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remembering the early days of collecting

Nostalgia Time!

By Q. David Bowers, Co-Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Tuesday, November 24, 2020 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

Time was when the vast majority of collectors kept their coins in Whitman folders and albums. Lincoln cents were a favorite and were in two folders: 1909 to 1940 and 1941 to date. Over the years I have bought many collections housed in these folders. Most have had circulated coins from 1909 to 1933 or so and Mint State coins for later years. When I first started collecting coins in 1952 I used these folders. To protect the later brilliant coins I coated each with clear fingernail polish.

Most of us had folders for Lincoln cents, Buffalo and Jefferson nickels, Mercury and Roosevelt dimes, Standing Liberty and Washington quarters, and Liberty Walking and Franklin half dollars. All of these were plentiful in circulation, although some dates and mintmarks were scarce. I never found a 1909-S V.D.B. cent or 1916-D Mercury dime. I collected coin-operated pianos, and in one I found a nice 1921 dime, a scarce date, that had been paid into the nickel coin slot and had been rejected, to fall to the bottom, instead into the coin box.

In one afternoon at a counter at the Forty Fort (Pennsylvania) State Bank I filled two Whitman folders with Liberty Walking half dollars from 1916 to date. I kept some duplicates. The variety that was rarest in terms of pieces seen was 1938-D, followed by the 1917-S with mintmark on the obverse. For some reason the low-mintage 1921 half dollar varieties were often found. Silver dollars were ignored by most teenagers. 

I was a regular attendee at the Wilkes-Barre Coin Club and picked up many coins at the auctions held at each meeting. Prices were a lot different back then, such as five dollars for a gem Mint State 1879 half dollar. Gem Indian Head cents from 1879 to 1909, Philadelphia Mint, were plentiful for a dollar each. There was a coin shop on the ground floor of the Hotel Redington in Wilkes-Barre, where I paid $35 for a gem 1854 $3 piece, the first I ever saw of this denomination. I also bought a lot of coins by mail order. My first distant purchase cost me $11, a Proof 1959 Indian Head cent from Frank Washburn and Maurice Gould at Copley Coin Company in Boston. I soon discovered Hard Times tokens. How exciting! Quite a few different varieties could be bought for $3 to $5 each. Civil War tokens beckoned as well, with many Mint State pieces available for a dollar apiece.

Lots of nice memories.

The past is the past, of course, and today in 2020, at the much different prices of the present era, I still find all of these to be of compelling interest. One nice thing about numismatics is that there are so many different collecting possibilities.