A “Dream Collection” of U.S. Coins, Part III

Twenty years ago, in September 1995, I wrote a feature article for Issue #30 of our company newspaper, The Coin Collector. At the time I was challenged by a reader to build a “Dream Collection” of U.S. coins, keeping the cost under $5,000. Over the past two weeks I have been reprinting this article and updating the prices to 2015, to see how much it would cost (according to the 2016 Guide Book) to build this dream collection today. For this final week, I add a couple of gold coins and see how well I did.

Gold Coins

Liberty Head $20: 1850 EF-40 ($600) [2016 Guide Book: $3,200]: At first blush it might seem illogical to include any gold coins in a collection with a total cost price of $5,000, for there is no such thing as a truly cheap issue. However, I like gold, and the large, hefty $20 is the most impressive regular issue of them all. I picked an 1850 as representing the first year of issue of the Liberty Head design. Let me consider it to be a representative of all Liberty Head gold coins from the $1 on up.

As a bonus, there is a good chance it was struck from gold brought from the California fields. Thus, it can evoke all sorts of romantic connotations. And, just think, in 1850 this very coin may have represented a couple of weeks’ pay for someone.

Saint-Gaudens $20: 1907 Arabic numerals. MS-60 ($525) [2016 Guide Book: $1,850]: While it would have been nice to have included this famous sculptor’s MCMVII design of the same year, this would have cost $6,750 [2016 Guide Book: $15,000] in the same grade and, thus, was not a possibility.

In a way, the 1907 Arabic numerals is a more “American” coin, a double eagle of the masses, for this design was produced to the extent of millions of pieces during the following 25 years, whereas the MCMVII was a limited issue (only 11,250 were struck).

Total gold coin cost: $1,125 [2016 Guide Book: $5,050].


How Did We Do?

Well, I’ve just added up all of the figures (which I had been doing, sort of, as I went along) and came to $4,301.

However, upon checking I see that I forgot to include a specimen of one of my very favorite United States coin denominations, the trade dollar minted from 1873 to 1885. When I was writing the book Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia, I became really caught up in trade dollar lore, and if reality hadn’t intervened, the trade dollar section would have wound up being 1,000 pages long! As it is, I believe it is correct to say that there is more numismatic information about the trade dollar in that one book than any other single place on the face of the earth. Anyway, one of my great favorites among trade dollars is the classic 1885, but as only five are known and the chances of finding one might be slim, let me pick an 1873-CC for the Dream Collection.

This represents the first year of issue, plus a Carson City variety as well. An EF-40 coin lists for $400 [2016 Guide Book: $975]. As you probably know from your own experience, seldom does any coin collection stay completely within budget — but we’ve done well and still have $299 to spend. The total cost of our Dream Collection of United States Coins is $4,701 [2016 Guide Book: $11,040].

Of course, if you want to fully use the $5,000 limit, just go through the Guide Book and add $299 worth of coins that are your favorites.

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