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Basic Coin Collecting Strategy

May 13, 2008
Collecting coins is a longer term goal, however, the happiness of pursuit is always more important than the rapid completion of a set of coins. The inherent enjoyment is always found in the process of collecting, and fulfillment is found in its completion. Once fulfilled, a new goal, set quickly, will begin a new road towards further pursuits of happiness.

A solid collection will always have a solid value, at any level or grade. Higher grades, of course, will generate higher returns and higher appreciation. The higher grades will require longer term goals, a greater amount of money, and higher levels of frustration and more patience. For that reason, it is best to collect at a gradual or graduating rate, acquiring graded coins in steps, until your "goal coin" is finally acquired for your collection. These gradual steps will offer continuous levels of enjoyment, but with more positive progress and happier dispositions.

If collecting a set of Sacagawea dollars, one will experience difficulties in acquiring the Mint States more frequently than in collecting Proof coins. Sacagaweas are not unique in this respect; as this difficulty is shared by the majority of coin collecting categories. Probably for reasons of popularity, and greater ease of acquisition, modern proof coins are easier and less time consuming to acquire. For the serious collector, the extra challenge of collecting Mint State coins, modern or rare, will be more invigorating, exciting and rewarding. Now that we have four top grading companies that strictly follow the ANA guidelines (NGC, PCGS, ICG and ANACS), acquiring quality coins with a reliable grade is consistently possible. Availability still depends upon the laws of supply and demand; but this is always the challenge.

Despite the high level of your personal abilities to grade a coin, the reason that we invest in coins that are certified and graded by the "Top Four", is that it creates a market for us when we want to upgrade and sell. It is not our opinion of the grade that matters, it is what will bring us the greatest return on our investment of time and money. The grade of a coin is everything. Coin prices are based on the grade. Buyers want the highest grade, but more important to them is an accurate and reliable grade. Personal opinions on the grade of a coin are never satisfying. Therefore, a professionally certified and graded coin eliminates the biggest issue in buying and selling a coin.

The Top Four give us stability, reliability and reputation. They also guarantee the grade and authenticity of the coin. This we need to market our coins, when we upgrade and sell. Buying raw coins is always an invitation to get cheated; someone usually loses, and the grade is always in question. Investing in raw coins should be avoided by the average collector, when possible. An alternative is to agree to pay for the cost of grading and the coin, if the grade represented by the Seller (or higher) is the result; if not, the Seller pays for grading.

The added protection from a sealed case - a slab - will greatly inhibit deterioration of the coin from exposure and damage. It will also enhance the maintenance of the coin's grade and its appreciation. Marketing coins we need to upgrade and sell is enhanced with certified and graded coins, since: 1) there are larger pools of buyers; 2) the issue of grade is eliminated; and, 3) selling at book value and above is far more likely. People don't mind paying a fair price for a solid coin, but do mind getting cheated for a misrepresented grade.

Don't hesitate to buy a coin in a grade lower than you hope for or strive to acquire. One must consider that the average collectable coin is constantly appreciating; although not always at a steady or consistent rate. The Laws of Supply and Demand always have a hand in the value or worth of any coin. Having an investment in a coin is preferable to no investment. A savings account earning 3% interest is no investment, and yields no enjoyment.

Stepping up, or improving your coin's grade, in a graduated process, is far more pleasing because it adds more activity, allows completion of sets (albeit temporary for the actual grade desired), the cost is less or spread out, and makes for continuous progress. The fewer numbers of coins available in the next higher grade, the costs of each upgrade being higher, and putting a higher value on your time, makes the approach of buying only the "goal coin" undesirable. Doing so will degrade your progress, enjoyment and appreciation.

The challenge of graduated acquisition will last longer, adding to the thrill of each new addition. With each higher step up, comes a higher investment in time, your patience, and money. Secondly, the coin you have will be appreciating, while the collector striving for the "goal coin", may be waiting months and years to find the right coin - with no benefits to him in the mean time. Thirdly, your collection will be growing, and so will your appreciation of what you have. How quickly you can complete your collection is not the goal; it's the path you take to get there.

Finally, don't be overly concerned about either getting a bargain, or paying book value or more. The value and worth of your collection will not be greatly affected by either. Time spent getting a bargain price is the single most commonly wasted activity. Your time, not spent in the happiness of pursuit, is wasted. Bidding on 20 different auctions with a goal of getting a bargain price is foolishly applying one's time.

"Teach us to make the most of our time,
so that we may grow in wisdom."
B Psalm 90:12

Our time holds a far greater value than each of us wants to admit. It should not be wasted, but spent in positive thoughts and endeavors. It is better to pay book value, avoiding the stress and waste of time, thereby investing your time on more rewarding pursuits.

Enjoy collecting.

Robert L Taylor, JD
Copyright 2008, Robert L Taylor, JD
About the Author
Robert Taylor is a retired lawyer from Denver, CO who has had a passion for collecting US coins since age 6. Wanting to share his passion, he created http://www.ThePerfect-Coin.com featuring Rare and Modern coins.
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