Where are all the sets
By Mark Ferguson
few years ago, date sets in a wide assortment
were commonly offered by mail-order merchants
and at coin shops. Collectors had their pick of
Brillant Uncirculated sets such as 1934 to 1958
Lincoln cents, 1938 to date Jefferson 5-cent
coins, 1941 to 1964 Washington quarter dollars
and the complete set of Kennedy half dollars.
Kennedy half dollar sets usually included
So why might fewer firms be selling date sets
housed in custom folders and albums these days?
Several factors make it more difficult to
provide this service to shoppers.
To build sets for resale, dealers need to
acquire enough coins of each date to make it
worth their effort. That means finding dozens of
different Brilliant Uncirculated rolls. With
roll supplies diminishing and prices gradually
rising, it can take a fair amount of capital.
As series grow ever longer, complete date sets
get bulkier and more expensive. That wasn't as
much of a problem a decade ago, especially since
prices for Washington quarter dollars and other
current series were generally low priced. Today,
picking up a well-matched, lustrous set is
anything but an impulse buy.
Building dozens of sets and scrambling to find
a last date or two that always fails to turn up
is a very labor intensive process. With strong
demand for collector coins and bullion pieces in
recent years, dealers can make a decent living
without investing all the hours required to
place countless coins into albums.
With the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent
just months away, BU sets of the 1934 to 1958
Wheat Heads cents as well as the 1959 to date
Memorial cents will continue to be offered with
some frequency during the next year or two, but
that will likely change in due time. Every BU
roll that is broken up is gone forever to anyone
who wants to build sets in the future.
Date sets will always have a certain appeal, as
illustrated by the "shop at home" programs on
cable television. There high-priced vendors
offer partial sets perhaps a decade's worth of
coins along with "year sets" that feature one
example from each year of a certain series
rather than every date and Mint mark combination
to their uneducated audience.
Such groups of coins are reliable sellers, and
reputable dealers who sell to savvy collectors
may have to take the partial set route in the
future as certain dates become unavailable in