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When Building A Type Set, What’s Better? Rare or Common Coins?

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez - January 31, 2023

When a type set calls for something such as a Morgan Dollar, should you go for a rare date like this 1889-CC or opt for a more common piece like the 1921-D? Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Type sets are wonderful for building a diverse array of coins representing a particular period or genre in numismatic history. One of the most popular of these pursuits is the 20th-century type set, a collection that blends both modern and classic U.S. coins produced during the previous century spanning the years 1900 through 1999 (or 1901 through 2000, if you’re getting technical). But the number and combination of type sets out there are plentiful, and many are quite versatile for collectors of virtually all budgets and skill levels.

However, one dilemma in which many collectors find themselves when embarking on a type set is whether to seek common coins or rare coins for each of the required slots to fill. After all, with exceptions, a type set requires only that a certain design or denomination be represented in the set – not necessarily a specific date (except when referencing one-year type coins, of which there are many). This means the collector doesn’t always have to choose the most expensive dates to fill the holes in their collection… But they can.

And therein lay the dilemma. When a PCGS Set Registry type set objective calls for something like a Lincoln Cent or Morgan Dollar, the collector has myriad options. Satisfy the Lincoln Cent hole with a common-date 1934 or 1941 Philly strike? Or go for the 1909-S VDB? That Morgan Dollar spot can be filled just the same with a 1904 or 1921-D as it can an 1889-CC or 1893-S.

How does the collector make a choice like this? Surely, expense is a top consideration. That’s the case for many collectors. But there’s also the matter of prestige. Even if the PCGS Registry Set is weighted the same whether a Barber Dime hole in a type set is filled with a million-dollar-plus 1894-S in Proof-64 or much cheaper 1906 in Proof-64, isn’t it more of a challenge – and reward – to go for the rare dates? Some would say “yes.”

Others might argue it doesn’t really matter when it comes to type sets. And maybe in the purest sense of the goal it doesn’t. That’s where it comes down to a collector’s individual preference – as so much of this hobby often does, and should. You need to decide for yourself what is best for your type set. Salting it with rare and valuable representatives of each type is pretty cool. But so is completing the set with common dates. Some collectors will even begin their type sets with the less-expensive circulated common dates and eventually upgrade the collection to include higher-grading coins or rare dates. Others leave their sets just as they were originally completed.

You’ve got to do what is right for you, your pocketbook, and the satisfaction of your numismatic goals. Ultimately, what matters is that you are happy with the collection you’re building – nothing short of that will truly leave your type set “complete.”

Article provided by PCGS at
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