double mint sets have two of every silver coin released that year. A lot of these tend to be toned coins, but if they were original, because the paper tones the coins over time, and those come with a collector premium, and so you may pay $200 or $300 per mint set, which means that you have all these other coins, and not just the nickel.
You may decide to buy those coins as singles, and then again, you’re running into the same situation that I find. People who market coins as Uncirculated don’t always have Uncirculated coins. This is why grading services exist, folks, because the seller always has a tendency or commercial benefit to oversell the coin. Then when you get the coins in hand, you may say, “This is a slider, or this has been dipped or cleaned or whatever.”
One of the things I noticed about nickels, they all tone. They will all discolor. They typically turn yellow after a while. Anyway, in this case, the thing that’s holding me back is, probably going to hold a lot of you back as you start, the early issues, like I said the pre– in this case, it’s the pre-’60 issues. Each one of these coins I’ve had to buy individually. You see there are quite a few holes, especially when you get into the war nickel set. But the Jefferson nickels, it’s a cool series to put together. I would say as far as a challenge is concerned, there’s not going to be a single mint set coin in here that’s going to cost you more than maybe $15, $20. Not very many are going to be in that price range. A lot of these are going to get for under $1. Even with that, it’s taken a while.
Chris: I’m curious, were you looking for coins with Full Steps? Was that a requirement that you impose on yourself or were you just Mint State, out of a mint set, you didn’t need the steps?
Charles: I was basically looking for Mint State with a good amount of luster, like attractive coins. Like, I wasn’t– I used to– When I was making my Eisenhower dollar Registry Set, I wasn’t just buying a coin that was pre-done. A lot of times, I was making the coin. What I mean by that is, I was going out, buying a lot of mint sets. I was breaking them down. Every mint set that I’ve ever bought off of eBay or from a coin dealer, I’ve actually cut up. I’m not alone in that respect. I think a lot of collectors do this, which means that you can take the original mintage from any given year, and count on many of these sets being destroyed over time. The coin is being broken out. Sometimes, someone only collects a half dollar, while they get the mint set, they grab their half dollar, they cut it out and the rest of the whatever. Sometimes, the coins go into circulation, sometimes they just put them in rolls or whatever.
I had a system, I would break down every single set I bought, even if I didn’t like the coins, because I didn’t want to ever buy them again in the market. I felt like if I was looking for Eisenhower dollars, the typical Eisenhower dollar for any given year, the mint set’s going to be an MS-64, maybe or lower. I didn’t want to buy that set again, pay the shipping again, go through the hassle of selling it, taking a loss, then buying it again as somebody bundled it together, thinking that I was trying to find better coins. The way I avoided that is, I never bought the same set again, because those sets didn’t exist after I got my hands on them. And so, I would just put all the uncirculated coins I didn’t like into tubes, I would sell the tubes. Problem solved.
Chris: Yeah, it’s not a bad strategy. That way, you’re still making a little bit of money, and you can recoup some or, depending on what you sell them for, all of your initial investment.
Charles: Right. So I would do that. I think over the course of maybe three or four years I was actually doing this, I probably broke down about 1,800 or 1,900 mint sets from 1973 to 1981. So, I know– I can personally vouch for people who did way more destruction of sets than that. A collector friend of mine, who we talked about in the last podcast, who was finding the Eisenhower dollar rolls, he probably broke down 10, 15 times what I did. That’s for the Jefferson nickels. I’m not really concerned so much about the Full Steps. I think when you’re getting into full step territory, you really are talking about certified coins because it’s not just your opinion about the steps. I think to really achieve the value that you’re looking for in that situation, you have to go to a third party having that opinion as well.
I also think that for me, I would rather have a really nice coin without the full steps than to have an MS-64 coin with a big hit on Jefferson’s cheek that is one of only three that have been certified with full steps. I don’t fetishize those strike qualities at the expense of the overall quality of the piece.
Chris: Oh, for sure. I was just thinking that specifically with Jefferson nickels, a lot of the early dates, 38, 39, into the 40s, I know that for those coins, it’s somewhat harder to find examples with full steps, just because nickels are fairly hard metal and the dies would wear out relatively quickly. I know that, if you find 38, 39, some of the 40s dates, although the silver alloy was softer than the nickel alloy, that would have an effect but I just knew that some of the earlier ones are hard to find with full steps. I was just curious if that was something you’d been pursuing, but I guess it wasn’t.
Charles: Yeah, not specifically. Here’s another thing though. If you buy, we generally think of mint set coins as being the better coins, earlier die state. A real study of the situation will reveal that you can get very early die state coins in circulation, but most of the coins you will find in circulation from the ’70s and the ’80s will be much later die state. They really rode those dies to oblivion. This is why you look at something like the 1982 No-P dime, which should have had a P on it, but there was a situation where one of the dies did not have the P. As that die progressed, the date actually starts to wear out to the point where I think it’s called the Light Date or whatever, I don’t know what the nomenclature is. There’s a Strong Date and a Weak Date ’82 dime. As the die deteriorates, you see the image of the impression get weaker and weaker.
You’ll see many circulating coins from this period to be of hideous quality. Whereas the mint sets offer more consistently earlier die states of the coins. When it comes to the ’50s issues, and then double mint sets, especially in the nickel, you’ll actually be shocked when you pull the nickels out and you look at the reverses and see the Monticello— it doesn’t even look like it’s an Uncirculated coin, because of how weakly it’s impressed with the image because of the state of the dies they were using by that time before they created new hubs and refreshed the design. It’s really something to see. And then, as you’re putting together your album, if you decide to put a complete set of Jefferson nickels, again, I completely recommend you try, you’ll notice that the strike characteristics of these coins change. Then as you have them all together in this format, you will see when new hubs were put into use, you’ll see the gradual decline of the condition of the dies year to year until they rehub the coins. You get a real good picture of just the way the coinage looked, because you’re going to see them side by side by side, mint by mint, over a period of years.
Chris: You know I imagine, If someone was really dedicated, you could almost do multiple full collections where you try to get examples of different dates that typify or exemplify the different die states. Extraordinarily hard set or group of sets to put together and it would probably take years, if not decades, but that could be interesting just to– Again, like you said, to illustrate the wearing of the die, but anyway.
Charles: Right. Wouldn’t that be a great, meaningful collection? It wouldn’t really be that expensive to do, but it would take years to finish.
Chris: It’d be incredibly meaningful. I could even see that being a cool exhibit at a coin show. You can even do that with just focus on one date, and just try to get coins from all the different states of the die, again, just to illustrate how the dies wear, and then pick out really good examples of different die states and then have high-resolution zoomed-in images, magnified images, alongside the actual physical coins themselves and put them into an exhibit. I think that’d be neat.
Charles: Yeah, no, I think it’d be fascinating. A second album that I’ve been putting together for years, this one’s actually a little harder than the nickel book is the Roosevelt dime with Proof-only issues. Although Proof issues were struck from 1950 to 1964 in silver, those issues were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, and the Dansco organization of the series doesn’t give you a separate spot for those coins. They just expect you to have the business strike. I guess you could have Proofs in there.
Once you get to 1968, the only S-mint issues of that year were proof only. That carried forward pretty much uninterrupted, until you get to 1993, when San Francisco started making silver Proof sets, in addition to the clad proof sets. As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to buy proof issues without buying proof sets. Unless you find a dealer, who breaks them out and sells them as singles. I haven’t really gone that deep into it to try to get every proof clad and silver issue for every date. I have a fairly comprehensive collection of all the mint state issues throughout the series. It’s weird to note this, and I don’t think this was the case when I put these coins in the album, but many of my silver coins are now developing rim toning, blue, purple, red rim toning, as I put them in the album, even a few of the proof issues. I think that has something to do with the content of the paper. I don’t think this is archival paper. If you are going to put silver coins into albums like this, a bug–or a feature—of the situation is to expect some tarnish.
I would imagine with modern coins having this .999 fineness that they’ve switched to, those coins are going to be more reactive to toning than the “dirty” silver of .900 fine. This again, it would be a great fun thing to put together, a lot of interesting coins throughout. I think having, seeing the silver coins is always fun. Like the case with the nickels, I wasn’t really so concerned about Full Torches. I was just looking for brilliant, original, nice luster-y coins when I put this together.
Chris: For any given date in these albums, how many mint sets do you normally have to open before you find coins that either match or that you want to put as your entry for that date?
Charles: Well, for the period of time that I was working in with the Ike dollars, when I was building that set, so that would be ’73 to ’78, because they didn’t have Ike dollars in ’71 or ’72 sets. You know, I think I was probably, I might have had eight or 10 sets, and I would just find the one I liked the most and put it in there. I do have tubes. I mean, we’re talking about the nickels. This is a whole roll here of ’75-D nickels, all in Mint State. This is one of probably 300 or 400 rolls of ’70s, ’80s period uncirculated coins, I just have at my disposal because I’ve gone through them. I always feel weird putting any of these coins in circulation, because it’s almost like you’re giving up on a friend that you’ve sheltered and cared for all of these years from circulation. On occasion, my kids want to see a Bicentennial quarter or something like that, I might pull one out of one of these tubes, and once they handle it enough, I’m like, “Well, it’s change now.“ It goes out in the wild, and maybe you’ll find a nice, nearly Mint State, a little bit fingerprinted quarter because I put it out there.
But yeah, the modern series are definitely worth doing. Obviously like with the Washington quarter we’ve made so complicated due to the America the Beautiful and State Quarter set. I do think that if people took Mint State examples of those coins and put them away and put them in these holders, some of those coins probably start toning by now. I think at some point tone Washington State quarters are going to be a real hot collectible thing. Same would go for modern commemorative. I think if you had a Dansco album that you kept starting building in the 80s of commemorative coins, Proof issues, and circulated issues, maybe even more, and then you started developing these rainbow toning patterns. I think those would sell for a lot of money. I see on eBay, the LA Olympics coins for maybe ’83-’84, those toned pretty well. Sellers are asking $200, $300 apiece for those coins and getting that number. If you had a brilliant white coin, as issued in their plastic case, you’re looking at a $25, $30 coin.
The same would go for another coin from that period that toned very frequently is the Constitutional commemorative dollar. I don’t know what it was about the packaging, but those toned yellow and red quite frequently, and you see those coins sell. Not for as much as the LA Olympics coins because the Constitutional dollar is not all that attractive in design, and the toning pattern isn’t nearly as nice and vivid, as you sometimes see with the Olympics coins. But I think that one of the ways to make that toning happen to be frank, and this isn’t cheating or using chemistry, it’s like just storing the coins in these albums. There’s an expression called “Wayte Raymond toning”, which is a common thing you’ll see in a lot of modern coins, Uncirculated coins, and commemorative coins that were kept in the Wayte Raymond albums, which were the standard album that was sold in the first half of the 20th century. You’ll see this type of toning on classic commemoratives that were kept in their original packaging, especially ones that you see these tab toning, where there’d be like dark borders and a little dark spot in the middle, that’s based on its specific type of packaging. These albums, unless they’re inert and kept in intercept shields or something like that, they will tone your coins.
Hardest album, I think to put together as this one. This is the Dansco 7070 United States type.
Chris: That’s the Dansco… That’s the Dansco album I’ve always wanted to put together. If I was going to start, that’s where I would start.
Charles: I ended up buying this album, I think for a while they were out of print or Dansco wasn’t making them or whatever. I couldn’t buy one on the internet at the time, but at a local coin show they were they had an auction, and somebody was selling a not put together at all, it had like two or three coins in it, 7070 album and it was in good condition. I bid on it and I won it. It has a page on it, that I wasn’t accustomed to seeing. It’s the last page and it says Bicentennial. It has the quarter, half dollar, dollar, plus modern US coinage. It has an example of a State quarter, Sac dollar, Susan B. Anthony.
Chris: Which one state would someone take for their state quarter type? Probably the state they live in, right? Assuming they’re the
Charles: Yeah, I live in Virginia, so I ride and die the Commonwealth. I have a Virginia state quarter.
Chris: I ride and die the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so there you go.
Charles: That’s right. This is a 2000 S silver State quarter. Actually, I had nothing to do with that choice. This was one of the original coins that came with it. I don’t know if you’ve see it in the camera, it actually has the NGC label, they cracked out a Proof 69 Ultra Cameo to put it in there. In fact, there are a few coins like that I think came with the album. There is an 1854 half dime and 1855, 1945-S nickel from MS-66 from PC, Mercury dime MS-64 Full Bands. That was the way that I kept track of what I was putting in the album. As I was cracking out coins from graded holders, so I could be assured that the coins were not cleaned or fake. I would buy certified coins, I’d break them out, I’d put them in the holder, and I would put the label on the back so that I at least had an idea of what they were at one point.
Now that’s not to say that these coins would be graded the same if they were sent back, they could have deteriorated a little bit since I pulled them out of the holders or whatever. That’s the way I did it. Now what makes this so challenging to be honest with you, is the cost– this is a prohibitively expensive United States type coin set, even if you’re not going out there and saying Gems all across the board, MS-65 everything. Well, that would be super expensive because you got to get a Gem Draped Bust cent and Draped Bust half dollar, and Trade dollar. You have to get a Gem Seated Liberty dollar and all of that. What my basic criteria for this set is, and this is why it’s taken me a long time is, for 20th-century issues, I’m looking for uncirculated preferably with luster, I would say MS-63 at a minimum, but MS-63 is totally acceptable for a Barber half dollar, any coin that would be over a couple of hundred bucks at MS-63 that is where I want to be on that.
For the 19th-century issues, when I’m looking for is at a minimum AU50, AU55 kind of range. I want to see the design, but this is expensive. This would be one of those types of sets if you’re going to build it out that you plan around that you say, “Okay, well my budget is X for this, this, this coin, this coin, this coin, these are my budgets.” Then you’re going to be on the lookout when you find something that you can snag at the price you’re willing to pay. You’re not going to put this this album together overnight and you’re not going to do it for fewer than a probably less than $2000, $3,000 for low grade. If you’re going for a higher grade album over the course of many years, this could be a $10,000, $15,000 investment…
Chris: What do you think the best median grade would be? If someone wanted to put together a 7070 with all the coins in the same grade, which might not even be the most attractively matched set, but let’s imagine that’s what they wanted to do, which grade you think would look nice in every single denomination.
Charles: First of all, you got to set yourself with the idea that there are certain coins that you’re used to seeing in Mint State. You’re used to seeing Morgan dollars in Mint State.
Chris: I’m used to seeing Morgan dollars in MS-63 to -65, too, like mid-Mint State.
Charles: Yeah, like, brilliant. You’re used to seeing Lincoln cents in Mint State.
Chris: It depends on the state of Lincoln cent though.
Charles: Yeah. Well, like a Memorial cent, you’re definitely going to be used to seeing that Mint State.
Chris: Yes, you’re right about that.
Charles: What happens is when you start putting these coins side by side, because I’m looking at the way this book is constituted, you have in the same tab, Flying Eagle, Indian Head, with a laurel wreath, with a copper wreath, with the bronze oak wreath, with the Lincoln Head 1909 VDB. Then the bronze ’09 to ’58 coin. That’s the same tab. My Lincoln cent is fully brilliant red, like fiery red. I have one Indian Head there, it’s like a 1908 and it’s still red. So seeing a dingy Flying Eagle cent next to all that would be really kind of disappointing.
Chris: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Similarly, I actually think that a nicely worn, evenly toned Indian Head cent could look really nice and fine–
Charles: Oh, certainly they could.
Chris: Like an Indian Head gold quarter eagle, for example, in Very Good or Fine, some of those are cool for lowball sets, but I’ve never seen heavily circulated gold that’s ever been really attractive to me. Again, grade matching, you have to pick a grade that all the coins, if you’re going to pick one grade that all the coins would look good.
Charles: Yeah, because I just have the opinion that I think an AU coin, if it’s nice enough, can pass. They used to have a term called “Super Slider”, kind of coins that are in between. To me, you expect early copper cents to be brown. You want to see all the design details and you can’t really get that done like any lower than Extra Fine, 45 maybe. AU-50, I mean, I think that that’s where like most of the design details are still relatively apparent.
Chris: I agree. Circulated copper for me, though, can look very good down to about Very Good, though. I’ve seen, for example, like VF30-35, I’ve seen some fairly pretty bronze small cents in VF30-35, that aren’t bad-looking coins by any stretch of the– [crosstalk]
Charles: No, not at all. Like I said, in the context of putting together a large cent collection, where there’re going to be tough dates, and there’re going to be tough varieties, but you’re going to say, like a Strawberry cent. If you got one that was Good-04, you’d be excited.
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Charles: But when you have a type coin set, and you’re basically, the condition of putting it together, you’re sort of expecting that these are going to be examples of each coin, they’re not going to be the key dates, they’re not going to be the semi-key dates. They’re going to be the affordable available example, you’re probably going for something as nice as you can get within the grade. That’s not going to be the same for everybody. I think a problem-free, Extra Fine-45 set, would be actually quite cool.
Chris: I mean, incredible.
Charles: We’ve even written the idea of, forget the idea of type set, from the notion of getting the affordable example. What would be if you had the typeset, but it was one of the harder coins to get? Like how neat would it be to open up this and your example of the Lincoln Memorial cent ’55 double die? I mean, at that point, like you show it off to somebody.
Chris: Well, that wouldn’t be the Memorial cent, that’d be the Wheat cent.
Charles: Well, that’d be the Wheat cent, but, yeah, I’m sorry, but the Wheat cent, the doubled die. Or, if you get the Buffalo nickel, the Type Two, the Three-and-a-Half Leg Buffalo nickel, a Three-Legged nickel. If it’s a Washington quarter, it’s a ’32-D.
Chris: It would be really funny if every one of your type coins was either a rare date or a rare variety. That would be really cool. That’d be a funny set.
Charles: Yeah, it’d be almost like, “Hey, you want to see my type set collection?” People look at it and they’re like, because you never looked for those coins. You never say, “Oh, wow, your Draped Bust cent’s a 1799.”
Chris: It would be possible to do, but I think it would actually be more difficult than it would seem on the face. I love lowball sets. I get such a kick out of people who put together like the lowest grade coins they can find, but that would be really hard to do to complete a typeset because you’d have to find a Memorial cent graded fair too, which would be actually insanely hard to find because no one would bother having that coin graded or I don’t know, I just feel people wouldn’t save a Memorial cent unless it was a really obscure variety, that was really heavily circulated. I feel they would go for a nicer-looking coin. It would actually be a challenge to find some of the modern, some of the most current-day issues that were really heavily circulated.
Charles: What do you think is the lowest grade of clad Washington quarter you’ve ever seen in change? Do you think you’ve ever found a Good or a Very Good clad Washington quarter, like a 65-66?
Chris: That’s a great question because I get 65s in change, like mid-late ’60s dates, relatively often, at least back when I was spending cash in stores, which–
Charles: They’re pretty beat up at this point.
Chris: Oh, absolutely. No, they’re well-worn, but I don’t think I’ve ever found one below fine because that would have stood out to me because I feel in change you expect them, the clad Washington quarters that I’ve encountered in change from before the state headquarters, 99 to 98 before. I feel I always see them at least EF. I never see them that heavily– that’s an interesting question. What are the lowest grades you can pull from circulation for any given denomination?
Charles: Well, that speaks to the hardness of the copper-nickel clad sandwich metal. The fact is that I had asked around and I don’t know if I ever got a solid answer. I don’t know if there is a solid answer. It stands to reason that you have the big coin boom that starts to take place around the time of the Great Depression and people are pulling Indian cents out of change. There’s a lot of well-worn 1916-D Mercury dimes, which is amazing. Which means 1916-D mercury dimes probably circulated for at least a decade or two before those coins are pulled out. You think about that, with the silver, the silver soft enough that the coin wears out pretty quickly. They were complaining that the Buffalo nickels, like the dateless Buffalo nickels. Well, those nickels were wearing out pretty quickly. They had to continually change the way they were doing that and the Standing Liberty quarter set, the dates wouldn’t be obliterated. If they were changing the design, so the dates wouldn’t get obliterated, that means that within the lifetime of that coin, which is 1916 to 1930, that the dates were wearing out sufficiently enough that they had to change the design. I think the silver coins were wearing out faster.
Chris: Oh, yeah. Well, silver’s a softer metal, so that makes sense. The dates are usually so much weaker on pre-1925 Standing Liberty quarters because that’s when they were assessed the date, it was 1925. That was the first date where the date was reset.
Charles: Right, which means that between 1916 and 1924, they recognize the need.
Chris: Yeah, in that eight-year period, they would have had to have worn out really quickly. No, you’re right, that’s really, really interesting.
Charles: Yeah. Like I said, when you go back to Wheat cents, I would imagine like when you’re getting 1950s Wheat cents, which is still common enough, it’s not impossible to find them. Those tend to be in the Extra Fine range. It’s just when you start getting into the late ’30s, early ’40s, anything before 1940 is probably going to be in Good territory by now. You will find 1919 Lincoln Wheat cents from time to time because there’s a huge message that year, but they’re going to be good about good at best.
Chris: It was similar to good and very good. I don’t know if someone polished it or if it went through someone’s washing machine, if it was in someone’s pants or something and it got washed. It was a hideous coin. It was from 1919, I thought it was cool. My standards are so low, I picked Bicentennial quarters out of circulation. I mean, they’re not worth anything but I think they’re cool, and that was one of the issues that got me into coin collecting. If I find them in circulation, I’m pulling them out, even though they’re worth 25 cents. I always pick up Wheat cents.
I found Wheat cents… 1919 is probably the earliest I found, we talked about this before. I found ’29, I found issues from the ’30s and the ’40s, but ’40s and ’50s Wheat cents I still do find and change from time to time, and I always pull them out. Even if they look terrible, it’s just cool that you found it in change.
Charles: Yeah. Same with nickels. You can find a fair amount of nickels in the– I would say ’62 is probably like your typical cutoff date when you’re going to find, and ’64-Ds, I mean they used to be about the most common nickel you would ever find in circulation from that period of time. Getting back to like the whole idea of stepping up you’re collecting from circulation fines actually paying for the coins, and putting them in albums. The album way of putting the coins together allows you to see them in the context of the whole series. It’s certainly a really interesting way to collect individualize coins, having the wholes gives you something to chase for. I think having the holes as a concept is what really exploded the popularity of the coin hobby to begin with. I don’t think that collecting coins in an album is incongruent with the way coins are typically collected today, which is in certified holders. I think certified coins are taking an example of the coin that stands out as an individual based on its grade, especially if the coins are snowflakes, which is a term that usually gets used for talking about coins that are individualistic, as opposed to a dime a dozen type of coin, a widget.
I would say that, to me, a candidate for a coin in an album is a nice coin, a coin you’d like to own, but one that maybe doesn’t– having the determination that it’s like an MS-63, as opposed to an MS-64 isn’t really that important to you, but if you had an example, that was super Gem, MS-67, 68, or if we’re talking about like an 1881-S Morgan dollar or something like that, then it makes no sense to put that coin in an album when it should– its excellent state of preservation should be preserved in an inert as possible an environment which a coin capsulation would allow. I think putting a registry set together takes the idea of building a set and amps it up, it provides a social challenge other collectors across the country can compete against you, it allows you to show off your coins– PCGS, I know has a service where they can photograph your coins, you can also upload photographs of your coins to their set registry platform.
I considered my Eisenhower dollar, my Washington quarter Registry Sets to be my ultimate versions of that set. Whereas I considered my Dansco album version to be my– I can look at it at home or I can look at it more easily than pulling out all the blue boxes and pulling out the coins individually. Once I had my entire quarter set, which I had probably 60%, 70% of the silver quarters like in mint state 66. I had them all laid out on the floor and it took a huge amount of space. It really wasn’t a comfortable way for me to look at them as a set, whereas an album would afford that. I got more enjoyment looking at my quarters probably through the TrueViews, because I had a lot of toners and seeing them in the huge images than I did, actually having them and fiddling with the light and the magnifier, whatever.
Chris: That’s one of the draws of the album, isn’t it? Is that it makes presentation easier, and it’s not an unattractive way to present coins. Especially if you have your registry set, that’s all slabbed and whatnot, or all the coins in your registration dress, set or slabbed, it’s cool to have, like you said, a mid-tier set that you can pull out and show to people or just pull out and enjoy.
I’ll say this we’ve been talking about how whether it’s a 1962 Proof Franklin half dollar in a really early PCGS slab or these coins in Dansco 7070, the context in which coins are presented matters a lot. Something that I’ve been getting more and more interested in is coins that come in their original packaging. I know people who’ve listened to me on this podcast or elsewhere before wouldn’t know that I’m really interested in classic commemorative coins. Classic commemorative coins with the materials they were issued with, in the original boxes with the original packaging, original order receipts, you can build a really cool collection with that too, where you have all of the documentation and all of the original packaging. Even though it’s not in a slab, it’s still being presented in a context that reveals elements of its history, which I think is fascinating.
Charles: I agree with that too. As much as I enjoy looking at the known examples of ultra-high-end coins, especially in that series, especially like the toned ones, I think it’s a crime to break out a complete Pac set with the two gold slugs and to take them out of that elegant box that they came in. At some point, that’s going to be even rarer than the coins themselves, and which is probably already the case.
Anyway, that’s just our feedback about putting coins together in Dansco albums. I think what we’re going to do with this podcast from time to time, is we’re going to touch on basic to intermediate collecting strategies and things to help you see the way we view our collecting pursuits, try and give you personal feedback, and testimonial. There really is ultimately no wrong way to experience this hobby. You’ll find that collectors, even collectors who are buying ultra-high-end, very expensive coins, have a lot in common with the everyday collector and what drives them to collect, the things that they’re excited about.
I want all of our listeners to feel that no matter what we’re talking about that they’re involved in the broader hobby. If we ask a dealer what their tips are for collecting gold coins or why maybe an advanced collector might want to hire a coin dealer to represent them in buying coins at an auction, the basic points and the reasons why these things are happening do have lessons to be learned from everybody. We all are pursuing the objective of enjoying ourselves, learning a little bit about history, and putting together the most interesting and lively collection we can within our budgets. I think there are lessons to be learned at all levels of numismatics, and you’ll never really stopped learning as long as you’re curious.
Chris: That’s absolutely true. Participating in this podcast and listening to podcasts and consuming different kinds of numismatic media, that can be a really good way to learn as well. If I end up getting a 7070, I’ll be sure to keep listeners posted as [chuckles] I fill all the holes. You can come on my 7070 collecting journey with me.
Charles: Well, and I haven’t– [crosstalk]
Chris: -if you would like to start a pace, if any of you would like to start with me, you’re welcome to. I’ll be sure to keep our listeners posted.
Charles: Yeah. We’ll post this on our Facebook page, but feel free to share your strategies, how you put your Dansco albums together. I read every comment, and I’m interested in that dialogue, and I can also tell you on good authority, I know of a collector who put together a collection worth over $100 million who still collected coins in albums as well, because they wanted something that they could have ready access to, to enjoy the coins, because they could buy every coin that ever came to market, but they couldn’t necessarily always have them around due to the obvious security reasons. So, having that album allowed them to flip through the pages and see all the coins that they really loved and they weren’t as nice as the ones they paid beaucoup bucks for, but they were nice enough to give them that sense of belonging to this hobby anytime they wanted to. Thank you, everybody. We’re going to sign off for tonight, and we’ll be back next week with another episode.
Chris: Yes, sounds good. Thanks so much for listening.
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