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Rare Coin Road Warrior - Collecting U.S. Coin by Design Type, Part One-Copper

- December 2013

Dear Rare Coin Enthusiast,

As I have promised for the last couple of months, this month’s Road Warrior is Part One of my four part series on ‘Collecting U.S. Coins by Design Type’.  Part One is ALL about copper coinage.  Without getting too technical, I want to break down the different design types and what you, as a collector, might want to include in your Copper Type Set.

One of the most important and therefore integral factors a collector has ‘working’ for him when collecting by ‘type’ is complete freedom.  A type set can consist of the basic designs within a given series or denomination.  A type set can include ALL the basic type designs minted during a period of time-like a 20th Century Type Set.  A type set can include coins with specific design content like ALL Seated Liberty designs or ALL Civil War related Commemorative Half Dollars.  Because the possibilities are virtually ENDLESS, I believe collecting U.S. Coins by Design Type is the best option for the numismatist with varied interests.  Collecting Coins by Design Type also gives the collector and serious numismatist both the option of finding the ‘prettiest’ coin in a particular series without having to take the date into consideration.

Why?  Well, first you as a collector have limited resources in terms of both ‘time’ and ‘capital’.  You can structure a TYPE collection to fit your interests and resources.  I am NOT proposing giving up collecting sets of coins by date-like Barber Halves-for example.  What I am promoting is the flexibility that collecting by TYPE gives you as a numismatist.

Let me give you an example.  Joe is a collector who likes nickels.  He already collects Buffaloes, but he is down to a couple of really expensive dates and he is ‘stuck’ per se.  He wants to do something else, but he doesn’t want to fritter away the money he has saved for the KEY DATES in his Buffalo set.  He has a little extra money and thinks he might like to have a NICKEL TYPE Set.  Depending on his budget he can buy four basic coins: A Shield Nickel, a Liberty Nickel, a Buffalo Nickel, and a Jefferson Nickel.  He can also ‘budget’ a cost by choosing a grade level that appeals to him yet remains within his budget.  If you want to collect the NICKEL types in MS65 go with the four major designs.  If you want the major varieties within each series you might want to buy your coins in MS63 or MS64.

The beauty of collecting U.S. coins by design type is flexibility.  You can start humbly and expand your collection as either your budget and/or interest increases.  Take, for example, the four-piece NICKEL Type set Joe has put together.  Once Joe has the four major design types in MS65 he decides he wants to add the Rays Shield Nickel, the No Cent Liberty Nickel, the Type One Buffalo Nickel, and a Jefferson War Nickel to his four piece set taking it now to eight pieces.  The beauty is that Joe can do whatever he likes!

The focus of my article today is Copper.  Collecting Copper by design Type can be easy or exceptionally challenging.  For example, you can put together a basic 20th Century Copper Set in MS65RD for under $800 because other than the Indian Cent, the additional coins in this small set are relatively inexpensive.  Conversely, if you wanted to build a ‘special’ Copper Type Set with ALL the major design types in MS65RD you might find it impossible because of both budget and practicality.  There are some sets that CAN’T be completed, many times, because of lack of supply.

Major Copper Design Types as listed in ‘A Guide Book of United States Coins 2014’-The Redbook include the following coins:

1793 Liberty Cap Half Cent/Head Left

1794-97 Liberty Cap Half Cent/Head Right

1800-08 Draped Bust Half Cent

1809-36 Classic Head Half Cent

1840-57 Braided Hair Half Cent

1793 Flowing Hair Large Cent

1793-96 Liberty Cap Large Cent

1796-1807 Draped Bust Large Cent

1808-14 Classic Head Large Cent

1816-57 Liberty Head Large Cent

1856-58 Flying Eagle Cent

1859-1909 Indian Cent

1909-1958 Lincoln Wheat Cent

1959-2008 Lincoln Memorial Reverse

Out of these fourteen major design types there are several neat sets one can start that include ALL the Half Cent Types, ALL the Large Cent Types, or ALL the Small Cent Types.  You can mix match and combine later to form a complete fourteen piece Copper Type Set and there are literally dozens of additional design type varieties that can be added to ALL of these sets.  When you budget what you can afford to pursue you can use the ‘grade’ to determine what coins are practical to search out.

Remember that $800 20th Century Copper Type Set I mentioned earlier?  If you added a Flying Eagle Cent you would have a complete Small Cent major design type set.  If you added one each of the later date Half Cent type and Large Cent Type coins you would have a VERY nice representation of the evolution of U.S. Copper coinage from Half Cent and Large Cents to our present day Small Cents.

One of the coolest parts of collecting by Type is the freedom to ‘upgrade’ or ‘change gears’ at your discretion.  For example, if you have built a nice MS64 type set and decide you want nicer coins, you can upgrade a coin at a time in your set as you find a superior candidate you REALLY like.  Your set remains intact, but you are upgrading a coin at a time as your budget allows.  In addition, because you have purchased ‘pretty’ coins, your duplicate will probably be very desirable to another collector.  If you are dealing with a reputable dealer who handles ‘nice’ material he will probably have an interest in your duplicate.

As always, a meaningful set is not ‘slapped’ together.  Collecting by Type allows you to keep you ‘powder dry’ so to speak for the ‘right’ coin.  Because you are NOT limited to a certain date, you have a much better chance of finding a PQ-premium quality coin that fits both the TYPE you want and the quality that you are striving for.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of collections, accumulations, and hoards.  These have almost all had some value attached to them, but...the meaningful collections and especially meaningful sets always bring more.  Recently, we saw fantastic prices realized in the Newman sale.  The foresight of a true connoisseur was evident in the quality of this amazing collection.  Admittedly not many of us have the resources or time to put together a collection of that caliber, but you can effectively narrow your collecting focus on quality coins.  You will reap the rewards later.

Find a dealer who is willing to work with you.  Let him know what you are looking for.  Once you have developed a relationship, let your dealer know what you already have and what you might be willing to trade or sell to meet your goals.  Remember, it’s YOUR set.

Bozarth Numismatics Inc is a full service rare coin dealer.  We buy and sell PCGS, NGC, and CAC graded and approved high grade U.S. coins.  We sell coins at shows and on both our website and in our EBay store bozarthnumismaticsinc.  Because of our extensive show and buying travel schedule we can often locate those 'hard to find' items.  We offer free confidential want list services and will call or email you 'first' if we locate an item for you.

Thanks and Best Regards,

Vic Bozarth
The Rare Coin Road Warrior

For more information on Bozarth Numismatics, visit us at

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