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Digital Subscriptions > COINage > July 2019 > The Ultimate Way to Collect U.S. COINS

The Ultimate Way to Collect U.S. COINS


United States coins have been collected since the earliest days of federal coinage in 1792 but not always in the same way. At first, would-be collectors laid aside the copper coins, especially the 1793 Chain and WreaThcents but much less so wiThthe gold and silver as these were expensive to the common person, given the wage scales of the time.

Before discussing collecting styles of the 19Thand 20Thcenturies, it is important to define what is meant by “type” as opposed to “variety” when dealing wiThUnited States coins. Collectors will sometimes debate whether or not a given piece is a type coin, and it is true that the rule is not hard and fast for what is to be called a type coin versus a variety.

The best way of defining a type coin is to give some examples. The half eagle gold coin struck from 1795 to 1807, without any change of design, is clearly a type coin in the strict sense of the word.

On the other hand, we have the Liberty Cap cents of 1793 to 1796 which carry a bust of Liberty accompanied by a Liberty Cap on a pole. These dates have several important varieties, but they are usually lumped together under the general heading of a type coin, no matter which variety is found in a collection.

Until 1959, it was rare for a coin of the United States to have enough of a change for the new version to be called a type coin, but in that year, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., replaced the wheat ears reverse. I consider this major diff erence to constitute an entirely new type, but not all would agree. The recent avalanche of new quarter dollar reverse designs is another case in point and which should perhaps also be considered as separate type coins, even though George Washington still graces the obverse.

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