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If You Can’t Afford Superb Gem MS-66

By Q. David Bowers, Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, December 10, 2015 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

Here at Stack’s Bowers Galleries we all enjoy the honor and privilege of showcasing great collections at auction, including our current presentation of the D. Brent Pogue Collection Part III scheduled to cross the block as part of our partnership with Sotheby’s this coming February. I hope you can be there as a bidder and buyer or as an observer as history is being made.

When contemplating collecting, a reality check is in order. Most of us have collections that are not “great” in terms of multi-million dollar values and ultra high grades such as Superb Gem MS-66. And yet they are great in their own way—desirable and enjoyable to own. Recently in conjunction with a book I am doing for Whitman Publishing Company on modern dollars 1971 to date I have formed a modest reference collection of Eisenhower, Sacagawea, Presidential, and Native American dollars. A basic set of one each of the different dates and mintmarks in MS-63 and Proof-65 or better for the Ikes and 65 or better for the 20th century issues will cost you less than $1,000. As you will see if you buy a copy of my book when it is released next spring, each coin has a story—some of them amazing!

I also have a set of Statehood quarters from 1999 onward, MS-65 and Proof-65 or finer. I have never graded them, but picked out nice pieces with great eye appeal when they were issued. This set cost only a few hundred dollars.

In recent times I have completed a Guide Book of Barber Coins and Guide Book of Liberty Seated Coins for Whitman, now available from Whitman on the Internet. My book on Liberty Seated coins is now being finalized by Whitman. During the course of researching these I had extensive interface with the Barber Coin Collectors’ Society and also with the Liberty Seated Collectors Club. Both put out excellent journals, often giving surveys and censuses of the holdings of members.

It might come as a great surprise for you to learn that the average enthusiast who collects Barber dimes, quarters and half dollars, or the average collector of Liberty Seated coins has a cabinet that is basically pieces grading from, say, Fine to Very Fine or Extremely Fine, and as complete as possible within a budget. Of course, a complete Mint State collection of Barber dimes, quarters and half dollars is great, but if this is not within a budget a collection in lesser grade is still very desirable. Each coin has art, history and romance to go with it. If I can make a specific suggestion for 2016 it would be to take the coins in your collection and learn as much about them as possible. Each one has a story. Unless you have a nice extra balance in your checking account, don’t be a slave to high grades.

One of my favorite coins can be bought in Mint State for less than $100. It is one of the greatest “story” coins in American numismatics — the 1883 Liberty Head nickel without CENTS on the reverse, an issue that caused a nationwide sensation when it was issued. It was publicized that the Mint made an error and would be calling them in and they would become rare and expensive. A nationwide treasure hunt ensued! They never did become rare, but so many people became excited that the number of collectors in America probably doubled or tripled!

Let me say in conclusion that buying books about coins will double or triple your enjoyment of them! New Year’s resolution: Build a working library of interesting books.