Nostalgia Time!

Recently Chris Karstedt
and I were called upon to visit a local family that had inherited an old-time
coin collection. It had been formed by a man in Melrose, Massachusetts, who
passed away in 1972. He seems to have collected coins from general circulation
from the 1940s onward. The nostalgic part of this is that his collection was
formed in the manner collections used to be, but are no longer. He had one each
of the various Whitman albums for Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents, Lincoln
cents, Liberty Head nickels, Buffalo nickels, Jefferson nickels, Barber dimes,
Mercury dimes, Roosevelt dimes, Barber quarters, Standing Liberty quarters,
Washington quarters, Barber half dollars, Walking Liberty half dollars, and
Franklin half dollars. He seems to have collected most of the coins from
circulation, with the result that those dated from the 1930s onward were
typically Fine or better in grade, those in the 1940s, VF to AU, and later ones
mostly Mint State. The set of Indian cents contained only a few scattered
pieces, reflecting that such coins were not common in circulation. Lincoln
cents started from the early years but lacked the key issues. Apparently he had
a fairly modest purchase budget. Liberty Head nickels began in 1883 and
continued onward; his collection did not have an 1885 or 1886, but did have the
low mintage 1912-S in Good-4 grade. Barber dimes, quarters and half dollars
were about 80% complete, typically graded Good-4, quite possibly picked from

Back then, very few
people collected Morgan or Peace dollars, and, with exception of a few stray
pieces, he did not specialize in these either. Beyond that, there were some
modern sets ordered from the Philadelphia Mint.

In the aggregate, the
collection was of fairly modest value. In addition, there was a stray 1929
quarter eagle and an 1896 $1 “Educational Note.”

I could envision this
gentleman enjoying numismatics for many years, taking pieces from circulation
as he found them, and perhaps buying a few from coin shops, although the latter
is not particularly evident. Perhaps all were found by looking through change.

Today in 2017 the
situation is far different. Equipped with a set of Whitman or other albums,
there is not a great deal to find in ordinary change. Lincoln cents mostly have
the Memorial reverse, 1959 or later, with hardly anything before the 1930s.
Jefferson nickels can be found from 1938 to date, but most are from modern
decades. Dimes, quarters, and half dollars are all modern clad issues with not
a silver coin in sight. As far as finding treasures in pocket change, well, while
old-timers could hope to find a 1909-S V.D.B. or 1914-D cent, an 1885 nickel, or
a 1916-D Mercury dime, today there is hardly anything of value in pocket change
(one possible exception is a 1969-S Double Die cent). Accordingly, today’s
collector has little choice but to buy from dealers or to exchange with other
collectors. The hobby continues and is dynamic but the methods and procedures
have changed dramatically.

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