July 2003 Book Review Part Five
Special *July 2003* Early Addition Of Our Book Review:
Indepth Book Review On 2000 North American Coins & Prices:
A Guide To U.S., Canadian and Mexican Coins....
Collectible Treasures Antique and Collectibles
Book Review July 2003
Interesting Information On Coin Collecting as noted in the 2000
North American Coins & Prices: A Guide To U.S., Canadian and
GET A MAP
HOW TO ORGANIZE A COLLECTION by David C. Harper
Do you have a jar full of old coins? Did a favorite relative give you a few
silver dollars over the years? Or did you just come across something
unusual that you set aside?
All three circumstances make good beginnings for collecting coin. It
may surprise you, but this is how just about everybody starts in the
hobby. It is a rare collector who decides to start down the hobby road without first having come into a few coins one way or another.
What these random groupings lack is organization. It is organization
that makes a collection. But think about it another way: Organization
is the map that tells you where you can go in coin collecting and how
you can get there.
Have you ever been at a large fair or a huge office building and see the
maps that say "you are here"? Did you ever consider that, over time, thousands of other people have stood on the same spot? This is true
in numismatics also. Figuratively, you are standing on the same spot
on which the writers of this book stood at some point in their lives.
At a fair, the map helps you consider various ways of seeing all the
sights. In coin collecting, too, there are different ways to organize a collection. The method you choose helps you see the hobby sights
you want to see.
It should be something that suits you. Remember, do what you want
to do. See what you want to see. But don't be afraid to make a
mistake, there aren't any. Just as one can easily retrace steps at a
fair, one can turn around and head in another direction in the coin-
collecting hobby. Besides, when you start off for any given point,
often you see something along the way that was unplanned but more interesting. That's numismatics.
There are two major ways to organize a collection: by type, and by
date and mintmark. These approaches work in basically the same
fashion for coins of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Naturally, there are differences. But to establish the concepts, let's
focus first on U.S. coins.
Let's take collecting by type first. Look at your jar of coins, or take
the change out of your pocket. You find Abraham Lincoln and the
Lincoln Memorial on current cents. You find Thomas Jefferson and
his home, Monticello, on the nickel. Franklin D. Roosevelt and a
torch share the dime. George Washington and an eagle appear on
the quarter. John F. Kennedy and the presidential seal are featured
on the half dollar.
Each design is called a "type." If you took one of each and put the
five coins in a holder, you would have a type set of the coins that are currently being produced for circulation by the U.S. Mint.
With just these five coins, you can study various metallic
compositions. You can evaluate their states of preservation and
assign a grade to each. You can learn about the artists who designed
the coins, and you can learn of the times in which these designs were created.
As you might have guessed, many different coin types have been used
in the United States over the years. You may remember seeing some
of them circulating. These designs reflect the hopes and aspirations
of people over time. Putting all of them together forms a wonderful numismatic mosaic of American history.
George Washington did not mandate that his image appear on the
quarter. Quite the contrary. He would have been horrified. When he
was president, he headed off those individuals in Congress who thought
the leader of the country should have his image on its coins.
Washington said it smacked of monarchy and would have nothing of it.
Almost a century and a half later, during the bicentennial of
Washington's birth in 1932, a nation searching for its roots during
troubled economic times decided that it needed his portrait on its
coins as a reminder of his great accomplishments and as
reassurance that this nation was the same place it had been in
more prosperous days.
In its broadest definition, collecting coins by type requires that you
obtain an example of every design that was struck by the U.S. Mint
since it was founded in 1792. That's a tall order. You would be
looking for denominations like the half cent, two-cent piece,
three-cent piece, and 20-cent piece, which have not been produced
in over a century. You would be looking for gold coins ranging in face
value from $1 to $50.
But even more important than odd-sounding denominations or high
face values is the question of rarity. Some of the pieces in this two-
century type set are rare and expensive. That's why type collectors
often divide the challenge into more digestible units.
Type collecting can be divided into 18th, 19th and 20th century units.
Starting type collectors can focus on 20th century coin designs, which
are easily obtainable. The fun and satisfaction of putting the 20th
century set together then creates the momentum to continue
backward in time.
In the process of puttting a 20th century type set together, one is also
learning how to grade, learning hobby jargon, and discovering how to
obtain coins from dealers, the U.S. Mint, and other collectors. All of
this knowledge is then refined as the collector increases the challenge
This book is designed to help. How many dollar types were struck in
the 20th century? Turn to the U.S. price-guide section and check it
out. We see the Morgan dollar, Peace dollar, Eisenhower dollar, and Anthony dollar. Hobbyists could also add the Ike dollar with the Bicentennial design of 1976 and the silver American Eagle bullion
coin struck since 1986. One can also find out their approximate retail prices from the listings.
The beauty of type collecting is that one can choose the most
inexpensive example of each type. There is no need to select a
1903-O Morgan when the 1921 will do just as well. With the 20th
century type set, hobbyists can dodge some truly big-league
As a collector's hobby confidence grows, he can tailor goals to fit
his desires. He can take the road less traveled if that is what suits
him. Type sets can be divided by denomination. You can choose
two centuries of one-cent coins. You can take just obsolete
denominations or copper, silver or gold denominations.
You can even collect by size. Perhaps you would like to collect all
coin types larger than 30 millimeters or all coins smaller than 20 millimeters. Many find this freedom of choice stimulating.
Type collecting has proven itself to be enduringly popular over the
years. It provides a maximum amount of design variety while allowing collectors to set their own level of challenge.
The second popular method of collecting is by date and mintmark.
What this means, quite simply, is that a collector picks a given
type--Jefferson nickels, for example--and then goes after an example
of every year, every mintmark, and every type of manufacture that
was used with the Jefferson design.
Looking at this method of collecting brings up the subject of
mint-marks. The "U.S. Mint" is about as specific as most non-
collectors get in describing the government agency that provides
everyday coins. Behind that label are the various production
facilities that actually do the work.
In two centuries of U.S. coinage, there have been eight such facilitie.
Four are still in operation. Those eight in alphabetical order are:
Carson City, Nev., which used a "CC" mintmark to identify its work; Charlotte, N.C. ("C"); Dahlonega, Ga ("D"); Denver (also uses a
"D," but it opened long after the Dahlonega Mint closed, so there
was never any confusion); New Orleans ("O"); Philadelphia
(because it was the primary mint, it used no mintmark for much of
its history, but currently uses a "P"); San Francisco ("S"); and
West Point, N.Y. ("W").
A person contemplating the collecting of Jefferson nickels by date
and mintmark will find that three mints produced them;
San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia. Because the first two
are branch mints serving smaller populations, their output has
tended over time to be smaller than that of Philadelphia. This fact,
repeated in other series, has helped give mintmarks quite and
allure to collectors. It provides one of the major attractions in
collecting coins by date and mintmark.
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