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Buying Coins: When You Should Compromise and When You Shouldn’t

4. Be Picky on the Keys (if you collect by date)

I’ve discussed this more than once but most collectors overbuy the common dates in their chosen set(s) and underbuy the keys.

Let me give you an example of the right way to form a set. A very good client of mine has been working on a Dahlonega quarter eagle set for five or six years now. His motivation to begin this set was when I had just bought a great collection of D mint quarter eagles and was breaking them up. It just so happened that the key 1855-D and 1856-D in this collection were wonderful quality for the date: comparatively high grade, nice and original, and well-pedigreed. He realized that by purchasing both coins, he would be off to a great start and that he might not have a chance to purchase such nice examples again.

After buying these two key issues, this collector decided that the other rarities in the set (1840-D, 1841-D, 1842-D, and 1854-D) had to be special coins. And over the course of the next five years, I was able to purchase beautiful AU55 to AU58 examples of each.

As picky as he was on the keys, he was discriminating on the common dates in the set. He bought nice AU examples but resisted the temptation to spend $15,000 on a common 1843-D when he could own a perfectly presentable example for $4,000 and funnel the savings towards another key date, or two to three more nice commons.

5. Be Picky When You Have Options

Let’s say you are a collector for whom strike is a key factor in determining whether or not you buy a coin. On some issues, you are out of luck as all known examples are found with weakness of strike (an example of this would be the 1859-C and 1860-C half eagles). Other issues are found with varieties which are well struck or poorly struck, depending on the die state (examples of this include the 1844-D and 1848-C quarter eagles).

To be a good collector in the area of rare date gold, you have to learn about each issue’s appearance. This is why the books I have written explain factors such as typical strike in great detail.

You are surfing the web and you happen on a nice, crusty 1844-D quarter eagle in a PCGS AU55 holder. It has your “look” and is priced in your wheelhouse, but the strike is very poor. If you know the intricacies of this issue, you know that around 50% of all 1844-D quarter eagles show central weakness. This means that you still have a good chance to find a well-struck example and that you should probably pass on the coin, even if you need it for your date set.

Knowing when to be picky and when to compromise is an important part of the strategies used by sophisticated collectors of all coins; not just dated gold. Do you have any stories to share about being picky or not being picky when you bought a coin? Please share them in the comments section below.
Doug Winter Numismatics, specialists in U.S. gold coins

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About Doug Winter

Doug_Winter2Doug has spent much of his life in the field of numismatics; beginning collecting coins at the age of seven, and by the time he was 10 years old, buying and selling coins at conventions in the New York City area.

In 1989, he founded Douglas Winter Numismatics, and his firm specializes in buying and selling choice and rare United States coins, especially US gold coins and all branch mint material.

Recognized as one of the leading specialized numismatic firms, Doug is an award-winning author of over a dozen numismatic books and the recognized expert on US Gold. His knowledge and exceptional eye for properly graded and original coins has made him one of the most respected figures in the numismatic community and a sought after dealer by collectors and investors looking for professional personalized service, a select inventory of impeccable quality and fair and honest pricing. Doug is also a major buyer of all US coins and is always looking to purchase collections both large and small. He can be reached at (214) 675-9897.

Doug has been a contributor to the Guidebook of United States Coins (also known as the “Redbook”) since 1983, 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

In addition he has authored 13 books on US Gold coins including:
  • Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909
  • Gold Coins of the Carson City Mint: 1870 – 1893
  • Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint: 1838-1861
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint 1838-1861
  • The United States $3 Gold Pieces 1854-1889
  • Carson City Gold Coinage 1870-1893: A Rarity and Condition Census Update
  • An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type One Double Eagles
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to United States Gold Coins
  • A Collector’s Guide To Indian Head Quarter Eagles
  • The Acadiana Collection of New Orleans Coinage
  • Type Three Double Eagles, 1877-1907: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Gold Coins of the Dahlonega Mint, 1838-1861: A Numismatic History and Analysis
  • Type Two Double Eagles, 1866-1876: A Numismatic History and Analysis

Finally Doug is a member of virtually every major numismatic organization, professional trade group and major coin association in the US.

Doug Winter
Doug Winterhttps://www.raregoldcoins.com
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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