Spurs Interest in Many Designs
By Ginger Rapsus
always told to specialize, but a U.S. type set
has a lot to offer, for many reasons. First of
all, it’s a challenge like no other; it’s not
just filling in the holes in an album.
Second, a collector could get a broad overview
of the scope of American coinage, whether his or
her collection starts with 20th century issues
or goes all the way back to 1793. The set is
historical, and ideal for the kind of person who
likes to learn a little bit about a lot of
Searching and viewing the many different design
types of U.S. coins can lead to a new collecting
interest. The type collection can include any
number of coins, varieties, and design changes
as desired. And finally, such a set can keep a
collector busy for a lifetime.
A U.S. type set, even just the 20th century set,
was quite a challenge for me as a young
collector. The albums for the full type set,
going back to 1793, comprised two big volumes. A
few of the later issues could be found in
change, true, but if a collector wanted
specimens that would truly show off the designs
used on American coins, most of the coins would
have to be purchased. It wasn’t anything like
pulling old Lincoln cents out of pocket change.
Looking through the two big albums for a U.S.
type set showed me what was involved in
starting, and building, such a collection. There
were the early silver and copper coins, the
difficult small eagle silver coins, and all
those Seated Liberty coins. There were familiar
and odd denominations, such as half cents, two-
and three-cent coins, and 20-cent pieces. Three
distinct types of three-cent silver coins? And
half dimes, tiny coins, and large silver
dollars, including a Trade dollar?
Collectors beginning a complete U.S. type set
and continuing the challenge are, indeed, real
numismatists. It’s more than just filling holes
in an album. My forays into type set collecting
A few of the coins could be found in change,
such as the modern clad dimes and quarters. A
bright Lincoln Memorial cent wasn’t hard to
find, along with the good old Jefferson nickel.
The type collector could pick and choose the
nicest coins, to represent the different design
types. Some of the older silver coins, with mint
luster, weren’t all that difficult for, even a
Mercury dime and a Buffalo nickel.
One of my favorite coin dealers sometimes gave
away premiums with orders, such as a Mint State
war cent and war nickel. But the easy part of
building the set soon ended. The 20th century
type set couldn’t be finished without buying a
few coins, such as the Barber dime, quarter and
Barber coins were never number one on the hit
parade, but they were plentiful enough at coin
shops, especially in worn condition. The design
was one of those that held up well even after
years of circulation. But the pieces in Mint
State, or close to it, looked so much better
than the worn ones. And besides, the purpose of
building a type set was to admire the different
coin designs in all their beauty, or lack
thereof. Why not get the better pieces, to show
what the design really looks like?
The dime and quarter were available in choice
condition, and so was the half dollar. One
dealer mailed me a long list of the Barber
halves he had for sale in better condition, and
I picked the one dated 1900. I figured a
turn-of-the-century year would be a good choice.
Many other type collectors choose a coin by
their first year of issue. That can get
expensive right away, when you come to the
Standing Liberty quarter.
The Morgan dollar included in the type set was,
of course, the 1881-S. Coins of that date and
mint were well-struck with beaming luster, and
showed off the Morgan design in all its beauty.
Every single coin in the type set couldn’t be
that stunning, but coins in high grade
circulated condition, showing a good deal of the
design, and no damage or problems, would fit
well into the set.
The 20th century coins were acquired without
much difficulty, but I wasn’t up to the
challenge or the expense of a deluxe type set,
and I forgot about the set for a long time.
Years later, upon visiting a favorite coin shop
during Christmas shopping, I became a fan of
A Capped Bust half dollar converted me. The
owner told me he had just purchased a collection
of these early coins. The quaint old design is
in 90 percent silver and these large coins are
well over a hundred years old. Once I saw the
first coin in the collection, I was tempted to
buy every one I could! I did not appreciate the
beauty and history of the old designs until I
really studied these half dollars. I spent some
time with the set, and purchased a few to begin
an all-new type set. Before I left the store, I
decided to start again in building a type set.
This time I was older and more serious and if I
never finished the set, it didn’t matter. An
appreciation of the older design types was the
key to enjoying type collecting.
Those early coins beckoned. They were scarce and
always would be scarce.
Half cents were never the most popular coins,
and were available at reasonable prices, even in
higher circulated grades. I had no problem
finding any of them, including the 1793, the
famous one-year type coin. A dealer had one for
sale at a nice price; there was some corrosion –
not enough to make the coin unattractive, but
the price was lowered.
The large cents presented more of a challenge.
The first two, the 1793 Chain and Wreath cents,
were scarce and in high demand from type
collectors. The Draped Bust cent was hard to
find in decent condition. I am not just talking
about the amount of wear on the coins, but quite
a few early coppers I saw had green spots and
other flaws. Finding an old copper cent with
honest wear, and a minimum of abuse and
corrosion, took some looking.
The Fillet, or Classic Head cent of 1808-1814
was a challenge, too. Made from inferior copper,
these coins showed wear quickly, and the prices
shot up with each improvement in condition.
Half dimes, too, will never be the number one
coin on the collecting hit parade, and while
some of the coins were expensive, none was
really hard to find. I did have to search awhile
for the small eagle coin of 1796-1797. The small
eagle design is considered the scarcest among
all design types, but a favorite dealer found
one right away, after I told him I was looking.
The tiny half dime with the small eagle design
was obtained in a trade with this dealer. A
group of duplicates and other items was traded
for the type coin. The other half dimes,
including a worn but presentable Flowing Hair
variety, were obtained after a bit of looking.
A dealer in downtown Chicago had a selection of
the Seated Liberty silver coins with no stars.
This design, in demand by type collectors, is a
lovely one in itself. The lack of stars
surrounding the seated figure of Liberty gives
the coin a cameo effect, much more pronounced in
higher grades. I recall a half dime with ample
mint luster; it looked like a little gem. The
dime, too, looked beautiful.
Dimes in any type were not that difficult to
find, even a small eagle dime. A worn but nice
coin with no marks or abuse was located in a
downtown coin shop. Unfortunately, I could not
afford this coin, and on my next trip, the coin
was gone – probably snapped up by another type
collector. Dimes seemed to be popular and in
good demand, all designs and all conditions.
The odd denomination coins of the type set were
not hard to find at local coin shops in any
condition I could want. Twenty-cent, two-cent
and three-cent coins were always available to
the type collector. The dealer who found the
small eagle half dime bought a collection of
old-time silver coins, many of which were still
housed in old-fashioned cardboard holders. The
sulfur in the cardboard toned the silver coins
amazing shades of blue and green.
A near-complete set of three-cent silver coins
was a part of this collection. The little coins
were toned in different shades of blue; an 1862
coin was particularly choice. The type collector
needs three silver three-cent coins, and all
three were obtained from this set. The dealer
described the coins as “really sweet.”
Assembling a nice series of quarter types took
more searching than I thought. Besides the
famous 1796, the 19th century issues were a bit
tough. Finding a decent Capped Bust quarter was
difficult, as many of these coins came well
worn. This is especially true of the large
variety. Many of the Seated Liberty quarters I
saw, again, were quite worn, but looking around
at coin shops and shows, I saw a fair number in
Mint State. If a type collector wanted a high
grade circulated quarter, it wasn’t easy. The
1873 Seated quarter with arrows, in particular,
was the subject of a long search.
Quarters have always been a “workhorse” coin in
commerce, and this has probably been true for
many years, judging from the appearance of many
quarters I found at shops and shows. It pays to
search, however; sooner or later, the type
collector will be rewarded with a find – a
lovely coin that fits perfectly into your set.
Half dollars, the U.S. coin with the most
different types, were also tough to find in high
grade circulated. The stopper to any type set is
the small eagle half dollar of 1796-1797, and
while I figured I could never own that type
coin, I could obtain a nice selection of the
other major types. There were even
The Seated Liberty coins included issues with
and without the motto, “In God We Trust,” arrows
at the date, rays around the eagle, with and
without stars. What seemed a daunting task in
past years proved to be a worthwhile challenge
later, as I learned more about the 19th century
U.S. coins and their many design changes. The
Capped Bust half dollar, the coin that led me
back to type collecting, had distinct types
regarding the denomination and the edge devices.
Perhaps the small eagle half dollar (and
quarter, too) were stoppers to a complete set,
but the small eagle silver dollar of 1795-1798
was the easiest to locate. The type set of
silver dollars only included seven major
designs: Flowing Hair, small eagle, Heraldic
eagle, Seated Liberty with and without motto,
Morgan and Peace. There was also the Trade
dollar, a pretty coin in itself, which I learned
had been one of America’s most disliked coins.
None of these coins was that hard to find in any
An unforeseen problem to the type collector was
deciding what kind of album to house the coins.
A blue folder didn’t seem right; it seemed to be
more for the beginning collector, and a
collector pursuing a full type set certainly
wasn’t a beginner. A coin dealer found a brown
album to hold a “United States Type Set
Collection.” Both sides of the coin were
displayed, in individual pockets for each coin,
with a few extra spaces for future issues. Good
thing, for upon studying the album, I found it
did not have spaces for the “Arrows and rays”
varieties of quarters and half dollars.
Collectors are always told to specialize in a
series, but I am still a big fan of type
collecting. If you like to know a little bit
about a lot of things, type collecting is ideal.
Locating some type coins, learning that some are
not as common as thought, is a learning
Type collecting is special. I rarely hear of a
type collection being sold intact. A type set
can be tailored to the collector’s needs.
Instead of filling holes in an album, the type
collector can decide which major and minor
design types belong in his or her collection,
and which ones can be left out.
The set can never really be completed, even if a
collector can afford the pricey small eagle
silver coins. New issues are being produced all
of the time, with so many different types of
coins minted in the year 2009 alone. Assembling
a set of different issues of U.S. coins can lead
to a new collecting specialty. Challenge,
education, fun – all are part of pursuing a type
set of U.S. coins.