Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How I started collecting coins

I have had a fascination with collecting old coins, and flirtations with the numismatic world, since I was 10 years old.
It began with my mother. She wanted to share a hobby with me and, I assume, wanted the end result to be worth something. She signed up for Littleton Coin Company's mail-order coin program. Once per month we received a small offering of coins to pick through, each sealed in its own little transparent plastic envelope. We only had to pay for what we kept and the rest were mailed back to LCC.
Sorting through all those coins every month was fun, but my favorite part was the catalogs. For a young collector like me, LCC's catalog was better than the Sears Wish Book (remember that monster?).
I paged through the LCC ads and fantasize about the great collection I could build, if only I had the money. I would be swimming in wheat pennies and buffalo nickels. All the other kids would ask me questions about them and I, expert that I was, would deliver masterful answers. They would be in awe of my knowledge and I would be the "coin kid".
But that didn't happen. Instead, pining over coins I couldn't have began to spoil my view of the hobby. Once in awhile I would go through our old collection, really just a random group of coins from the late 1800's - present day. We had also filled a cluster of Whitman folders, specifically Lincoln Cents, Jefferson Nickels, Roosevelt Dimes, Washington Quarters, and Kennedy Halves. all from circulation. Alas, with no more coins to hunt and a lack of financial resources, my interest petered out.
It wasn't until a decade later that my love of coins was rekindled. I learned of the semi-annual coin show in Burlington, VT (I'm originally from Lyndonville, VT) and, since admission was free, decided to check it out. I brought along $200 with the idea that I would pick something up if it struck my fancy. I left the coin show with my pockets full of 2x2 cardboard flips and maybe ten bucks in cash.
As with the collection I had begun with my mother, I bought lower-grade, easily affordable pieces. I kept on in this manner for almost another decade. I went through fits of "coin madness" buying up whatever was at hand and then lying dormant for a year. I bought cheap, low-grade coins with no rhyme or reason. I did not have a plan. I was hoarding.
Just before I turned 30 (Summer 2012), I came across The Expert's Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins by Q. David Bowers. That book changed my life as a collector. I quit buying the cheapest coins I could find and decided I needed a plan. The photo below was the first step in that plan.
I wanted to build a nice 20th Century Type Set. It would force me to research many popular coin runs and it would be a good way to gain experience and knowledge for future set building.
I took to the Great Collections auction website to begin construction on my new collection. I chose this site over sites like E-bay because they had hi-resolution images of the actual coin you are bidding on and the selection was spectacular. Also, 99% of the coins were slabbed, mostly by PCGS and NGC.
For the first time in my collecting life, I felt in control of what I was buying. I purchased a piece only after careful inspection and research. I was on a roll. And then, the best thing that has ever happened to me occurred. My wife was pregnant.
Talk about a change in priorities! My coin collecting took a backseat to life, specifically, being a dad. My son Liam was born in the spring of 2013. If you're doing the math, you will notice I spent less than a year as a collector this time.
I found other pursuits, free pursuits, to fill my time. Namely, I wrote two novels and a few shorter stories. My priorities were:
1. Dadding
2. Husbanding
3. Publishing
Not much spare time for coins and certainly no extra money. Kids are expensive!
With my publishing venture, I made an effort to become more active on social media. I did my best to saturate Facebook and Twitter with my ugly mug and push my books on readers. I purchased the domain and started a blog. It did fairly well for the webpage of a completely unknown writer. It is currently at 36K hits after a year in existence.
Write some stories, waste time on Facebook and Twitter, and give your opinions to people who actually want to read them; it sounds easy right? It's not. Although there are moments, like seeing my Amazon sales rank head toward #1 when I offer a free promo of my books, that made it worthwhile. At least, for a time. But, the truth is, I'm tired. I'm tired of pushing books and stories that I like but don't love. I'm tired of having to wade through heaps of Tweets and Facebook posts from writers (usually ads for their books). And I am tired of trying to figure out what kind of story will sell. I don't want to write what everyone wants to read; I want to write what I want to write.
And that's how coin collecting made another entrance in my life.
I was poking around Twitter this past weekend and saw Coin World had an account. I followed them. I retweeted them and quickly received a thank you. Something clicked in my brain when that happened. For the couple years I spent trying to get people's attention, and largely faded away into the sea of author voices (there are tens of thousands), it was nice to see a prompt and positive reaction to something I said. I had wasted a lot of time chasing people who were not paying attention.
It's amazing what a little positive feedback can do. I pulled out my old coin album last night and gazed at the pieces I'd collected. More than that though, I gazed at the empty slots. Those need to be filled.
Here are photos of the two album pages:

As you can see, I have some work to do. That is why I created this blog. I figure, I might as well write about something I love and hope a few people tag along on my coin adventure.
I plan to post every week or two; less when life gets busy (for instance, I am changing jobs in a week and a half), and more when things are calm.
I sincerely hope you enjoy my coin collecting tips and tricks.


Julian Ticehurst said...

good for you - happy coining and happy writing! cheers, Julian

Kendall Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CaseyMc2 said...

Hello! Enjoyed reading your Post "How You Started Coin Collecting" and decided to leave a comment. I also have not been Collecting very Long. I had entered a Contest for a 2014-W American Silver Eagle ANACS PR70 DCAM Silver Dollar on Facebook. The contest was American History. They want to see how much American History you knew and I figured I was well versed in American History, so, I entered to see just how good I was and see if I could win that Coin, after all I Liked what I was looking at, It was a Beautiful Coin. Well, a couple of Months went by and while I was checking My Email checked to see if I had been contacted about who won that Coin. Sure Enough I had a response that said, Congratulations Mr. McDonald You have won That Beautiful 2014-W American Silver Eagle ANACS PR70 DCAM Coin. Would you please contact myself at such and such phone number? So, I called the number and told them who I was and they said Congratulations for winning the Coin, you had the most answers correct. I had to ask, how good did I do? the Lady I was talking to said you made a 100 on the Test, we had never had anyone to do that since we had been running that Contest. Well once I received My Coin, I went to thinking how much would it cost me to start Collecting Coins Like this? I went to looking into it and in the mean time I received a circular about Collecting Coins and it was with The Patriotic Mint. The Coins were not real Currency, but they were Beautiful looking Coins and they did not cost very much, only $4.95 and $9.95, so I started buying them and I Bought a good many of them. I was told, it would take some time for them to become of any value. So, I went to looking on Line and I typed the info on My Coin I had won and brought up a whole lot of Coins that was real Currency and found them to be priced depending on what they where Graded at. So I looked up the information about Grading Coins and especially Uncirculated Coins and that is where I started. Well over the Last 2 Years I have a good Collection going. In fact, I just about have an entire Collection of MS-69 American Silver Eagles. I am in the most expensive ones now and that has slowed me down, not to mention My Wife had Lost her Job back at the beginning of 2016.
I have a Full Set of American $1 Presidents Golden Collection from 3 Mints San Francisco, Philadelphia and Denver and I also have the Painted Presidents Portrait Set. I have the Complete Set of Susan B. Anthony Set. I am also trying to build a Complete set of JFK Half Dollars, I just started them and do not have many of those. Once I get My Silver Dollar Set then I will start back on my Half Dollar JFK Set. I have learned something when I saw your photo. I know everyone has different opinions of Coin Collecting, so I wanted to let you know with My experience, Littleton Mint has good Prices on Low end Coins, but are over priced with their Upper end Coins, so I quit fooling with them along with the Patriotic Mint. The Mint I enjoyed buying my Coins from has gone out of Business was Penn Metals, I also buy from APMEX and I have also Learned it is best to buy Graded Coins except The Proof Coins which have a good return on your value.