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More Collecting Regrets
By Mike Thorne, Coins Magazine
March 07, 2014

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Last month I ended my column by mentioning that I had one more trading disaster to tell you about. Actually, this may have my most bone-headed trade ever: I traded key and semi-key coins for coin albums.

Fortunately, time has dulled my memory of the coins involved in this trade, but suffice to say, they were good coins I had found in my roll searching days or desirable coins I had traded for. In trade, I received Capital Plastic coin holders. If you’re not familiar with the holders, they are a sandwich of two thin sheets of clear plastic with a thicker sheet in the middle. The thicker sheet has holes drilled through into which you place your coins. As such, you can see both sides of your coins, and the albums are also non-toxic to the coins in them.

In other words, the albums are great. However, there are some drawbacks. For one thing, if you’re frequently upgrading your coins, it becomes a pain to have to take out several plastic screws in order to separate the layers to get to the coin you want to replace. Also, this type of album is for raw coins, not for certified pieces.

But the worst thing about this or any other type of album is simply this: Over time, the album decreases in value to nothing, whereas the coins almost certainly either retain their value or increase in value. Value-wise, coins don’t suffer the same fate as albums.

So much for trades that I regret. My next big regret is that I got rid of many great coins too soon. The first one I remember happened early in my days as a part-time mail-order dealer. I got a flyer from a dealer on the West coast, and he had listed an 1866 Seated Liberty quarter in Fine for less than $20. Even at the time, this was an incredible bargain, but it wasn’t until later that I realized just how scarce the date was.

If you look at mintages, you’ll see that just 16,800 pieces were coined. In a recent issue of Numismatic News “Coin Market,” the 1866 lists for $750 in Fine-12. So what did I do with it? I sold it a day or two after I bought it for less than $25. Easy come, easy go.

A whole group of coins I should have held a bit longer involved my pre-1965 Washington quarter collection. It occurred to me that when the state quarter program got underway it would have a positive impact on silver Washingtons. Surely, some of the people who saved state quarters would be motivated to try to assemble collections of earlier dates.

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At the time, I had several rolls and partial rolls of uncirculated silver Washington quarters, some of which went back into the early 1950s. Did I wait awhile to see if the values would go up? No, I dumped them as fast as I could, generally for only small amounts over what I had in them. Obviously, I regret that I didn’t hang onto them a while longer.

The same thing is true for the Carson City Morgan dollars I purchased for a pittance through the great GSA sales many years ago. Again, I couldn’t wait to cash them in and sold almost all of them within a week or two of receiving the packages in the mail. I made a little money, of course, but I could have done much better if I had just waited a while.

My inability to hold onto great coins stems in large part to my continuing conflict between being a coin collector and being a coin dealer. That is, I’m often torn between wanting to make a quick profit (the dealer side of me) and wanting to keep coins I think will appreciate over time (the collector/investor side of me). The two sides are often incompatible and reinforce the idea that you shouldn’t collect what you sell if you want to be a dealer.

I’ll mention just one more example of a coin I wish I had kept longer. It was a Morgan dollar that was part of a batch of rolls I had bought for a small amount. I think I paid about $4 apiece for the coins, or $80 a roll. Obviously, this was a long time ago, probably in the late 1970s.

Unlike most silver dollars you are likely to get if you order a lot at minimum prices from a large dealer’s advertisement, there were virtually no “junk” coins in the bunch. In fact, almost all of the coins carried some premium.

Among the pieces I remember, there were several Peace dollars with lower mintages, such as the ones at the end of the series. There may have been close to a roll of 1934-Ds, for example.

In addition, there were two 1892-S dollars. One was a high circulated grade with initials carved into its obverse. The other was a nice About Uncirculated piece. I’m sure I made a decent profit on it when I sold it from my mail-order list, but I sure wish I had kept it. I suspect it’s now housed in a PCGS holder in someone’s collection of AU-BU Morgans. If the current owner bought it recently, he probably paid close to $2,000 for it, as the “Coin Market” AU-50 value is $1,650.

But all my regrets about coins I once owned and “gave” away pale by comparison with the regrets I have for the coins I didn’t buy to begin with. The first of these came from a large dealer who had sent me loads of great coins on approval. He specialized in high-grade type coins and often bought whole collections in order to get something like a 1796 quarter or 1794 dollar. This left him with lots of less expensive coins that he wholesaled out.

After buying coins from him for several months, I asked him to start sending me a nice, inexpensive U.S. gold piece on a monthly basis. Soon, I received from him a Liberty Head gold $5 that was a “slider” uncirculated piece. I thought the price was a tad high and sent the coin back.

Can you guess what happened? If you guessed that he never sent me another coin, you hit the nail on the head. Another major regret.

Stay tuned.

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On March 13, 2014 roy greene said
i myself have made many coin collecting mistakes.but you have to let it go.i feel so much better when i read this article.and i will probably make more mistakes.but mistakes are the best teacher.

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