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New to Collecting & on a Budget? Where to Begin With Vintage US Coins

By Mike Sherman for PCGS ……
Just because you’re not a millionaire doesn’t mean you can’t have a great deal of fun building an interesting coin collection. And because you don’t have a ton of money also doesn’t mean you have to confine your collecting to modern issues. All too often, we focus on the six- and seven-figure coins available only to a tiny handful of collectors. Here are a couple of ideas for putting together a collection of vintage coins that will be both rewarding and leave you some money for the summer electric bill!

1. A 20th- and 21st-Century Type Set

With over 120 years of history now, this set now includes every coin that any living person would remember seeing. Starting with Indian cents, Liberty nickels and Barber silver coinage, it moves through the great coinage redesign of the 1910s that included the Buffalo nickel and the classic silver coinage of the mid-20th century – the Mercury dime, the Standing Liberty quarter and the beautiful Walking Liberty half dollar.

Of course, the great silver dollar Morgan and Peace designs are included as well as the current circulating coins. In Good or better, there are no coins in this set over about $25 (unless you opt to include the gold coins) and even if you did, there are only two coins over $1,000.

Check out the PCGS Set Registry® requirements to complete a 20th Century Type Set, Major Types No Gold (1900-1999).

2. A Series Collection

Many of our circulating designs now have quite a long history. The Lincoln cent goes back 110 years, the Washington quarter is 87 years old, the Jefferson nickel is 81, the Roosevelt dime is 73 and even the Kennedy half dollar is 55 years old! While the Lincoln cent and Washington quarter have a few “key” dates, virtually all of the Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy halves are all quite affordable and many of the non-silver dates can still be found in circulation.

Check out the PCGS Set Registry requirements to complete a Washington Quarters Basic Set, Circulations Strikes (1965-1998).

1973 Washington Quarter MS66. Price Guide Value: $20

3. Obsolete Coin Set

For a great conversation piece, it’s hard to beat a small collection of obsolete coins and denominations. Included in this set would be a half-cent, a large cent, a Two Cent piece, Three Cent pieces in both nickel and silver, a half dime, and a Twenty Cent piece. While the Twenty Cent piece may set you back about $100 in a lower grade, the others should all be in the mid to upper two-figure range at most. Many of your friends will likely not have even heard of these denominations and this little set will be great fun to show them.

1864 2c Large Motto PCGS AU55. PCGS Price Guide Value: $90

4. A Date Set

If you like the earlier type coins such as Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, Walker halves, Morgan dollars, etc., you can usually assemble a date set for a very reasonable amount of money. Most of the key dates are the mint marked issues, so putting together a set with just one coin of each date is typically not too difficult. An 1893 Morgan is a bit tough, as are some of the 1921 issues, but you’ll find few “stoppers” putting together a set such as this.

Check out the PCGS Set Registry requirements to complete a Mercury Dimes Date Set, Circulation Strikes (1916-1945).


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