Allen Rowe: When the collecting bug hits
When it comes to collecting coins, there are a host of things that sparks people to collect. Whether history, hoarding, assembling, or treasure hunting, each collector has their own reason for being interested in coins.
History is one of the major subjects why people collect. Whether silver dollars from the West conjure up images of whiskey laden cowboys around a gaming table just itching to shoot a guy cheating, a past president presenting a coin to a foreign dignitary, or the visions of Martha Washington giving up her silverware set for the start of American coinage, the history tug can run deep. Holding a worn down coin inspires one to think of who might have held that coin before them.
Assembling a collection is another inspiration some collectors seek. There is a series of coins that are easy to put together, but making a world class set is whole lot different. Let us look at the Franklin half dollar series. The series was minted from 1948-1963 with only 35 different coins in a mint state set. A set can be assembled for about $300, but finding coins that are fully struck and gem condition are tough.
In January 2001, a 1953-S that PCGS graded MS66FBL came to auction. Two collectors competed to purchase the coin and end up with the number one finest set of Franklins ever assembled. Pre-auction estimates had the coin at $25,000-$30,000. When the dust settled, the victor had bid $69,000, plus the “juice,” making the coin just under $80,000. Having finished assembling the set, the owner was done. He quickly turned around and consigned the whole set to another auction and moved on. Just for the record, the 1953-S sold again that August for a much more reasonable $35,000. Making money did not appear to be that collector’s goal, but rather the thrill of the hunt.
Hoarding is another popular collector trait. Accumulating for a rainy day or just as a nest egg, many collectors seek to just keep increasing their position. In cases like this quality is not usually the first priority. Many of the collections we see carry no rhyme or reason other than the stockpiling of gold, silver or coins.
The last draw that many collectors feel is the treasure hunt. Whether it is discovering a rare date coin, a new variety, or a provenance that makes the coin more valuable, I believe that this is the type of draw that brings many collectors into the dealer status. For me it is what drives my interest in coins. Everyday is a new day and I never know what will present itself. The value is not always the greatest factor in the hunt, either. Sometimes a $20 token is just as fun to buy as a $100,000 plus rare date $20. Not knowing what is ahead is what helps me and other collectors with the same bug search the world of coins.
Allen Rowe is the owner of Northern Nevada Coin in Carson City.