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Pedigree & Hoard / Coins & Currency


By Rick Bretz for CoinWeek….

I am delighted to have the opportunity to write a new column for CoinWeek on my corner of the numismatic world – Pedigreed Coins. My view is going to be a bit different from many writers and articles because I am the guy on the other side of the table. I am a collector and have a collector’s view of numismatics.

I started collecting coins as a child and have retained an interest in the hobby since then.  Some of my fondest memories revolve around collecting coins. Winter nights with snow blowing, sitting on my grandmother’s floor going through her shoebox of mercury dimes. My days as a paperboy, running home so I could sort through the payment change. Checking vending machines at my father’s work for change that people forgot to take, looking for a rarity. And at the end of my shift at the grocery store, checking my tip money for coins I needed. So the interest in coins has always been inside me.

Then one day I stumbled across a not-every-day pedigree; a slabbed coin with an inscription on the label. It perked my interest and a new branch of collecting was born for me, but more about that in a minute. First I would like to walk through my earliest experiences as a pedigree collector.

When people hear of my interest in pedigree coin collecting, I’m frequently asked two questions: What is a pedigree coin (I use coin and currency interchangeably), and how did I get interested in them?

What is a pedigree coin? Well, my definition of a pedigree coin seems to be somewhat liberal but loosely put, a pedigree coin is a coin that has a heritage or history associated with it.  It has a story to tell. It can be slabbed by NGC/PCGS/ANACS/ICG or any of the others with the pedigree appearing on the label or it can be a raw coin that has an indisputable heritage.

My view is different than the established, traditional view, but the times–and interests–“they are a changing”.  And I’m finding more and more people that have branched into the new and different way of collecting “pedigree” coins. I’ll expand upon this in my next column.

How did I get interested in pedigree coins? While collecting coins the traditional way, I stumbled upon the Binion Hoard, and then the Fitzgerald Hoard, and then the Wells Fargo Hoard… and next thing I know I’m deep into pedigrees and searching for an example from each different pedigree I could find.

In doing so, I quickly discovered that reference material for many pedigrees is scarce.  So I dug into each one and investigated as far as I could.  I emailed representatives at NGC, PCGS and ICG. I contacted people selling pedigree coins. I searched the Internet. I contacted the major auction houses of Heritage, Teletrade (sadly gone now) and Great Collections. And I read a lot of coin books, magazines and newspaper articles to develop the best information that I could.

Meanwhile, over the course of two years of collecting and researching, I started to assemble a nice pedigree set and displayed it in the NGC Registry. As time went on, I found that there were a lot of other people with the same interest and they were using my Registry Set as their guide.  My set received over 10,000 views in two years and it consistently received 100 visits each week.

The results of all this just further encouraged me to expand my knowledge in the field.  I wanted to broaden awareness of my niche of pedigree collecting. I started lecturing on pedigree coins and attending various coin clubs to talk about my passion. For me, it’s a lot more fun to learn the history and stories than to simply fill a hole in a collection.  Pedigree collecting took my love for coin collecting to a new level.

In future columns, I’d like to expand upon what a pedigree is and define categories or groupings, talk about examples within these groupings, provide ideas through examples on different ways to collect pedigrees, and focus on individual pedigrees.  Over the past two years I’ve developed a network of other pedigree collectors and it’s surprising the number of ways to structure individual sets.  Stay tuned, hopefully there’s more to come.

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  1. Many collectors interested in older US coinage are drawn to pedigrees because of a link with the past, particularly with specific collectors. The trick is distinguishing those pedigrees that are important from those that aren’t. The Wells Fargo pedigree, noted above, doesn’t mean much in truth—it was simply used as a marketing tool. Other pedigrees, containing well-known names (e.g., Buddy Ebsen, Lord St. Oswald) are not what they seem to be.

    I definitely definitely will read the author’s future columns on this topic with interest.

  2. Really enjoying these articles on Pedigrees & Hoards! Thanks for taking the time to enlighten other collectors. A fascinating area of history, research and collecting.

    Can you let us know where the registry set you mention is (link to it)? I’d be interested in viewing it myself.

    • WestCoin,

      Sorry for responding so late, but I just saw your inquiry about the link to the website. I took the website down after I published a book on pedigree coins.

      Thanks for your comment. I enjoy the stories behind a lot of the pedigree coins and it has become an exciting way for me to collect.

  3. There is a rare $5 copper coin that was auctioned a while ago the obverse and reverse are similar to Morgan Dollar coin. They mentioned that there are $5 gold coins that also same obverse and reverse exactly like Morgan Dollar. Do you know more about the history of these very rare coins?


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